Studying abroad in the UK is not like studying in America with an English accent. While it’s nerve-wracking to study and be evaluated in a new place, it’s also refreshing. I don’t worry about my marks as much, because it’s more about the experience than it is about getting the best grades.
Since I am an art history major at home, three of my four courses are in the art history department: After Life: Art, Knowledge and Observation in Early Modern Europe; Design in the Italian Renaissance; and London Architecture. The architecture course is a thematic seminar, and thus we never meet in a classroom. Each week we scatter about London and learn about the architecture firsthand, which makes the course much more engaging. My fourth course is History of Parliament, which, not surprisingly, has mostly study abroad students.
While I am encouraged to take a variety of courses at Mount Holyoke, at UCL students’ studies are very focused and directed. While I have been exposed to numerous disciplines, the full-time UCL students have had an extensive and intensive study of art history during their first year.
One difference is that the terms are shorter. While a semester at Holyoke is around 15-16 weeks, the fall term at UCL is only 10 weeks. While I enjoyed having a longer summer, my courses seem very rushed this term.
I was told that I would spend much less time in the classroom than in America. I’ve found that this isn’t quite the case. At Mount Holyoke, I met with many classes twice a week for 75 minutes. At UCL, we meet once a week for two hours. I hardly notice the extra time I have.
Because I am only here until December and UCL students take their exams in the summer, I have additional essays to write this semester. My overall grade for each course will be based on two essays. Eight essays in ten weeks can be daunting, especially if you hope to travel and explore while you are abroad!
My education while abroad exists just as much in the classroom as it does outside of it. Sometimes I joke that studying gets in the way of being abroad. But studying within the English system of education is enlightening in and of itself. The most important thing is to let go and keep your mind open to a new way of learning and approaching your subject of interest. Plus, trips to random local coffee shops and study breaks at art museums make studying much more enjoyable and part of your abroad experience!