Toto, I’ve a Feeling We’re Not in New Jersey Anymore

Rebecca Perlmutter London, England


December 6, 2022

Hello from London! I’ve nearly reached the end of my semester at Queen Mary University of London and I want to share a few key differences about studying in the UK and my top suggestions on how to navigate them from my time abroad!

One thing I quickly learned while studying in London is that classes feel very similar to how they are taught in the states. This does not mean you should get complacent! As the semester went on I learned that there are far fewer grades sent out so it was more difficult for me to gauge how I was doing in the class. It’s also important to know that numerical grades are scaled completely differently in the UK. While the American student in me saw my first 60/70% and felt underwhelmed, I’ve had to continually remind myself that these are actually equivalent to receiving a B/A! In fact, a 100% here is almost entirely unheard of.

As a visiting student, I’ve also had the opportunity to enroll in many humanities classes that are taught outside of a traditional classroom. A very popular class is London: Walking the City, which meets at different locations in London with historical significance and moves throughout the area while learning about London both past and present. I cannot suggest this class enough, if you have the opportunity to take it or another similar class, please do! I’ve also really enjoyed Art History, which focuses on a different London museum every week. I’ve found it really valuable to have specific recommendations of where to go and what to look for while I’m there. Needless to say, I’ve also absolutely fallen in love with my weekly visit to a museum gift shop. 

Outside of academics, a large adjustment I had to make was in cooking. I live in a flat with a shared kitchen, which means that I make meals for myself. Sounds simple, right? Not so much… Food in the UK has a far shorter shelf life. While prepackaged meals are plentiful, I’ve tried to buy fresh food for the week and ended up with a load of rotten vegetables by Thursday. In order to reduce food waste and save money, I have learned to shop for one meal at a time and then go shopping again once I finish eating the leftovers a few days later. While it’s a bit of a hassle, shopping two or three times a week has worked out really well for me.

I have been fortunate enough to have a few days off from classes in my schedule. At home, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t know what to do with myself with all that free time but I have been making the most out of the holes in my schedule by exploring London’s attractions as well as some lesser known areas. Here are my top five favorite places I’ve been:

  1. Kew Gardens: about an hour west of QMUL on the district line is this amazing botanical garden with green houses, special exhibits, and farm to table food. This is genuinely the most beautiful place I have visited.
  2. Spitalfields Market: if you like eating, you’ll like Spitalfields. The market is filled with independent artists selling their goods and a diverse array of delicious food stalls. 
  3. Theatre Row: if you like theatre, the West End is the place for you! My favorite shows I saw were Les Miserables, Heathers, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. 
  4. Notting Hill: you don’t have to be Hugh Grant to explore this neighborhood filled with pastel houses, antique sellers’ booths, and the famous Notting Hill Bookshop. It definitely lived up to the hype.
  5. Brick Lane: this road is completely covered in street art and houses some of the most delicious Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants in London. On Saturdays, the whole street becomes a sprawling vintage market! 

I hope this post has helped clear up any questions you have about life as an Associate Student at Queen Mary and helped to get you excited to explore London.

Until next time, I’ll see you after finals!


Semester England