My academic experience at King’s was incredibly positive. There were so many interesting classes to take across a wide variety of subjects, and, as a liberal arts student, this was particularly useful to satisfy the requirements of my American university. Courses (also known as modules) at KCL are structured in a very similar way to my home university: they meet several times per week and larger lectures have ‘break-out’ discussion sections weekly. Lectures can be large (over 100 students) or smaller (less than 50) depending on how many students are in that department and they are usually posted online to watch later if needed. Some classes even take field trips, and one of mine took me to the London Zoo and Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, a
UNESCO World Heritage site with over 9 million species and a skywalk for picturesque views.
The amount of time spent in the classroom is generally less than in American universities when comparing a full academic schedule. However, there is generally more reading and outside work to compensate for this. It is important to note that grades at King’s are highly dependent on midterms and finals. Of my four courses, two were graded solely based on two essays, one was 90% final exam and 10% discussion section work, and one was 100% final exam. However, there is nothing to fear! As long as you are keeping up with your reading and ‘checkpoint’ assignments you will be more than prepared for the exams and papers. The course work is more than manageable, and I never felt overwhelmed or completely unprepared in any of my upper-level courses. Also, compared to another study abroad program the semester at KCL is longer which means there is more time to prepare for the exams and spend in Europe. You will even have time for a weekend trip to Lisbon!
These courses help you develop self-accountability and are structured more like graduate school courses in the US. Although you may feel nervous about your grade being heavily dependent on one or two assignments, if you follow the syllabus there will be no issues at all. Also, this course structure can provide you with more flexibility: if you want to attend a concert or comedy show with friends one night and can’t finish the reading, that is completely fine as long as that work is done before you start your term paper or need to study for your exam!
All of the professors at King’s are incredibly thoughtful and helpful. In many of my classes, the professors were some of the most knowledgeable and accomplished in their field of study in the world. The professors always answer questions in class and also answer questions over email and on the class discussion board on Keats. Keats is very similar to Canvas or Blackboard in the US and is the primary portal for reading materials, watching lectures, submitting assignments, and everything in between.
On the topic of professors, it is important to note that the grading scale used at King’s and other UK universities is completely different than in the US. A score of 70 and above is a flat A and difficult to achieve especially on papers. Above a 60 is a low A or high B and above 50 is a low B. For an easy approximate conversion just add 30 points to your actual grade. No matter how well you keep that in mind, it will be sort of jarring to see such a low number on a paper. However, that will not be an issue when your home university converts it back into the US grading system. All of my courses counted for my degree in the US without a hitch which is a testament to the amazing variety of modules offered by King’s and the high quality of the education.
One of my favorite parts of studying on the Strand campus was catching up on work in Maughan Library in between classes. Although it is a few blocks away from the main King’s building, the walk is spectacular past St. Clement Danes Church and the Royal Courts of Justice. I can honestly say that the Maughan Library is the most magical place on campus. It previously guarded national archives and its dodecagonal reading room was visited in The Da Vinci Code. Also, it is widely rumored that Dumbledore’s office in Harry Potter was based on the reading room. The rest of the library also has some spectacular places to work but try to study in the reading room early in the semester before it is crammed full of students. Trust me, the picture below does not do it justice!
Also, if you are in the Borough neighborhood (as I was at Great Dover Street), the New Hunt’s House Library is a great place to study and open all night long. That library has a more open and modern feel with many private study rooms and computers to use. New Hunt’s House always has open spaces to spread out and is another great place to study outside of the dorm room.
Although a small part of my semester was unfortunately moved online due to Covid-19, King’s did a wonderful job of handling this situation while keeping the quality of education high and allowing the semester to finish in the best way possible. Ideally, there will not be another global pandemic soon, but I think that the professional way KCL and the professors handled the pandemic speaks volumes about the quality of the education at King’s and the dedication of the support staff at the university. The academic departments, campus housing team, and study abroad office gave excellent and clear advice and enabled me to finish my education on great terms. I am incredibly grateful that I spent a semester at King’s College and had the opportunity to study at a leading global university in the heart of one of the world’s greatest cities.