Jacob H - London, England - Spring 2014
Expectations are Dumb. AKA, Go with the Flow.
The following is bullet list of commentary on the study abroad process and a few relevant passages pulled from the actual blog about my travels.
- Expect there to be problems with some Elmhurst office while you are away. I have been totally taken off of ResLife's radar and am not getting emails about the room selection process for next year. If not for my friends currently at EC, I would have missed the sign-up deadlines. However, the worst problems have been with Student Accounts. After confusing my bill with another student's bill and then charging me double tuition and using a wonky exchange rate, they are finally in the process of getting me all the surplus scholarship that I need to fund my time here. Still, I only have been paid half of what they owe me and communication has been all but dropped. I have no doubt that it will all come through, but it is incredibly inefficient.
- Culture shock is real. Don't deny it, don't think you're immune. You aren't. I am in England--arguably the most similar culture to America and it is hitting harder than when I am in Africa.
- Direct enrolling is hard, plain and simple. I'd probably do it again (as opposed to program style) and admittedly I am not the most social person in the world but be prepared for an uphill battle to making friends in your 3 short months. Year-longers are a whole different beast.
- Don't expect for lecturers to acknowledge your foreigness. You are not going to have your hand held like at EC, many of the schools that accept study abroaders are large institutions. You won't be told when you have papers due, your wont be given a rubric or style sheet, you won't be given grader preferences. You'll just have to produce your best work.
- When looking for flights to your location, use Student Universe and STA Travel for the best student flights. If you are still displeased with prices, the best regular search engine I found is www.triplaunch.net which seems to be better for longer flights and more remote locations (like Africa and SE Asia).
- Make lists, make goals, make budgets. Be happy.
And now for some relevant excerpts from my travel blog--Chronicles of a Gallivanting Interculturalist.
"The assessment scheme is totally foreign to me as well. Each class seems to require two essays (about 5 and 7 pages) and I may have an exam. Other than that, no activity counts for points but there really aren't that many other activities to do anyway so it's a mute point. The professors assign lots of reading and then we discuss it in seminar. Attendance to seminar is compulsory."
"As I indicated in the last blog post, Queen Mary looks like what I think of when I think college. Weird Architecture? Check. Bold Colors? Check. Lots of crazy geometric designs to inspire creative thought? Absolutely."
"While the view is nice, the skylines of Europe really cannot compete with American cities. The buildings are simply not as tall (however it could be argued that they have more aesthetic value). For example, the tallest building in the European Union, The Shard, which is located in central London is still 150 metres shorter the Sears Tower (which is still the tallest building in the USA: deal with it New York). Honestly, London's skyline looks more like that of Detroit or St. Louis than New York even though it's population is equal to the latter."
"I am not sure if it is a cultural difference, a college policy, or both but it is difficult to find students with laptop computers taking notes in class. People here still overwhelmingly use pencil and paper and when they do pull out something more technologically savvy, it is usually a tablet with a plug-in keyboard. My laptop is not huge--but it's certainly not small (it had to be my sidekick at summer camp and in Africa you can bet it's durable) and I usually feel like I am hauling around a huge machine from the 90s."
"The campus security here is a bit overzealous with fire alarm testings..."
"I submitted my first paper last weekend on a topic we had not discussed in class and the professor didn't take time to go over expectations in class. It's not that I needed him to--I had a prompt and a very rough rubric, but it's just a cultural difference. The lecturers here truly are lecturers, not teachers. Said differently, it is their job to lecture, not to teach you anything."
To find more observational commentary and humour from this author or to simply learn more about London, South Africa, or Namibia, please visit the source blog, jlhnamibia.blogspot.com. If you have any questions about traveling out of the country (especially to southern Africa) and find my opinion enlightening feel free to email me - just ask Alice for my e-mail address.