Living Without a Leash

Carolyn Fales University of Westminster, England


October 24, 2014

I just finished week five of my classes, and I thought I should take some time to explain what education is like here in Britain as compared to the United States.

I’m taking four classes: The Politics of Undeveloped Countries, Writing London, Global Media, and Theories of International Relations. A normal British course load is four classes or ‘modules’ as opposed to the American five. There are three difficulty levels and students take all classes in their majors, there are no ‘core’ or extra liberal arts courses.

All of my classes meet only once a week and most are split into a lecture and seminar. I will have one hour of lecture with about 100 students and then two hours of seminar with a different professor. The lecture, as the name suggests, is just a presentation with the professor speaking where as the seminar is more based on discussion and presentations by students.

Unlike in America, we are not being constantly graded. Most of my classes depend on three components: one paper, one presentation, and either points for participation or weekly notes. It is very strange that my grade depends on so little. You are expected to read a lot during the week in order to keep up.

One of the reasons I chose London was so that I could get a different type of education than I could in America. If I had gone to a non-English speaking country I would have most likely taken classes at an American style school.

I’m not completely sure if I like the classes here, they are definitely challenging. I’m also pretty worried about my grades, just because they depend on so little and I won’t really know what they will be until the end.

Also, since the students here focus entirely on classes in their major, they are definitely very knowledgeable on the subject. For instance I’m taking two classes in political science, which is my minor at home, yet it’s all the students in my classes here have learned about.

I am learning to embrace the challenge and I’m definitely getting more comfortable. One of the classes I decided to take was creative writing, I thought it would challenge me because I’m so used to writing simply and factually within my major of journalism.

Here is a piece I wrote for the class!

At home in America, if I run, it’s on a treadmill. Head phones in my ears to drown out the pounding noise of my feet hitting the never-ending conveyor belt. I stare out the window at the stagnant view of a soccer field and try to ignore the other sweaty bodies around me.

London is expensive – and I wasn’t going to add a gym membership onto my long list of expenses. So I started going for runs in Regents Park. It’s huge. Almost everyday I come across a new path or sight, and I run for it. Running in London is, invigorating. Yes I have to dodge people, and dogs, and mostly birds, but I get to breathe fresh air and go wherever my feet will take me.

The most peculiar thing I’ve noticed on my runs are the dogs. In America, dogs are on leashes, if they are not, they are most certainly lost. Here, dogs run free of their leashes; they roam and bound wherever their paws take them. They can sniff and tussle with other dogs but they always return at their owners call.

Being in London so far has been like living without a leash. I’m free to explore where I want and do what I want all on my own time. And while I will be heading home to America, I know that when London calls again, I’ll be back.