Study Abroad Series: University Life in the UK

Hi guys! Sorry for the delay in getting these posts up. School is definitely picking up the pace, and I’m trying to keep up. πŸ˜€ But today, classes were cancelled because of the weather, so I figured I would spend some time on these posts. This week (what remains of it), I’ll be telling you about my time studying abroad in the UK. This post I’ll talk about what the actual studying/university life was like. I should also have two travel posts coming and possibly a packing list for those of you looking to study abroad.

So, I was in England, as you know. I didn’t want to say at the time where in England I was, but as you may have guessed, I was in London. For privacy reasons, I am not going to mention what university I was studying at, but from what I gather, many UK universities are run in a similar way. Do keep in mind that all universities are different and that my experience may not be the same as yours.

My schedule was amazing to say the least. Here in the States, I take four courses that meet at least twice a week (usually three). That amounts to about three hours of class time per week per class (if you are a science major, add on at least three hours per lab). In London, it was significantly less. For the two English courses (or modules as they call them), there was one one hour lecture per week. Every other week, there would be a two hour seminar to talk about the texts in a more relaxed way. For me, the seminars were not strange, because that is how many of the English courses at my home university are. Some people may see sitting around and talking about texts a bit odd, though. My last two classes met for two hours once a week and three hours once a week. Overall, that is significantly less class time. If that sounds like the life, it was. πŸ™‚

Speaking of less time, the work load was significantly less. At UK universities, you take courses for an entire school year rather than a semester. Then, at the end, you take a cumulative exam on what you learned that year. Because I left after the first semester (or term as they say), I didn’t have to take an exam. Instead, I had extra essays to write. This meant that there was no need for me to read all of the work assigned for the course. Β It was useful to read the stuff for seminars, but I was not graded on participation. I believe the point was to help with writing essays (getting to that in a minute). Basically, you were able to choose what you wanted to read. If you were staying the full year, I would HIGHLY recommend reading at least the set texts. Otherwise, choose whatever you would like. (Again, remember that this was just my experience. You may want to verify at your school before deciding to not do the readings).

Lectures were also quite different. In the States, there is one person who teaches for the entire semester. At the university I was at, my English courses had different professors every week. For example, one would come in and talk about Beckett, and the next week there would be someone completely different talking about poetry. It was really refreshing. If there was a not-so-good professor, you could breathe a sigh of relief because they would be gone the next week.

Now, the essays. Naturally, as an English major, I am used to writing essays. But essay writing is completely different in the UK. Not only do they have a totally different preference for style, they have a different way of assessment. In terms of style, we were encouraged (in fact, you could not get a good grade without it) to have a strong historical context. This is not something that is really stressed in US writings. Furthermore, the professors in the UK do not really believe in a thesis. The paper was more of a journey for the reader. Your argument comes at the end of the paper. To be honest, I flippin’ loved this. That is exactly the style I love to use in my papers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go over well here at my university. 😦 The essays that I wrote during the term were not graded by the course professor. This is because there were so many. So, what happens instead is that each student is given a tutor. Your tutor reads and grades your paper (for any class within the department) and then gives you advice on it. I was very lucky and had the most wonderful tutor ever. He was so nice but he gave constructive criticism. I’m not sure that I really like the idea of a tutor for my work here in the States, but it was something new and different.

Okay, so that takes care of the class stuff. I’ll talk about three other aspects of University life: housing, food, and extracurriculars. My university kindly provided housing for me. UK universities usually do so for affiliate (study abroad) students and freshmen (or freshers as they call them :D). I lived in a flat with four other girls. Our flat was okay. There were five single bedrooms (one for each of us), two bathrooms, and a kitchen. At the university I was studying at, there were huge variations in housing. Some of my friends lived in flats with 12 other people. Some people lived in a flat filled with double rooms (meaning two students per bedroom). Nearly everywhere had a kitchen in the flat, as far as I know. There was a dining hall on campus, but it had weird hours, and it was easier (and cheaper) to just cook for myself. I was very lucky because I was quite close to a Tesco and a Sainsburys. Food was never far away, and if I needed a late night snack, I didn’t have to walk very far. Lastly, extracurriculars. The university I studied at had a bazillion different clubs and sports. I decided not to join one because I preferred to spend my extra time travelling. Looking back, I wish I would have joined one so I could have met some more British students. Alas, you can’t change the past, and I had a great time anyway.

I think that is enough for today. Come back tomorrow for some more information about my study abroad experience. I am going to be sharing some pictures! πŸ˜€

If you have questions, please leave them below and I will answer them as best as I can.

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4 Responses to Study Abroad Series: University Life in the UK

  1. The academic portion sounds lovely! Very laid back. Do you still feel like you learned as much?
    – Michelle

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