How to Handle the Pre-Arrival Period: Fill in Those Spreadsheets and Buckle Your Seatbelts – Jane Oberhauser

I knew I wanted to study abroad in London long before I even knew I wanted to attend my home university. English history and culture have always held a special place in my heart, both from a personal and a familial perspective. Between both sides of my family, our genealogy traces back across all four corners of the UK. And as for me? I waited years for my Hogwarts letter and grew up fascinated by Arthurian legend, the events of World War II, and the genius of Sherlock Holmes. As an English major, I spent hours studying writers like John Milton and William Shakespeare. So, what better place to take my first solo steps into the greater world than in London: the heart of it all?

As is the case for many study abroad students, last semester represented my first time living in a foreign country, let alone all by myself. I had never used a foreign currency before, had never seen people driving on the left side of the road, never made my own travel arrangements- the list goes on. Prior to mid-September, I had never even done my own cooking, let alone navigated a Tesco Metro. When I received my acceptance letter from King’s, I was absolutely over the moon to be given the opportunity to experience all of these things and more.

I can say with some certainty that my Excel file accumulation began the day that letter arrived. Planning is an absolute necessity. Both figuring out where to purchase everything I needed for my dorm and laying out all my travel arrangements for the first half of the semester in advance were some of the best things I did to make my transition into London life as easy as possible. Trust me, once you arrive, running around shops and sitting in front of a computer are two of the last things you want to be doing. During orientation week alone my friend and I walked over 100 miles just exploring King’s and the city in general!

So get excited about all the places you want to visit, the modules you hope to take, and all the brand new foods and experiences you’ve been dying to try. Look into societies and sports clubs at King’s that you might be interested in joining for the semester. They’re a fantastic way to meet new people who are not necessarily study abroad students. Submit that module request form early. The same goes for applying for King’s housing. Talk to an advisor from your home university about transfer credits before going overseas; and keep this line of communication open.

That’s the most challenging and important logistical thing you should take care of before leaving your home institution. Do your research. Google and travel books quickly became my best friend, and they should also be yours. Talking to friends and classmates who had completed the same study abroad program or even had spent time in London previously was also a great way of preparing. Not only could they recommend museums, restaurants, and activities all over the city, but they also had plenty of advice to offer. A few conversations gave me information about everything from bike lanes, to favorite digestive and tea brands, to choosing an international SIM card, to weather and even what to pack.

That being said, I also want to point out the importance of keeping in mind that there is only so much you can do to prepare for your study abroad experience during the pre-arrival phase. This is something I wish that someone would have told me beforehand. Speaking as a person who generated an entire folder’s worth of planning material months before setting foot on English soil, realising that not everything was going to go according to plan proved to be a critical shift in my mindset. Residences can be overbooked, as my friend’s was. Modules you planned on taking could clash; or finding cheap bedding in Central London might prove a lot more difficult than you anticipated. That is absolutely fine! Adaptation, flexibility, and learning to roll with the punches are all part of the study abroad experience. Beyond that, if I could give incoming study abroad students one piece of advice, it would be this: above all else, plan to make mistakes. You’re going to mess up. Royally, hilariously and irrecoverably. (Forgetting military time when booking flights, anyone? Yep, I did that.) Mistakes are almost a guarantee, so embrace them. I know I learned more than I ever thought I would from mine.

Going into this past three months, I knew it was going to be something special. But nothing could have truly prepared me for the amount I would grow as a person and a citizen of this planet, nor the sheer number of truly incredible experiences I was about to have. My time at King’s and in London was truly the semester of a lifetime.

Immerse Yourself in Academics ,You Will Immerse Yourself in London – Mamta Saraogi

The British academic system at university is starkly different that of the United States of America. Since I study at a Liberal Arts College, I have been used to enrolling in classes from a variety of disciplines even though I major in only one of them. In contrast, I was studying modules only within my major at King’s College London. In this blog, I will share with you some of the key experiences of the academic experience at King’s College London within Arts and Humanities, through the lens of a study-abroad student from the USA.

Continue reading “Immerse Yourself in Academics ,You Will Immerse Yourself in London – Mamta Saraogi”

3,000 Miles From Home: Preparing for My Study Abroad Experience at King’s College London- Haley Evans

To prepare for my study abroad experience at King’s College London (KCL), I attended several informational meetings held at my home university, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). These meetings were hosted by UNC’s Study Abroad Office, and they are intended to help UNC students prepare for their upcoming term(s) abroad. At a meeting that was held specifically for UNC students planning to study abroad at KCL, I listened to a presentation from a KCL student who was studying abroad at UNC at the time, a UNC student who had previously studied abroad for a semester at KCL, and my study abroad advisor at UNC who helps coordinate the study abroad programs in the UK and Ireland. Continue reading “3,000 Miles From Home: Preparing for My Study Abroad Experience at King’s College London- Haley Evans”

Jon Ainsworth, Global Summer Exchange 2019 – Shanghai

What do you study at King’s?

MSc Emerging Economies and International Development.

Where did your Global Summer Experience take place?

Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China.

What course did you take and why?

China’s Policy on Climate Change, Energy and Environment because of the unique interdisciplinary nature of the course on offer.

How did receiving the Global Summer Exchange Award shape your experience?

Being a self-funded part-time student, I have often found it difficult to attend activities outside of class due to time and money constraints. The award contributed to paying for pretty much the entire cost of my return tickets, which of course was a massive help. As the airfare was accounted for, I was able to stay in the country for longer and go to the largest skatepark in the world (SMP Shanghai) to fulfill the dream I have had for many years of riding the masterpiece.

How was the application process?

The application process was straight forward as the initial application was submitted to King’s and then I was nominated to apply to Jiao Tong. The Global Mobility Team go above and beyond to support your application at the host university as the team have a wealth of experience in dealing with global applications.

What were the highlights of your Global Summer Experience?

The opportunity to study alongside a group of like minded cosmopolitan individuals from such a diverse array of fields including environmental science, geography and economics definitely made the in-class discussions a lot more interesting as there was an assimilation of knowledge from the hard and social sciences taking place throughout the course. It was very refreshing to grasp some engineering concepts and solutions to the environmental problems we are facing today. Additionally, the wisdom of Dr. Junhua Zhang made the experience unforgettable.

What was the biggest challenge you encountered during your Global Summer Experience?

The biggest challenge I encountered was a problem with my accommodation situation. I booked a place on AirBnB, which FYI is blocked on China’s firewall, to later be told by Jiao Tong that I must report to the local police station details of my whereabouts for the duration of my stay within 24 hours (a requirement when staying off campus). This is a statutory requirement when on a student visa that I was unaware of and subsequently led to a very nerve-wracking day of tracking down landlords, signing document and contemplating my fear of spending the rest of my days in Chinese detention if this wasn’t boxed off. Luckily, I was able to get the documents to the relevant authorities in time. The lesson was learnt. Ignorance is no excuse; you must respect the laws of the land you are in and conform to any bureaucracy or formalities expected of a visitor. I made this mistake so you as the reader does not have to!

Any other surprises?

Prior to departure I was aware of the mobile payment giants such as WeChat and Alipay, but I completely underestimated their usage among the population. It soon became apparent that QR codes are ubiquitous to the core function of the modern Chinese economy as they are used for things ranging from payments, to unlocking a motorbike and even when you sign up to WeChat you will get your own personalised QR code for new friends to scan, rendering any prior language miscommunication obsolete as you can now communicate through the comfort of a translating app.

Do you have any advice for those thinking of applying?

Go for it. If you are curious, open-minded and intrigued to learn Chinese ways of thinking and problem solving, you should not hold back. It was an experience that has inspired me greatly and it will continue to do so for the rest of my life. If you are not so interested in academia, China also has incredible rice and bakery treats.

Stellenbosch University Summer School – Megan Binnie

I decided to attend Stellenbosch Summer School because it offered a unique and challenging academic experience with an all-inclusive social and cultural programme. By choosing Stellenbosch, I knew I would get to study fulfilling, intellectually stimulating modules while also exploring the Western Cape of South Africa with the guidance of local students.

A fantastic opening function was held on arrival to welcome us all to the programme. A group of performers called Drum Café came to play authentic African music for us, making it interactive so that we all had the chance to play, dance and sing along. Afterwards, we introduced ourselves to one another over some wine from the local vineyards and watched the South African students dancing to Afrikaans music, called Sokkie. I also got to experience the popular SA tradition of having a Braai, which is like a BBQ with music and dancing!

The university organised some optional excursions for us, so I chose a one-day safari at Aquila Private Game Reserve and Spa. This was an experience like no other – we drove out on a cold, crisp African morning and saw buffalo, rhinos, lions, zebras and elephants. The baby rhino was super curious about our adventure and came right over to our truck, flicking his ears and sniffing the air! We managed to get very close to the elephants which was amazing for me, as I’d never seen one before. Getting up close to the lions was a little scarier, but luckily for us they were happy and undisturbed by our presence!

On our first weekend we visited Cape Town, where we rode the sight-seeing city tour bus around. The highlight was visiting the District Six museum and hearing the story of our guide who had grown up there with her family. They lived there happily for years until the State declared it a ‘whites only’ area during the apartheid area, forcing her family to relocate and bulldozing the whole district. Hearing about her experience was very emotional, but really brought to life my studies of apartheid South Africa and opened my eyes to the significance with which it effected (and still does affect) people’s lives. On a lighter note, we had the chance to view all of Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain and ventured up there in a cable car. Due to the winter weather, we only managed a small glimpse of the beautiful view as the clouds passed and spent most of our time enjoying coffee and cake in the mountain-top café, before grabbing lunch at an open-front beach bar and café. The next morning, we watched the sunrise at the Victoria and Albert Waterfront and spent a few hours relaxing, enjoying South Africa’s best wines and street performers there.

Back at Stellenbosch, the summer school staff organized a South African Food Evening where we could sample popular foods of the nation, including; milk tart, koeksisters and pap. A few nights later they organised a career café, where a former Stellenbosch student came to speak about how his international experiences and connections have shaped his career and personal life. He helped us see the value in international experiences through his interesting and inspiring story. Since Stellenbosch is a small university town and relatively quiet out of term time, we were taken on a weekend away to Mykonos Resort on the Langebaan coast. It resembled a small Greek island and was the chance for us to relax from the intensity of our studies! We went on a yacht trip there and used the spa, which was amazing and super cheap. It was a really nice touch to our experience to have a mini holiday weekend.

On the journey back from our weekend away we were given a few hours at Spice Route Tastings, where we received vouchers to use on chocolate, wine, beer, biltong, or coffee. Stellenbosch is a wine region so as we enjoyed a nice meal at the pizzeria there, we overlooked the beautiful scenery of vineyards and mountains.

At Stellenbosch I studied South African Political History, which gave me a detailed insight into the history of a country I had never previously visited or studied. My second elective; Transitional Justice, has had a huge effect on me and my future plans. We were taught by a practitioner working as a peace-process advisor for war-torn countries, and mediator for victims of gross human rights violations. We examined peace processes in a variety of countries, including South Africa, Argentina, Chile etc. and were required to suggest and develop a strategy for peace in a country of choice. The chance to work with students from different academic backgrounds around the world was valuable in broadening my perspective on the controversial and sensitive issues of discussion. The elective was extremely engaging and inspiring, opening my eyes to an important line of work that I may wish to pursue in the future and helping me make international connections to facilitate my future career. Overall, my summer school experience at Stellenbosch was everything I had hoped for and more! Thank you Associated Commonwealth Universities for the grant!