Congratulations to Isabel, Rebecca, Lillian, Kristen and Melissa who each won a semester 2 Excellence Scholarship of £1000 each.
Enjoy reading about their time here at King’s as well as their adventures and insights in to the wonderful city of London!
Isabel DeBre, Brown University
Here’s the short version of my first few days in London: I was a confused, culture-shocked cliche of a study abroad student.
The long version? Despite growing up in Los Angeles, accustomed to the frantic finagling of big cities, and despite having English as my first language and thinking of London as a parallel universe, adjustment is adjustment. I’ll go easy on myself and say that the powers that be were not on my side: In the flurry of arrival excitement I forgot one of my most essential suitcases in Heathrow’s baggage claim (okay that was completely my own fault), woke up the next morning with a huge eye infection that required I scour London’s five major hospitals for eye specialists, opened my computer to find its screen blank and dysfunctional, and discovered that my first day of King’s College Orientation coincided with a massive tube strike that brought the city to a standstill and compelled me, an amateur of an athlete, to bike through streams of double-decker buses.
I say this all to say that even if the most randomly difficult things happen to you, you will survive! Even better, you will have bizarre stories to regale strangers with at the Knights Templar pub (the location of my first King’s orientation event), and after said event you might even have met potential friends who you know are truly accepting, non-superficial types because they talked to you even though your eye looked swollen and infectious. And, as I can attest, it can only go uphill--by the second week, I was navigating the Northern line like a pro, had retrieved my luggage, furnished my apartment, fixed my computer, and was enjoying the beginnings of friendship with students from all over the world. I’d even managed to overcome the awkward habit of almost sitting on cab drivers’ laps because I expected them to be on the other side. Maybe working through obstacles looks something like adulthood...
From the moment I stepped off the plane, something struck me as magical about London
A College of Words--& of the World
“You are looking at the greatest novel of all time and humanity.” So my professor began my first module at King’s College, a class devoted to Joyce’s Ulysses. The module practices slow, deep reading—we read this novel, all of this novel, only this novel. Each seminar consists of student presentations, discussion, and lecture—a layering that kept the daily routine interesting, unpredictable. After the first class, in which my Irish professor (who has taught and toiled over Ulysses for decades) issued sweeping declarations about the power of Joyce’s prose, I knew it would be my favourite—not only because the writing floored and frightened me, but also because of what this course meant for my study abroad education.
Brown University (my school in the States) offers a course on Ulysses—as do most—but at Brown, students read the novel alongside many modernist works. In my studies so far, I’ve never encountered a course devoted to a work in isolation, with the aim of providing enough mental and emotional space for themes and thoughts to sink, settle, absorb. At my university, I sometimes feel like I’m reading as much as possible as fast as possible (not to generalize, but perhaps this says something about the American educational ethos?). But at King’s, I had the time, space, and energy to experience Ulysses. After all, the culture and context of the novel was practically the backdrop of my everyday life. In London, the centre of English rule, a city Joyce frequented, in the heart of British literary and political discourse, conversations of Irish nationalism and Scottish independence percolate on Tube platforms. The Irish pub down the street on the Strand looks exactly like the one Joyce describes in his Eumaeus chapter. To me, this course represented the ways in which King’s allowed me to experience the past and ever-present life of English literature. Outside the window of my 19th century Victorian literature class, I could see the old house of Thomas De Quincey, whose memoir we studied. On my way to campus, copy of David Copperfield in hand, I passed the shop that Dickens’ laboured in as a child—the source of his trauma and shame. Walking in Westminster I heard the “leaden circles” of Big Ben dissolve into the open air, just like Mrs. Dalloway. By exploring Bloomsbury, Keats’ Hampstead, Freud’s house, I felt as though I was externalizing all that I’d internalized in my academic career—living out a fuller understanding of my favourite texts by inhabiting the spaces in which they were written.
At Brown I specialize in Comparative Literature (specifically Arabic literature) alongside Middle East Studies, and so don’t quite have the space within my academic schedule to take all the traditional English literature courses that I need (for credit) and want (for personal fulfilment). I decided to take exclusively English courses at King’s—to immerse myself in London as a city of texts haunted by its great authors, and to learn from professors who likewise live and work within a long literary and cultural tradition.
Bloomsbury, home of Woolf’s famous Bloomsbury group of elite writers & editors
A City of One’s Own
One of my first Fridays in London, Donald Trump became President of the United States. As my friends back home were convening and protesting, I felt--literally and figuratively--thousands of miles away. I grew restless to resist, to organize, but couldn’t figure out how, especially because at this point I’d hardly ventured outside the radius of Borough station. But the morning after the inauguration, I hopped on the tube with some friends to Oxford Street, where tens of thousands of chanting, feminist-sign-holding women, men and children were marching through the streets, stalling traffic, demanding equal rights and an end to all the destructive -isms that Trump symbolizes. Perhaps this wasn’t the typical tourist walking tour, but the London Women’s March from Grosvenor Square to Trafalgar introduced me to major monuments and sites (from Buckingham Palace to Hyde Park to Nelson’s Column)--all through the lens of lively present-day activism, a spirit which pervaded my term at King’s. I ended up joining the Marxist Society and Palestinian Action Society, continuing to participate in protests and to discover London as a global locus for social justice and human rights organizing.
Perhaps what I find most fascinating about London is its variety of versions--the fact that all of my friends here map and experience the city in completely different ways, and that our collective versions of this crazy capital coexist at once. My London map materialized through BFI film screenings, Tate Modern tours, Hampstead Park jaunts, Covent Garden post-class coffees, Barbican art installations, Brockley bus rides to a friend’s flat, shawarma and shisha at Edgeware Road, Arabic evening courses at King’s, long nights at the Roebuck pub, Waterloo bridge sunsets. My map was shaped and reshaped by the people and places I got to know--and came to love--while King’s courses and campuses served as my compass and core.
The London Women’s March on its way to Trafalgar Square
King’s: A Homebase in London’s Heart
London was an obvious abroad destination for me--as a student of English literature, I wanted to study where my favorite writers, from Keats to Zadie Smith, dwelled and wrote. In the most literal sense, King’s brought me closest to London’s heart. A five minute walk from Samuel Johnson’s house, and the gathering places of Dickens, John Stuart Mill, Emerson, and so many more avant-garde thinkers and writers, King’s Strand campus makes me feel like I’m studying within a lively and potent intellectual and literary tradition. If proximity to history doesn’t excite you, then proximity to London’s hundreds of tourist destinations, from Trafalgar Square to Westminster, as well as to museums, the West End, and Covent Garden pubs, surely must. Combined with the global reputation of King’s Humanities faculty, world class professors (many of whom are the foremost critics and academics in their field--looking at you, Paul Gilroy), the truly holistic support of Study Abroad Peer Advisors (I’m talking weekly emails, well-planned orientation events, and total accessibility), the ways that centrally-located residents bring study abroad and British students together, the lively KCLSU where you’re bound to see a familiar face even in this expansive metropolis, and the energy and commitment of King’s societies (which strikes me as unique after polling friends from other local universities), King’s College has met and surpassed my study abroad expectations. I could go on, but I think you get my point: KCL should be an obvious destination for you too.
Beautiful nearby parks offer a momentary escape from King’s centrality
Kristen Sze-Tu, Washington University in St. Louis
Settling in to life at King’s - Walking my way to Feeling OK
When I first got to London, I felt overwhelmingly disoriented. I had no idea how to get places, where to eat, or when to sleep. And on the first day of King’s orientation, there was a tube strike! So I spent my morning fast-walking the three miles from my housing to the Strand campus. But even though I arrived late, sweaty, and tired, I got to see so much of London, and walking all that way really helped me get a sense of how connected the city is. I spent the next week or so walking everywhere. I wasn’t used to the way that street signs are posted on the sides of buildings instead of at corners, and at first I didn’t have a proper SIM card, so I had to rely on free wi-fi and screenshots of maps. But walking was wonderful—I found a ton of places I probably wouldn’t have stumbled upon had I taken the less-scenic tube route from the start.
While I often found myself physically lost, I was feeling a bit lost emotionally, too. Initially, I worried about not having a support system here—my close friends were all back home, and I’m usually pretty shy within big groups. But KCL’s Study Abroad Team made it easier to meet people who were going through a similar experience by holding social events during orientation week. My favorite BY FAR was the Selfie Scavenger Hunt, in which we were tasked with taking selfies in front of London landmarks. The prize was a bag full of British candy. For me, it was perfect—not only am I decently competitive, but also, I’d be able to check off maybe half of my touristy pictures all in one evening. I teamed up with a group of competitive people who all really love candy and we raced along South Bank taking silly pictures and wearing out our shoes. The sweetest part (besides our WIN)? We still meet up often to see movies and share our candy.
Overall though, adjusting to life in London took longer than I’d expected. It was hard to remember to eat regularly, and to sleep at regular hours, and I often felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of OPTIONS for things to do—it seemed like everybody I knew was rushing to see all the museums, landmarks and shows they could before classes started. I missed my friends and family and regular routines. I missed my American snacks! But setting little goals for myself, like deciding to check out the Moomin store in Covent Garden, or finding a good place to get shakshuka (like Honey & Co. near Warren Street!) kept me busy and excited for each new day. I made friends who make London feel more like home. And I eventually found a good snack, too—I’ve gone through like, six boxes of this cereal called Shreddies since I’ve gotten here. With enough time, I became comfortable here before I even realized it.
I miss my American cereals, but Shreddies helped filled the void.
Academic benefits of studying at King’s - The Drama!
True — I was excited to study at King’s for the central London location — but I was actually most excited about the course selection. That, and the fact that I’d be studying English literature (!) in England (!!) I mean, where better to struggle through the long entirety of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House than the place where it actually takes place? (Chancery Lane became much more interesting after that.) Or even to get a small glimpse of what life was like during the Victorian Era outside of my Victorians and Social Change class by visiting the V&A or the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs. Or to see Jacobean plays performed at the Globe right as I’m reading them! Drama, in particular, has been a wonderful subject to study here in London —I’ve been loving my Creative Writing Drama Course (which teaches us to write stage plays AND screenplays!), and the fact that there are so many opportunities to see shows here has truly enhanced my experience in the course. Or is it that the course has enhanced the various shows that I’ve had the privilege of seeing?
Back at Washington University, I love being an English major, but I also like the fact that I can take classes outside of my major, because sometimes it’s nice to balance out a heavy reading load with other subjects and other kinds of work. Part of why I chose to study at King’s College London was the fact that I was given the flexibility to take classes outside of the English department. And I have to say, I’m really enjoying my one geography class so far. I’ve really appreciated the fact that I can choose from classes that vary in specificity and variety.
I think it’s easy to miss what you’re used to when studying here for five months—at first, I missed small things, like class sizes, or seeing my friends on campus because my home institution is relatively small compared to King’s. And also, the thought of having my entire grade based on one or two essays here at KCL is terrifying. But there have also been a lot of things that I love. I like feeling independent when it comes to work—it’s challenging to have to manage my time in a different way, but I feel like I’ve become a little better at it as a result. And knowing that I’ve been able to adapt to challenges, whether small or large, academic or non-academic, has been rewarding in and of itself.
The Wellcome Collection’s reading room!
Life in the heart of London - Deals, Dinosaurs, and the DLR
To be honest, I wasn’t so excited to study in London at first. I’d been here once in my life, and while I had a good time, I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to spending the next five months here. I expected to miss New York a ton, and I expected to spend most of my time traveling outside of London. But suprise, suprise—I love it here. I love the sunny days (the cloudy ones make them feel more special) and the public transportation. I love all the milk tea I’ve been drinking (my favorite is at a place in Soho called Biju? The milk tea is really milky there) and the Sunday markets (Brick Lane market is probably my favorite—super hipster-feeling, but also I bought three pairs of £5 dungarees there that I’m in love with).
Being here for the second term has been part of what’s made my time in London feel so special—Chinatown goes all out for Chinese New Year with red lanterns and performances and free rooster stuffed animals, pubs on St. Patrick’s day are fantastic, and experiencing the change in weather has been wonderful. You go from these cold, dark afternoons to days of sun that feel like a blessing, and then the warm days start to happen every day. I think the best way to enjoy these days is by going to one of the many green spaces and parks that London has—I’ve spent many an afternoon lying in the grass at Victoria Park (East) and Regent’s Park (West) reading, and watching sunsets near Primrose Hill. My favorite park BY FAR is Crystal Palace Park in South London because of the Crystal Palace dinosaurs—these huge (and totally inaccurate, but they didn’t know it then!) dinosaur sculptures from the Victorian era. They have a really interesting history, but also they’re even better to see in person.
Everyone will tell you about the museums in London (which are great, and also free). There’s something for everyone. My personal favorite is the Wellcome Collection—it’s kind of small, known for its “medical antiquities” and exploring the relationship between medicine, history, life, and art. Not the kind of thing I’d thought I’d be into, but I went one day to kill some time and ended up spending hours there. Because it was AMAZING. It has artifacts like Napoleon’s toothbrush and paintings of people performing surgery from way back when, and the first time I went, it had this fantastic exhibit on mental health. And it has this gorgeous reading room, which is great for studying.
And finally, I want to give a little shoutout to the tube. I think it’s fascinating. I’ve made it my personal goal to travel on every TFL mode of transport during my time here (my favorite is the DLR because of the aboveground views—sit in the front car if you can!), which has also helped me explore some parts of London that I wouldn’t otherwise have visited.
Walking up to Primrose Hill! Quite the climb for quite the view.
Why study abroad at King’s?
My decision to study at King’s College London felt calculated, logical initially. First, out of all of the UK universities I’d been considering, King’s had options— by which I mean the widest variety of English classes, and I was excited for the opportunity to take classes that I wouldn’t be able to take back at Washington University (or anywhere else I was thinking of, for that matter). My course load could be flexible— that is, I could take classes outside of my major, too, which was really important to me. KCL’s location in central London was exciting, because I knew I’d really be studying in the heart of the city, and I really wanted an urban experience. But you could get this from reading a King’s brochure—there are reasons to study here at King’s that I didn’t figure out until after I got here.
I really think King’s has so much more to offer beyond its academics. There were things I got out of my time here that I wouldn’t have been able to at any other university— for instance, the societies. At King’s, Study Abroad Students have the privilege of being treated like regular full-time students, which means that we can join clubs and societies like everyone else. While I missed my Washington University extracurricular groups immensely, I was happy to have time away from weekly meetings and planning and other responsibilities. I didn’t expect to jump into another activity or group while I was abroad. But I decided to try something new (I’d never played the ukulele before), and after reading about the ukulele society (from another study abroad student’s blog post, in fact!) I thought it would be interesting to check out the first meeting. And not only did I really enjoy learning how to play and singing my heart out that first day, but everyone was so warm and welcoming that it almost made me feel at home. So then I went back the next time, and the next time, until going to society meetings became the highlight of my week. I made friends, I learned how to play, and I ended up going on tour with the society to Belfast (which was truly amazing, wow)!
I think at the end of the day, a lot went into making me feel at home here. The Study Abroad office in particular really helped with that. It meant a lot to me that everyone worked so hard to make students feel at home and adjusted (organizing activities and orientations, helping me make sure I got the classes I needed), especially since I really love the study abroad department back at Washington University, too. Deciding to study at King’s was actually kind of a last-minute decision for me, because I was really scared of missing things back at home, but I’m so, so thankful that I decided to come after all.
A gorgeous day in London, a few different landmarks in view!
Lillian Hollar, Seattle Pacific University
Settling in to life at King’s: A Flooded Bathroom
On the first night in Julia Markham, my bathroom flooded. I was so exhausted from trying to figure out life in London, that I figured maintenance could wait. Within hours, the entire flat had begun to smell like dirty water. I successfully avoided my soaked carpet, by making a point of never being in room. When I was not studying European history in class, I was exploring Shoreditch, Elephant and Castle, and Central. It felt surreal to pass the Big Ben and Somerset House as I walked back to my musty flat after class. My mind had no sense of focus the first few days at King’s. This was preferable, considering what I left back in the United States. While I filled my nights with pub quizzes, lawyers were flocking to airports in Seattle, classmates were calling our local elected officials, and my pastor was preaching the importance of inclusivity.
After slipping on the toilet water that had begun to seep into the vinyl floor cracks, I called a friend in tears, wondering if I should just come home. She asked what I would do if I actually returned to the States. I told her I would do something, protest at town hall meetings, draft letters. She told me that no matter where I was, we would all still be helpless. I decided to email maintenance about the situation I feared had become a potential health hazard. I pinned up photos that were recently developed from my disposable camera. Only two weeks had passed, and there were twenty snapshots of my newfound friends and I running around in awe of our shared gift of being able to study in London. After profusely apologizing to maintenance, I walked over to the Women’s March. The sight was as incredible as any historic landmark I had seen up to that point.
One night in 1998, my mom woke me up so I could watch Michelle Kwan skate live on television. I remember watching Kwan twirl around in all her shimmering glory. My mom had fostered in my youthful heart a sense of sisterhood. She worked hard so that I could have the chance to study at a university like King’s. While standing amidst the flurry of colorful signs and confident chants in Trafalgar Square, I texted my friend, and told her that I would be staying in London, and that I had purchased an air freshener.
A collage of my friends and I, along with ticket stubs from a rail ride, and a Tower of London Tour
Academic benefits of studying at King’s: “You will really enjoy this”
I fondly remember going over my study abroad courses with my academic advisor. It was the first time I remember seeing her truly delighted with my future prospects. “This will be interesting. You will really enjoy this. I am so excited for you,” she muttered while her eyes scanned over the computer screen. My sophomore year, I transferred to Seattle Pacific University from another college across town, weaseled my way into the honors program, and haphazardly ended up on her advisory roster. I have the sense that she never really knows what to do with me. I do know, however, that she had no qualms about shipping me off to King’s.
My education at King’s has been pleasantly unfamiliar, as well as challenging. I learned very quickly that I would be a point person for any student questioning the realness of Donald Trump’s hair and his politics. My classmates and I have learned that our concerns are more similar than they are different. I cannot tell whether to find comfort in that. Conversation has brought many voices to the table, ones I would have never heard had I stayed in the United States my entire academic career.
My course load includes a film course, a comparative literature course, a history course, and a business course. I have watched Polanski’s Chinatown, read Seven Jewish Children, a play for Gaza by Caryl Churchill, read Peter Abelard’s letters to his love Heloise, and outlined a CAGE framework. I often find myself engaged in a debate about the definition of intelligence, and usually settle with defining intelligence as the ability to make connections. While my courses at King’s seem to all differ from one another, all their lessons can be intertwined, whether it be Middle East peace, or the timelessness of Jack Nicholson’s acting.
I am pursuing a future in campaigning and law, which demands I possess a vast wealth of knowledge, as well as understand how issues relate to one another. Therefore, everything I learn has the power to bear much significance. You can never know enough, and King’s has really driven home that truth for me. I remember being forewarned of a debate that would occur in one of my seminars. The “debate” was more of a polite discussion, coupled with hard evidence and eloquent wording. I was taken aback, but made sure to pocket what I had witnessed, for the next time my roommate tries to convince me that it’s my turn to vacuum.
Unlike in the United States, there are only about one to two assignments per module. Grades are usually not given for participation. This structure, while different, was easy to navigate. You just cannot forget to turn your assignments in on time. All in all, my education at King’s has expanded my scope of understanding, and has been as interesting and enjoyable as my academic advisor claimed it would be.
Belgium Gratitude Memorial, or the Belgian Refugees Memorial on the River Thames
Life in the heart of London: My friend, Dawn
My cousin, Maddy, loves London. She has never been to London, but she adores the series, Sherlock. Because I adore her, I wanted to buy something I could send back to California. With a modest canvas print of the city’s skyline in hand, ready to be purchased, the cashier informed me I had to buy seven pounds worth of merchandise, if a credit card was going to be my form of payment. Discouraged, I began to scrounge for another souvenir. Suddenly, a woman handed me two pounds. Immediately my hand went to return the currency, but she insisted. I thanked her and asked for her name. She responded, “Dawn. Welcome to London.”
Once Dawn and I had become acquainted, I began to explore what else London had to offer. After emailing King’s career services, regarding volunteering opportunities in the city, I was directed towards the BOND conference, Europe’s largest international development convention. For the event, volunteers handed out brochures and facilitated conversation. We were also allowed to sit in on seminars. Leading experts in development gathered together to deliver a convicting call to action. Politicians, independent entrepreneurs, and a Nobel Peace Prize winner reminded the conference-goers to hold on to hope, that with enough investment, and enough awareness, our global community would persevere unified.
Other than the conference, many of my fondest study abroad memories were of conversations had while enjoying meals. The view from Duck and Waffle never grows old, and neither does a night of playing ping-pong at Bounce. I look forward to weekly reunions, at Nando’s in Elephant and Castle, with a flatmate of mine. Amidst the earlier tumultuous transition from the United States to life in London, we sought solace in dishes of chicken and garlic bread.
An Oyster card is an investment. In Seattle, they are called Orca cards, and in Hong Kong, they are called Octopus cards. Once I talked myself out of a conspiracy theory linking aquatic creature advocacy to city transportation, I ordered an Oyster card of my own. My ride to school is the 176 bus route that runs across the Waterloo Bridge. The view of the River Thames and the London Eye against the grey-clouded background is incredible. You can almost picture Peter Pan unraveling his umbrella before soaring over Big Ben. It is during those early morning commutes that I wish I could share what I am seeing with every person I have ever loved.
My favorite perch is atop a barstool at the SOHO Coffee Company, across from the Royal Courts of Justice. As I brainstorm essay outlines, and return emails, people in suits and pencil skirts keep the café’s door revolving. I love to sip my latte, and bask in the feeling of liveliness that only comes from studying in the “capital of the world”. I wrote to Maddy, telling her about Dawn, Oyster cards, and all the business-y people. I also told her I would make sure to keep an eye out for Benedict Cumberbatch.
A picture of Lillian Hollar (me) holding shaved ice from BobaJam
Why study abroad at King’s: A Tree and a Stream
While I was studying at a Starbuck’s, a woman leaned over to tell me that my LSAT prep book looked like a pain. I told her she was definitely right about that. The woman then proceeded to tell me that her daughter teaches law in Bristol. I admitted that I had thought of studying law in England, instead of returning home. She asked where I was studying in London. I told her King’s, and she immediately responded, “Oh, that’s a very good school. Good for you.”
Besides location, King’s College London fosters an atmosphere of engagement. One of my favorite classes was a film course about Hollywood’s representation of American urban life. The two-hour lecture course consisted of a weekly ongoing dialogue between the lecturer and the students. Everyone put in the effort to be present. While I possess a rather incredible ability to fall asleep sitting up, I never had to exercise this gift during those two hours.
King’s College London blends into the city. Many of my peers applied themselves outside of the classroom. I enjoyed being invited to performances they were going to be playing a part in, or events they were organizing. My email inbox was always full of notices regarding event invitations, encouragements to look at student government officials’ platforms, and research opportunities. King’s has many resources that, if utilized, can significantly enrich the experience of studying in the heart of London. Even as a study abroad student, jumping in half way through the year, I could easily join different societies, such as the KCL UN World Food Society.
The top floor of the Franklin Wilkin’s Library is a great place to flee when your due dates become a near and present danger. The library is open twenty-four hours, and has a vending machine, with a generous amount of options, within twenty feet of its entrance. The buildings at King’s are well equipped. When you are cramming for essays and written exams, you won’t have to worry about finding a quiet space or a working printer.
On sunny days, a stroll through the Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court can be calming. Psalm 1:3 is carved in stone below a beautiful statue, and likens prosperous men to trees planted near streams of water. At first I thought the verse was just another nod to nature and to men. Then however I pieced together that the men were only prosperous because of their location. Education is the stream, and we are all trees. Your “leaves shall not fade” if you choose to attend King’s College London. King’s will make sure you feel welcome, not only on campus, but in London. There will always be an opportunity to engage yourself, and pursue your unique interests. Plus, you are probably more likely to receive affirmation from a woman at a Starbucks.
Somerset House and Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court
Melissa DeFrank, Emory University
New City, New Person
Reflecting on my first few weeks in London brings back fond memories, though it was not a seamless transition. There is something about being alone in an unfamiliar environment that reveals a person’s true character. I found myself, albeit eager for the semester’s prospects, retreating into my shell during the first week. I unpacked my belongings, shopped for groceries, and decorated my room. I drifted through southeast London, making progress but barely engaging in human interaction. When I heard my flatmate move in next door, I made no attempt to introduce myself. I was alone, but I was very comfortable with my solitude.
There is also something about being alone in a new setting that forces one to grow. One night, craving human interaction beyond the “you alright?” at the Sainsbury’s, I ventured out to a local pub. I began talking to a fellow patron who was performing a few songs later that night. He invited me to sing with him on stage. Knowing that London was a chance to reinvent myself, I decided to be bold and accompany him. It did not sound good, but I had fun and gained my first contacts in London.
That night gave me confidence to seek out other interactions. My flat gradually became fuller, and I reached out to my new flatmates. We began exploring central London together, attending orientation events, and meeting other study abroad students. Before classes even started, I felt proud telling strangers that I was a King’s student. I could tell it immediately boosted their opinion of me. That is when I fully started to grasp King’s reputation, and how fortunate I was to be studying here.
I expected my transition in London to be a linear one, starting at the lowest point and only going up. This was not the case. After the first two weeks, my flatmates started moving out. They claimed they wanted to be closer to campus, but I know they were motivated by preexisting friends in other dorms. With no connections at King’s, I had no reason to leave. I watched the flat slowly empty again. By this point, I had expected to have a few reliable acquaintances. Starting at square one was incredibly frustrating. Constantly inviting new people out, and receiving no reply or a decline quickly wears away at one’s self esteem. I began to question my decision to study abroad, and I resented myself for not being able to make any lasting connections.
Then suddenly, everything fell into place. I invited an assortment of people- a person from class, some people we met at a dorm social, and my new flatmates- to the local pub one Tuesday night. Magically, everyone clicked and had a great time. We created a group message by the end of the night, and the friendship was sealed. Moving to a new city presents challenges, but being a King’s student helps. I met my best friends through class and through my accommodation. I’ve learned that rejection is a part of the friendship process, though it does sting. And mostly I’ve learned to be patient, and to trust that everything will fall into place with time.
Visiting a local British pub... for cultural reasons obviously
The “Study” in Study Abroad
Of all the compelling reasons to study at King’s, academics are at the top of the list. Studying abroad allows students to study familiar (or unfamiliar) subjects through a new cultural lens. Students must adapt to a different education system, stretching them beyond their comfort zones. Per my university’s requirements, I enrolled in four modules: two within the global health department and two within English. I chose these classes because they contained crossovers with my area of study, sociology and global health.
The major/minor system works differently in the U.K. Students choose a track to study, are placed in a group, and attend classes with that same group all three years of their education (yes, undergrad is only three years here). As a study abroad student, you can temporarily become part of this close-knit group of students. For example, if you take a War Studies course, all of the students in your class will either be full-time War Studies scholars or other study abroad students. This system ensures that your classmates are knowledgeable and passionate about the course material, and in my experience, they are always willing to extend a helping hand.
The module that surprised me the most was “Victorians and Social Change from 1840 to 1870.” I had never studied literature in depth, let alone literature from such a specific time period. Engaging in the Victorian era through a British perspective was a priceless experience I could not have gained in the States. My Professor and T.A. understood that this was my first Victorian literature class, and they helped me prepare for assignments. My writing skills improved this semester, as I practiced writing literary reviews instead of my usual research papers.
Being a foreign student, engrossed in a new framework of thought, stretches the mind in unparalleled ways. I was taken aback by how engaged the students in my modules were. They offered intelligent commentary and questions, in conversation with the professor and one another. Their critical assessments of the course material often flew over my head. I quickly realized that the standard for originality was higher here; professors expected me to think for myself rather than accept everything I read. This contradicted my American understanding of education as a means to an end: a degree. Suddenly, learning was not about memorization and standardization, but about uncovering concealed meanings.
Putting the 'Study' into 'Study Abroad'
New Cross Newbies
King’s location in central London is one of its most enticing features. With Strand and Waterloo campuses bordering either side of the Thames River, King’s offers the best of both worlds. Walking across the Waterloo Bridge from one campus to the other ensures a view of the London Eye, Big Ben, and the National Theater. The Student Union even has a bar, exclusively for King’s students, overlooking the Thames. Attending class in the historic Somerset House on Strand campus feels like attending class in a castle.
Central London continually takes my breath away. From street names to seemingly random statues, every structure teems with historical significance. Wandering through the streets between classes is a wonderful pastime; I have never lived in a city where every store, even a pharmacy, supports five stories of classically-designed architecture. My eyes feast on every detail, never minding the extraordinary amount of walking that London requires.
Despite my fascination, I quickly realized living in central London was not for me. Personally, the grandiose facades become overwhelming; and though I enjoy ten pound drinks at an upscale bar, that lifestyle is not sustainable. Instead, I fell in love with the gritty town of southeast London called New Cross, where Ewen Henderson dorm is located. Non-central London has a diversity and liveliness similar to central London, yet richer (in my opinion). It’s what some strangers at a pub referred to as “the real London.” Central London is where people work and entertain tourists; non-central London is where most Londoners experience their personal lives.
Thanks to London’s stellar public transportation system, reaching central London from any King’s accommodation is quite feasible. My commute to Strand campus was about 30-45 minutes depending on mode of transportation. I have come to prefer the bus, as it allows me to sit and catch up on reading, as well as see the city. The night buses provide convenient transportation home as clubs and bars close for the evening.
Due to a limited budget, I have taken advantage of London’s free and cheap events. My favorite art gallery, the Tate Modern, provides a days-worth of breathtaking modern art. Other galleries and museums, such as the National History Museum, provide hours of free entertainment. London is also the place to be for nightlife. King’s Guy’s bar, located near Guy’s campus, offers free entry and cheap drinks to students on Wednesday. Certain clubs, such as the Walkabout near Strand, sell discounted tickets on student night. London’s party scene can be adapted to fit any budget, even that of a frugal student.
In hindsight, my biggest regret at King’s is not joining more societies. King’s has something for everyone, and societies allow students to pursue new interests without judgement. Through King’s pole fitness society, I attended discounted pole fitness classes at a dance studio. This was uncharted territory for me, but I felt completely comfortable with the instructor and fellow students. Time flies while abroad, so each minute is precious. Studying at King’s guarantees that every day, even the most mundane Tuesday, will be filled with beautiful sights and exciting possibilities.
The view from The Strand Campus, a stones throw away from numerous eating opportunities in Covent Garden
What Sets King’s College Apart?
Choosing a university to study abroad at is a daunting task, but there are a few characteristics that set phenomenal institutions apart. When I was researching study abroad options, King’s immediately caught my eye. The initial draw was its location in central London and its beautiful architecture. A more thorough search revealed its prestigious reputation in both the social sciences and the hard sciences.
As a sociology major and global health minor, I was particularly intrigued by King’s social science courses. Study abroad students can select courses in War Studies, Management, Geography, Middle Eastern Studies, and more. My Global Health and Social Medicine classes presented familiar topics in a new light. Studying my minor from a British perspective has made me a more globally-minded individual, and prepared me to work outside the U.S. after graduation.
For medical students, King’s offers unparalleled research and teaching opportunities. My pre-med friends attend weekly clinical sessions, gaining hands-on experience at teaching hospitals. King’s medical programme is extremely prestigious, ranking 24th in the world and 5th in the UK (QS World University Rankings).
The Arts and Humanities department at King’s is extensive and quite phenomenal. Despite my area of study, I took two English courses during my semester at King’s. One of them, “Victorians and Social Change from 1840 to 1870,” was by far my favorite course at King’s. I was nervous because I had no experience in Victorian literature, but my professor was understanding and helpful throughout the course.
King’s is a well-established university with extensive resources for study abroad students. Studying abroad is a nerve-racking venture, and having a reliable support system makes a world of difference. During orientation, King’s advised us on London transportation, societies to join, accommodation rules, must-sees around the city, and offices if we needed additional help. They also arranged discounted social events so that we could interact with other study abroad students. I met some of my best friends that week, and discovered some cool spots around London.
Studying in central London was better than I could’ve imagined. The Strand campus is a walk away from some of the best attractions in London, including the West End theater district. Covent Garden, an area filled with beautiful shops, bars, restaurants, culture, and history, is a ten minute walk from campus. Incredible art galleries and museums are only a short bus ride away from campus. My favorite pastime between classes is walking around central London and absorbing the beautiful architecture. Another pastime is working in King’s Franklin Wilkins Library, or one of the many coffee shops around campus. Central London offers a wide variety of delicious food, so meals are never boring.
Attending King’s College was the best decision of my undergraduate studies. I have grown personally and academically. I feel better prepared for life after graduation, whether I move to a new city or pursue further education. There was never a dull moment studying abroad in London, and for that, I will always feel indebted towards King’s.
London's Somerset House a 10 second walk from King's and home to concerts, film screenings, iceskating and countless exhibtions
Rebecca Kahn, Princeton University
Settling in to life at King’s: The Neighbourhood
Coming to a new city means playing a game of comparison. Life in London is totally unlike life in my Ohio town. People speed-walk, use public transport and speak countless languages. Then there are the clichés about Brits that as a foreigner, I will never be able to fully part with – every double-decker red bus still reminds me of Harry Potter and every countryside view triggers a vision of Tess of the D’Urbervilles. However, these stereotypes were defied the very first day when I arrived at my student residence on Walworth Road in Elephant & Castle. First task upon landing in London was outfitting my room. I went to Argos, where you order from a catalogue and is retrieved for you from the back: this may have taken me longer than usual to figure out, given that I hadn’t slept in 36 hours. When I realized I had to pay in cash, I ventured down Walworth in search of an ATM, nearly getting run over by cars driving on the opposite side of the road. Walking south past Walworth’s restaurants was an intercontinental experience of restaurants: Sierra Leonean, Turkish Cypriot, Jamaican, Nigerian, Thai, Ethiopian, Brazilian, Eritrean, Polish, Indian, Lebanese, Chinese. Finally back at the counter with a handful of pounds, I became hyperaware of my American accent, setting me apart from the other customers. Outside in the pouring rain, I lugged my bags of sheets, comforter, pillow and towels, trying to remember where my building was. I was not confident that I would ever feel at home in London.
However, living in Elephant & Castle helped me realize that it is a city home to people from all walks of life (including me). That realization was the first step in feeling like I fit in. My neighborhood has a lot of history – it has been referenced by Shakespeare, bombed in WWII, and raised Charlie Chaplin. My student residence, Julian Markham, is a 45-minute walk (well, usually a run for me since I'm always late) and a 25-minute bus from campus. I’ve come to be familiar with crossing the unevenly paved street to Elephant Road, my swinging backpack turning what might be an elegant jog into a careening lumber. In my building, there is a Bulgarian evening receptionist who claims he has a special recipe for crepes (“feta cheese and strawberry compote”). When I tell my French flatmate this recipe as he cooks us simple sugar crepes that night, he cries it is blasphemy. I have realized that living here gifted me the opportunity to meet internationals I would never have met otherwise. Every resident here has their own lives, their own coursework, their own newly acquired British accents, their own crepe, kebab or curry recipes. Of course, my settling in was not only helped by King’s residences but also by the King’s Student Union, which organized tons of study abroad and orientation events in the first week; I met most of my friends early on through these activities.
Making the most of London!
Academic benefits of studying at King’s: Formal and Informal
What have I gained from the academic experience here? I can separate it into two categories: formal and informal. My professors here are well regarded in their fields and King’s is a world-renowned institution. The coursework is more hands-off than it is in the States, so you can tailor your King’s experience however you want – I’ve met with many of my professors but it isn’t required, and much of the reading list is suggested. I love the variety of my coursework here, especially since I couldn’t take many of the classes back home. I'm taking Metaphysics (probably for the rest of my life I will think about human nature, causality, counterfactuals, and time in a British accent). One of my favorite classes is Lusophone African Postcolonial Literature, a final year seminar focusing on four novels from Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde. Art, Science, and Mental Health discusses authors like Virginia Woolf (one of many famous King’s alumna!). Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital is fun because it’s filled with international students. Modern European Cinema is my favorite - a class that combines fascinating analysis of national and transnational films with insight into the overlapping, ambiguous definitions of what constitutes European national identity and Europe's political history. The Portuguese class, the philosophy class, and the entrepreneurship class all fulfill requirements for my home institution, Princeton University, while the cinema class has transformed my thinking the most – I’ve been able to explore everything from East German sentiment post-reunification, the Nordic landscape, the Greek new wave, and French policy towards immigration. I’ve been pushed to think about the Other from a non-American perspective, and my seminar tutor has introduced me to life-changing theories and philosophy books. Many of these philosophers have British museums dedicated to their work.
Back home, I'm a sociology major. At King's, I like to think I'm furthering my sociological education informally, by studying cultural differences in classes, museums, bars, restaurants, and tube stations. I've also spent time interviewing King's students for my independent research at Princeton, and that has been one of the most rewarding experiences yet: hearing about their lives over tea while sitting in local hangouts. I’ve had time to pursue independent learning, like teaching myself French. This informal learning will be invaluable; I hope that my career will involve interacting with non-Americans in some capacity. This semester I've had the amazing opportunity to travel across Europe with new friends who are really from those places (France, Switzerland, Holland). Their presence elevates casual tourism to a higher level by adding opportunities for more empathy, understanding, language comprehension, meeting family, and off the beaten path exploration. Traveling alone is a learning experience too. It's humbling; there's no way to maintain the illusion that you are the center of your own world and no conversational social effort to distract you from simply experiencing a new place. When you study abroad, you will consciously channel every new experience into your education. You can make mistakes, take risks, and most of all, grow.
The scenic walk along Fleet Street is enough to make anyone want to go to the library
Life in the heart of London: Simply impossible to fit into 500 words
Both King’s campuses where I take classes, Strand and Waterloo, are on the Thames River. Walking home across Waterloo and past the Old Vic is beautiful: the lights twinkle pink and blue and I instantly become happier person (especially when I meet Andrew Garfield walking home from rehearsal across the bridge). The theater scene is next to King’s too, where I saw The Lion King with King’s Study Abroad. Watching The Mousetrap, London’s longest-running play, was one of my favorite memories – and it’s right next to Dishoom, an incredible Indian restaurant. After class I can easily zip to a yoga class on the tube or decide to do my homework in a perfect coffee shop in Soho (thanks to one of my King’s classmates for showing me Timberyard). A short walk from campus are outdoor markets – I love the fried halloumi sandwiches. When it’s time to work, I've found many places to study that are just as inspiring as a university library (even though Maughan Library is one of the most beautiful in London - Google it!!!). For example, the Wellcome Gallery has a quirky reading room. The V&A Cafe allows you to take convenient study breaks. And just reading on the tube has allowed me to finish more for-pleasure books than I have since I was in high school.
Being a tourist here means I have a notes section on my iPhone with ways to pronounce words in my native English, but properly British: Worcester is Wusster, Leicester is Lesster, Holborn is Hobun, Marylebone is Marleebun, vitamin is VIT-amin, advertisement is advert, herb is, well, herb. Then there are the words I’m picking up: queue not line, sweets not candy, lift not elevator, loo not bathroom, aubergine not eggplant, cooker not stove, flat not apartment, first floor not second, jumper not sweater, bin not trashcan, hoover not vacuum, bill not check, and of course chips instead of fries.
Living here for five or six months is a completely different experience from being a tourist. I will never forget hearing the band The xx talk about how they went to see their first musical artists in South London at the very same Brixton concert hall they were now performing at. After they finished singing, everyone started spontaneously dancing rather than going home. I felt like I was in a British indie rock movie. It was wonderful. Last week, I stepped off the tube in Piccadilly Circus underground station. People were lined up on the escalators going up and down. Their brightly-hued coats and the red and green tiles on the walls made the whole scene look festive. An electric guitarist was playing Uptown Girls and a little girl was dancing. Life in London means that even everyday moments become special: grabbing chips to go, buying fresh aubergines from Borough Market to cook in your flat, or doing readings for cinema class in the Picturehouse Cinema lounge. This is all possible and within reach in the heart of London.
Although studying abroad at Hogwarts isn't an option, King's is your next best choice. I was excited to get to meet Daniel Radcliffe after seeing him in a fantastic and funny play at London's Old Vic Theatre (which is located just a few minutes from the King's Waterloo campus)
Why study abroad at King’s?: Princes, Professors, and Peers!
Why study abroad at King's? Well, do you like the idea of running into Prince Harry when he visits your school for a conference? Do you want to take classes with stellar professors in a resource-rich university? Do you enjoy lounging in student cafe terraces listening to witty British students next to windows framing the glittering River Thames? Do you want to take weekend trips on cheap flights to search out Europe's photogenic cobblestone streets, coffee shops, and concept stores?
In all seriousness, there are a few considerations when choosing a program. What are the strongest departments in each university you're considering – do they align with your academic requirements back home? (I chose mine because I knew Kings was excellent in these areas.) Do you want to learn a new language or experience a country where you might never live in otherwise? What type of setting you would like to live in? Even if life in a big city seems intimidating, consider whether you want to use this experience to challenge yourself. London may seem daunting at first but it is exciting, easily navigable, and quickly starts to feel like home – plus visits to Windsor or Cambridge or Greenwich are easily possible if you need a more tranquil environment. If you can't decide whether to study abroad at all, it’s helpful to think about what you'd be gaining. Although I was hesitant to leave my beloved home university, when I'm 50 and looking back on my university years, I doubt I’ll miss one semester out of the eight I have at Princeton – but I know I’ll always remember five months studying at KCL and living in Europe. Even if you've had the experience of traveling or studying abroad and fulfilled your wanderlust already, each new experience is 100% different.
Although King's was the only London school I applied to, I'm so glad I ended up here. King’s has great name recognition the world over, but most important are the people. The study abroad office here answers emails within hours. They solved all of my module requests. The residence staff will fix a clogged shower drain or notify you about a package as soon as it arrives. The professors are always willing to meet. King's students are open and friendly, not reserved as I worried they might be. I've met students who want to be film producers and biochemists and philosophy professors, who put on plays in the city and who volunteer at human trafficking centers. I've met aspiring midwives and lawyers. I’ve bonded with my international roommates; when else in my life will I get the opportunity to live with international students who are down to watch Harry Potter marathons in preparation for the Warner Brothers Studio tour, who offer me tips about their home cities, who play Disney songs in Danish, and who teach me their perspectives on international US intervention? I would advise you to take the plunge and go abroad to Kings; you won’t regret it.
Around the world in 80 dishes
Congratulations to Brian Blonder, Elizabeth Garcia Moreno, Kate Christensen, Leah Lee, Liza Michaeli, Louisa Wyatt, Max Steinhorn, Sonia Gorenstein, Susan Ye and Tomomi Yamashita who each won a semester 1 Excellence Scholarship of £750 each.
Enjoy reading about their time here at King’s as well as their adventures and insights in to the wonderful city of London!
Brian Blonder, American University
New City, New School, and New Adventures: Settling in to life at King's
From the moment my plane touched down early on the 16th of September at Heathrow, until the moment I stepped into my first class, my first week at King's was a whirlwind. London is very different from Washington DC, and it took a little getting used to.
The great thing about King's is that they're well aware of the differences that study abroad students will face and work to make the transition as easy as possible. Starting on the Monday of Welcome Week (also known as Fresher’s Week here), I had a mandatory hour-long orientation session about a new topic almost every day. These ranged from a Welcome to King's session, where they talked about general info about studying abroad at King's, to sessions about what academic life is like here, to one that mentioned all the the fun things to do in London. By the end of the week pretty much all of my lingering questions had been answered and I felt very comfortable.
Except for the orientation sessions, there are no required events to go to. But King's offers plenty of fun events for study abroad students to attend and settle into life a little easier. I found a balance between King's events and going out exploring on my own. The most consequential event for me ended up being the pub social that King's hosted on the first night. At this event, I met four American students who became my core friendship group here, as well as other awesome study abroad students who I became close to. I was nervous about making friends here and this event really helped me make friends here even before classes started.
One of the most important things I got out of my first few weeks at King’s was that being a study abroad student at King's means that you're a full King's student, with all the benefits that come with it. You're treated just like you're going to be there for your entire college career. Because King's is so international, you will find students from all over the world, which makes it easier for study abroad to feel like they fit in.
To make your first few weeks here as successful as possible, I have a few pieces of advice. Early on map out your route from your residence hall to your classes. Going to a school that has London as its campus means that you'll probably end up sometimes needing to take a bus or the tube to class. Knowing which bus route or which tube line to take will relieve a lot of the stress early on.
Get to know your flatmates sooner rather than later. In the first few weeks my flatmates and I had multiple flat dinners to get to know each other better and it made for a much smoother semester, with no awkward interactions in the kitchen.
Because of how welcoming and helpful King's was, I settled into life here easily.
Seeing Big Ben on a King's organized Walking tour of Westminster!
Top Thirty for a Reason: Academic benefits of studying at King's
My motivation for studying abroad at King's centered mainly on one thing: King's War Studies program. I knew I wanted to study in London, but initially I wasn't sure which school. Then I found out about the world-renowned War Studies program at King's. Being an International Relations major with a focus on national security, there was no better study abroad program for me than this one. And that's the amazing thing about King's. Whether you're studying war studies, bioscience or literature, King's has a great department for it and it is well known worldwide. KCL has name recognition for a reason.
I took Causes of War, Conduct of War, Experience of War and War in the International Order. While this may sound like a lot of classes about war, that's exactly why I took these four classes in particular. King's is well known for the classes in their War Studies program and I knew that I would learn a lot from taking all classes in war studies. And I have. All of the faculty members are scholars in their field, with many of them being famous for what they do. They really know what they're talking about and bring personal experiences into the classroom. Each class provides a different angle about the subject, allowing me to gain a fuller picture of the topic. From these classes, I was able to strengthen my critical thinking and analytical skills. The discussions had during the seminars were very stimulating and forced me to consider completely different viewpoints. What I gained most from my classes was an improvement in my research and essay writing skills through the papers I wrote.
It is important to know the differences in school systems before getting here. In the American system, each class is usually held twice a week. Grades are made up of homework grades, participation grades, paper and test grades and midterm and final grades. Both classes are interactive with time for discussion and going over the homework. The British system is different. While classes here are also held usually twice a week, the first class is normally devoted solely to a lecture by the professor and the second class is usually a seminar led by a seminar leader, which is the equivalent of a breakout session being held by a TA in the United States. Grades here are made up solely on one or two grades, which usually end up being papers or one or two tests due in the middle and end of the semester. The benefit to this is that you don’t constantly have assignments. As long as you stay on top of the deadlines, you will do fine.
Your academic experience at King's will make you a stronger critical thinker, a better researcher and a better writer. You will gain a new perspective on education and from the fascinating classes and great professors, and you will bring a lot of new knowledge about your topic back to your home university.
The KCL flags flying at the entrance to the Strand Campus
In the Thick of It All: Life in the heart of London
One of the absolute best aspects of King's is its unbeatable location in the center of London. And when I say center, I mean center. The Thames splits the city in two, and King's straddles both banks. King's unique position on both sides of the city encourages King's students to explore more of the city. I lived at Great Dover Street and my classes for the most part were at the Strand and Waterloo campuses. I chose to walk every day to class and then bus back in the evening. This walk allowed me to explore some parts of the city that aren't typically touristy. These parts exuded that famous London charm. A specific part of my daily journey became my most beloved thing to do in the city: walk across the Waterloo Bridge. Waterloo Bridge is one of the more famous bridges in London, namely for its views. As I walked across everyday, I saw St. Paul's Cathedral to my right and Big Ben and the Eye to my left. At sunset, that walk afforded me unforgettable views, which I stopped to capture on many occasions.
Another beautiful thing about going to school in the heart of London is how easy public transportation is. Around the Waterloo and Strand campuses there are multiple tube stops and bus routes connecting you to every place in the city you could need to go. The tube and bus routes are incredibly easy to use once you get the hang of them. I recommend downloading the free app, Citymapper. Plug in your current location and your intended destination and Citymapper will give you multiple options, including the best tube and bus routes to take. While it is a big city, London is incredibly navigable, especially with an app like Citymapper.
The central location of the campus and most residence halls afford study abroad students easy access to all the main tourist attractions in the city. From class I've gone to museums, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and many other places. The proximity to the tube and its access to London's train stations and airports make it easy for students with Friday classes to go right to the airport or station from class.
The fact that most of the residence halls were still in the heart of London, but closer to the periphery was great. Great Dover Street was quieter than if I had lived right near Piccadilly Circus. And the neighborhood I was in gave me easy access to Borough Market (which I highly recommend) and Tower Bridge.
Studying in the heart of London will give you an experience no other school can give you. From walking along the river to class, to walking or tubing fifteen minutes to almost all the major attractions in London, spending this past semester at King's has allowed me to easily see all the sights in the city that I could possibly imagine.
Sunset from the Waterloo Bridge on my walk to class
Have One of the Best Semesters of your Life - Why study abroad at King's?
If you want to study abroad at a world-renowned university, surrounded by brilliant professors and brilliant classmates, King's College London is where you should go. I have learned more in these few months than I could have possibly imagined. The professors and teaching assistants were incredibly welcoming and happy to meet with me and any other study abroad student that had questions about papers.
You will learn so much from your fellow students while you're here. The King's students that I've had the pleasure to meet are some of the brightest people I've encountered. They have pushed me to be better each and every single day that I have been here.
Studying at King's will put you in the heart of one of the world's greatest cities. The opportunities for learning and entertainment are endless. You will always find something to do in this city. You could go to a new place to eat lunch or a new museum or attraction after class every single day you're here and you won't have even scratched the surface. That's the beauty of London. There's plenty to do for everyone with every possible interest covered. And the central location of King's will give you incredibly easy access to everything.
The facilities at King's will astound you. The Maughan Library right off of the Strand is awe-inspiring. It's hard to believe that it's the library of a college, and not owned by the government. Besides Maughan, King's has libraries at all of its campuses, making sure that its students are fully covered. The food and drink facilities at King's are wonderful as well. The Waterfront bar on Strand Campus gives students views of the entire city, from Tower Bridge in the east to Big Ben and the Eye in the west. There's no better place to relax in between classes.
King's genuinely cares about the study abroad students. They give them every opportunity that they give full-time King's students. You're encouraged to get involved and join societies (organisations), go to events and lectures and do everything you can fit into your schedule. The study abroad office here goes above and beyond to make the study abroad experience as smooth and enjoyable as possible for everyone. This was evident from day one of Orientation Week.
Finally, the friends you make here will last a lifetime. From the welcome week events to the people that I befriended in my classes, I've made so many friendships here that I can't wait to continue in the States.
If you want to study at a university that has incredible name recognition, amazing views, is full of awesome people and will bend over backwards to try to make your study abroad experience everything you could have possibly hoped for, choose King's College London. I promise that you will not regret it. I sure didn't.
The Beautiful Maughan Library!
Elizabeth Garcia Moreno, American University
Settling in to life at King’s
My first few weeks were a whirlwind of events, people, and adventures. After a long journey from Seattle, I arrived at Heathrow and then my residence in the early afternoon. I struggled against my exhaustion and jet lag for as long as I could, but after my airport-bought candy bar lunch and a promise to myself that I’d rest my eyes for just a minute, I fell asleep and woke up at 5 am. The first order of business was food, so I googled where the earliest-opening coffee shop was and made my way over to the neighbo(u)rhood Caffe Nero — my first friend here. My next friends were my flatmates, who excitedly knocked on my door and introduced themselves when they saw the light on in my room. And just like that, every study abroad student’s first concern dissipated.
The excitement of meeting new people quickly morphed into a wild excitement about classes. I explored London while preparing for class, ducking into musty used bookshops and crossing titles off my reading list. It felt exciting to be a study abroad student at King’s — even more so when all the welcome activities began. Selfie stick in hand, I met up with other abroaders for a Selfie Scavenger Hunt around London. I have never power walked so hard in my life, and I apologize to those on my team. The prize was tickets to The Globe, so there was no match for my motivation. (Although we didn’t win, I still managed to find £5 tickets to a show. Not too shabby.)
With so much stimuli and activities, I found integrating at King’s to be pretty seamless. My residence, though far from Strand Campus (35-40 minutes by bus), boasts a fun common room with pool and ping pong tables, which facilitated meeting new people. A good playlist and eager attitude is all you need during the first weeks of school when everyone is dying to make new friends. A slight issue I encountered was friend-making in class. With only two hours a week of contact time per module, and with one of those hours being a lecture, getting to know people in my classes proved a little more difficult than I had hoped for. Eventually I found my class buddies, but the infrequency of classes and the lack of interaction made it harder to befriend classmates and make plans to hangout. For the first time in my academic career, I really wished the semester were just a little longer and classes a little more frequent.
Borough Market - grabbing a free sample from each stall can equate to an entire free meal if you play your cards right...
Academic benefits of studying at King’s
The first thing people tell you when you decide to study abroad is, “Y’know, academics are very different there.” They say it in a low voice, ominously, letting you in on this little secret that will help you survive academic doom. But with all the enthusiasm and motivation surrounding me, doom is the last thing I’ve found at King’s. I pored over the list of modules when selection time came around, elated by the variety of titles and ready for these academic differences to challenge me. My final module list arrived in a long-awaited email: The Rise of the Novel, the Fin de Siècle, Mapping Modernism, and Postcolonial Perspectives. My reading list was daunting but not discouraging, and I reminded myself that I could read while traveling, effortlessly reconciling “study” and “abroad.”
I selected classes dissimilar to those at American University —like Fin de Siècle and Rise of the Novel — so I could learn something I wouldn't otherwise. This way, through the combination of AU and KCL classes, I will gain both a wide understanding of literature and a focused approach to various topics, significantly strengthening my grasp on the subject. My other two module selections speak to interests within literature that have developed recently and that I'm excited to explore more. I took Literatures of the Global South at AU on a whim and loved it. For that reason I chose Postcolonial Perspectives at KCL. Between the core texts and secondary readings my knowledge of postcolonial literature - from various regions and encompassing several themes - grew upon the solid foundation I established at AU. Likewise, Mapping Modernism promised to delve into a period of literature I had only briefly encountered and left me excited to learn more.
I also chose these modules because I knew I would grow as a student: KCL has a rigorous structure that would challenge and strengthen my reading and writing abilities, as well as related skills like time management and editing. Academics in the UK require more independence and motivation than in the US. I, for one, prefer this structure. Knowing I had two mid-term essays and four final ones allowed me to focus all my attention on those assignments and divide my time as I saw fit between readings, preparations, and travel. This independence improved my work ethics and time management skills, and the enthusiasm my professors showed compelled me to read all the texts and engage in class discussions. Thanks to the difference in structure at King’s, I’ll find it easier to manage my assignments when I go back to AU and will feel confident about the range of topics I’ve learned this semester.
The beautiful round reading room in the Maughan, rumoured to be the inspiration for Dumbledore's office in the Harry Potter films
Life in the heart of London
Months later, attending classes on the Strand still excites me. As an English student, I learn about some of the most famous works of literature and promptly pass the locations they describe or the pubs where they were written on my way home. This commute — my daily bus to West Norwood — has yet to become a lackluster part of routine. Inching slowly across the Waterloo Bridge, my red double decker affords me with views of Big Ben, the London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and, obviously, the beautiful brown Thames. (Sorry to all my friends who are still receiving my snapchats of the same sights three months later.) Studying in such a central location allows me to understand that, indeed, “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” In the breaks between classes I’ve managed to catch a show at The Globe, discover several amazing indie coffee shops (you can take a girl out of Seattle, but you can’t take Seattle out of the girl), hang out at the British Library, and hop from bookstore to bookstore on Charing Cross Road.
Speaking of daily commutes and transportation: learn the system. Love the system. I like to think of myself as an oriented person, but if you’ve only lived in grid-planned cities, London proves a wee bit challenging. Streets do whatever they want. Just go with it. Everyone you meet will swear by the tube, but having grown up in various cities with subway systems, I wasn’t ready to rave about the underground. I won’t deny how useful it is, but I love the buses more, even if they’re a little slower. Frankly it’s a love-hate relationship - it seems like every other time I take the bus we stop in Camberwell Green while the drivers change, but maybe that’s just my luck. Regardless, few things are better than scoring a seat at the very front of the top floor. Having the option to watch the city move around you will beat standing in a sweaty tube carriage every time.
Whether you become a bus lover or tube advocate, the transportation network in London is a thing of beauty. Thanks to the options I can tourist around to my heart’s content. The buses by my residence take me to Tower Bridge, to Waterloo, to the British Library; the buses on Strand sweep me away to Trafalgar Square, to Camden, to Oxford Street. And when you need a break from lurching buses and sweaty tube rides, there is no greater satisfaction than walking around the heart of London on your own two feet. Studying in such a central location means I can walk down little alleys and along the river, stopping to watch buskers or grab a bite to eat. This city sometimes feels rather immense, but the transport system quickly makes it accessible again. All you need is an Oyster card and you’re on your way to checking off your bucket list items.
Globe tickets for only £5! One of the many perks to being a student in London
Why study abroad at King’s?
I would be hard-pressed to find a reason not to study abroad at King’s. The professors are some of the most passionate and enthusiastic ones I’ve ever had, my peers are motivated and engaged, and the location is unbeatable. Also, have you seen the Maughan Library? Whether the story of it being Dumbledore’s office is true or not, the reading room leaves me awe-struck every time I peer through the window. King’s provides the full package for an incredible semester: beautiful libraries, distinguished professors, motivated peers, and an ice skating rink in Somerset House, adjacent to Strand. (There’s also a coffee cart. But follow in my footsteps and succumb to the national drink until your tea count reaches five-plus cups a day.)
The people at King’s College London appreciate diversity and different points of view. I have never felt uncomfortable or excluded in class discussions and it’s exciting to be able to provide a different perspective. The academics at King’s and its location in such a lively city encourage you to focus on both the “study” and the “abroad.” Throughout my semester abroad I traveled during weekends and used boarding passes as bookmarks, doing my class readings on planes and trains, surrounded by new scenery and unforgettable views. I was pleasantly surprised to experience that my travels often tied into my academics. For instance, my Mapping Modernism module addressed the different spaces and cities portrayed in modernist texts, and I found myself walking by the very same places — an academic tour, per se. But even within London I managed to connect my experience abroad with my studies, walking around the city and finding blue plaques marking famous writers’ homes or workplaces, bringing my class notes to life in unique ways. Study Abroad students and local students alike are always eager to exchange travel stories, always willing to make an effort to relate. As intimidating as spending a semester in London sounds, with all the accompanying anxieties and concerns, it’s worth every minute. My excitement never ebbed and the amount of things to do in the city made my transition much smoother. And, as I explore more, my list of things to see and places to visit only grows. Every day I realize how much there is yet to learn about the city and my field of study, and King’s provides the best resources to do both.
Much needed coffee - any students greatest companion when it comes to exam season
Kate Christensen, Columbia University
Welcome to London!
When my plane touched down at London Heathrow in September, it was the first time that I had ever been out of the United States and I was completely alone. I didn’t know anyone in Europe, I didn’t have a mobile phone, and I had to depend entirely on myself. It was a big risk, but I knew that I just had to be observant, adaptable and willing to learn from my mistakes.
Moving into my room, I only had two suitcases containing the essentials of my life. It was hard watching all of my British flat-mates have their parents drop them off. It was hard when I noticed they had five sets of everything, and I didn’t even have plate because it wasn’t important enough to go in my suitcase. For a few minutes I felt alone. After that, even though I was tired and jet-lagged, I still had to go shopping to buy everything that I had considered “non-essential” when packing. By the end of day, I realized that I had bought only one fitted sheet and no blanket. It was a cold night and I didn’t know how to turn on the heater, so my very first night at King’s I slept in yoga pants and a sweatshirt, with a towel and robe for a blanket.
The following week, I played Trivial Pursuit with some other students in my flat. I had assumed that it would be the same as what I was used to, but oh, how wrong I was! Even though we eventually decided to play with the kids’ questions, I did horribly, and ended without a single pie piece. Most of it came down to just a difference in culture, but that was probably the first time I realized that those differences were more than what side of the road you drive on, or how you might pronounce a word.
Since I’ve arrived, I have had many embarrassing and frustrating moments, like getting lost in Waterloo Station or not being able to find the eggs at Sainsbury’s. Now looking back, I can see how hard and scary it felt at the time, but I was able to learn from the experience, and with an increase in confidence, new things aren’t so daunting anymore. You have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone in order to learn. For a while, you feel like you don’t belong, but you have to keep pushing yourself and fighting for it – because you will. You become part of the city, and it becomes part of you. I had expected someone to tell me the basic things I should need to know about living in England, but that never happened. There is no one to tell you what to do and there is no right answer; you have to figure it out for yourself. You are adapting to a new place, but you are also learning about a new way of life.
The walk between the Waterloo and Strand Campus
Programming Practice at King's
Before I came to King’s, I had never taken a class in Informatics, so I was a little nervous when the term began. At my home institution, I have a double major: English and Mathematics-Statistics. As a component of my math requirements, I needed to take an introductory Informatics class at some point. Due to the tricky logistics of transferring study abroad math classes for credit, I thought it would be best to take that Informatics course at King’s. The class I enrolled in, Programming Practice, seemed to be one of the few introductory Informatics courses offered to study abroad students. Overall, it seemed like a good fit.
Going into the first class, I was worried – was I out of my depth? No matter what happened, it was too late to change my mind and I told myself that I would push myself through, doing the best I possibly could. Within an hour, I realized all my fears had been unfounded. Nobody in the class had ever learned these languages before, and the professor was eager to teach us the basics of Python and C step by step. I was a little apprehensive that it would be harder than it sounded, but we truly did start from the beginning.
In the beginning, I thought the class rather odd. For five to six hours a week spent in a computer science class, we only spend about two of it actually on a computer. I had expected to spend almost the entire time on a computer, but now I find that I like the lecture component of the module. Everything is taught and explained before putting it into practice, which I have come to find very helpful.
I feel comfortable with the class, and am ultimately glad to have taken it. For me, this is one of those classes where things I have learned in other classes have started tying together in the little ways to make a larger picture. So far in Python, I have learned things, such as using loops or graphing, that I am sure will help me with future math classes. Despite my previous misgivings, I have turned out to have benefitted from this class in many more ways than I expected.
The Strand Campus still looking glorious in the rain
London at Large
When I am at home in a small coastal town of Washington State, I can’t walk ten minutes and find a farmer’s market or the best roast pork sandwich South of London Bridge. At home, I can’t travel a couple of miles and see the Tower of London or the Crown Jewels. I can’t ride a couple of train stops and see the Changing of the Guard. After living in New York City for a couple of years, I came to London expecting it to be fairly similar. Although London and New York are sister cities, they are so different! London has so much to offer that simply cannot be found anywhere else, and whatever can’t be found here is usually just a train or coach ride away.
When I was researching universities in England to study abroad at, those in London jumped out at me. Studying in a metropolis for the past two years, I have come to love the advantages associated with the city atmosphere. Where else can you find that delicious one-of-a-kind restaurant that just speaks to you and makes all your Facebook friends jealous? Where else can you attend an opera or a musical? Where else can you visit a number of museums on your time off? London is a unique city. I highly doubt that a year, probably not even five, could make me particularly intimate with everything London has to offer. There is literally something for everyone, and that’s just in Zone One.
During one of my first nights in London, I was walking around trying to get lost in the maze of streets when I heard loud music. I turned around to see hundreds of people roller skating down the middle of the street, relaxed and simply following the music. I was surprised at first, but then I immediately knew that London would be different from any place I had ever been before. I was excited to be part of a large city that could also feel like a small community. In my second week, I walked from Southwark up to Hyde Park and back. Although it was a long walk, and afterwards I thought I would never be able to walk again, the beauty of Hyde Park made it all worth it. At one point, I looked around and it was almost hard to believe that I was in the middle of a giant city.
London has a rich and interesting history, but perhaps its greatest feature is that it has people from all corners of the globe and the best place to see them is in the hustle and bustle of the city streets. Walking down the block, you are bound to hear at least three different languages, and it makes you realize that London is a global city. London is important, thriving and changing. By living here, you become part of it!
Choosing King's College London
From the moment I knew that I would be studying abroad in London, lots of people have asked me why I chose King’s. At the time, I couldn’t give a definitive answer, and even now, I am not quite sure what I expected when I first came to King’s. Perhaps I just hadn’t given it much thought before I arrived, but if anything, King’s was simply the perfect combination of everything I was looking for in a study abroad experience. Its location in the heart of London put me in the middle of all the opportunities a city has to offer, and the classes conformed to my interests. In addition, with a double major, a large requirement in my study abroad university criteria was the ability to take classes across departments without sacrificing content. Therefore, with all of this, King’s gave me everything I wanted.
At this point, the thing that has probably excited me the most about studying at King’s is that London has become part of the curriculum. As one of my majors is English, what better place to learn about literature than in the place where it was written? All of my classes so far have encouraged me to take the material from the classroom out into the real world to contextualize it. This was something I had not really experienced before, but it has made everything seem more real and useful.
Another benefit of King’s is that you are not just living in London, but in England as a whole. While London has many unique features, one of its greatest advantages is its transportation systems that open the entire country to your reach. When studying Jane Austen, you can take a day-trip to Chawton to see the house where she lived. When learning about medieval England and the Canterbury Tales, you can make your own pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral. When learning about history, you can go see the places where it actually happened. I have come to find that studying at King’s is not just a London experience, but a global one.
Despite all of this, perhaps the best thing about King’s is the people. The professors are very knowledgeable about their subjects and are eager to share their enthusiasm; the students are very friendly and always make you feel welcome. While the classes can be great in themselves, it is really the professor and students that make it memorable.
Reflecting on my decision to apply to King’s, I’m not sure if there was any one factor that made it stand out. At the time, everything just seemed to fit into place, but now I know that it was probably the best decision I ever could have made. I honestly can’t imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t. King’s College has provided me with an incredible experience and it has changed my life. It could change yours too.
Panorama view of Shakespeare's Globe
Leah Lee, Case Western Reserve University
Settling into life at King’s
You should have seen me when I first arrived in London. I looked 110% tourist with two huge roller bags in each hand, trying to navigate my way through the city maze to my residence on Stamford Street. I wore shorts and a T-shirt in stark contrast to the rather put-together businessmen and women on the street in their pristine suits and dresses (why people dress so well in London is still a question yet to be answered). The look on my face was probably one of “help me I’m confused”. Luckily, my mom and grandparents came to London with me a week before move-in day to sightsee, so the Tube station, Oyster card, and the automated message “Mind the gap between the train and the platform” had become familiar to me. Nevertheless, the trip to finally move into my flat was exhilarating.
When I did finally arrive at Stamford residences, I legitimately thought the residence team put me in a flat by myself because I did not see any of my flatmates for a day and a half. Fortunately, the residence team did not make a mistake, and I was put into a flat of three American study abroad students and one French graduate student. My flatmates were some of the best people I’ve met on study abroad thus far, and within the first couple weeks, we established 'Taco Tuesdays' for weekly flat dinners, discussed the meaning of “Cheers, mate!” extensively, and explored the heart of London together. I also met quite a few European study abroad students within the first couple weeks at King’s, and we now have a group chat called “The fun group who do fun stuff together”. Overall, I was welcomed by so many genuine people of all types of backgrounds who helped me adjust to the new culture and feel comfortable in a city 4000 miles away from home.
In general, I felt that I did not have too many problems adjusting to the culture (minus the British accent, I may never get used to that). One aspect of King’s life I did have to adjust to was the sheer ‘busyness’ of London life. Every day, I found myself wanting to hit up a new London attraction, event, or place. Although sustainable for the first week, I quickly realized that my energy levels (and wallet) could not sustain constantly attempting to make productive use of every minute of my time exploring a new place in London. I forgot to take time to enjoy the simplicities of London life including walking to class, studying at the library, and taking in the city life around me. It was the seemingly mundane aspects of London that I was missing out on the first couple weeks, and I quickly learned to slow down and spend more time being mindful of both the exciting and everyday parts of London.
Outside the National Gallery... just a 10 minute walk from The Strand Campus
Academic benefits of studying at King’s
At King’s, I am given the unique experience to take courses – excuse me, I mean modules - outside my usual concentration. Back at my home university, I am used to taking one biology class after another. Here in London, I decided to take a leap outside my usual comfort zone and take modules that I have little to no classroom knowledge on: Themes and Perspectives in Education, The New Testament: Gospels and Letters, and the Experience of War. These academic areas are not directly related to my biology major and are actually modules I would most likely not be able to take at my home institution. However, I chose these modules solely because they interested me and would expand my worldview as a pre-medicine student.
I am about halfway through the academic semester, and I have already gained so much insight into these areas of study. One really cool aspect of studying at an international school like King’s is that many of my peers are from a wide range of countries and backgrounds who all contribute unique perspectives to class discussion. I get to learn about all kinds of education systems across Europe, Asia, and the rest of the world in my education module, in addition to listening to different perspectives on education reform. In my New Testament module, I get the opportunity to study a religious text with peers from all kinds of religious backgrounds and opinions. My Experience of War module is also extremely interesting in that I get to learn about the various aspects of war from a guest WWII veteran lecturer alongside students from various countries who all see and experience war so differently. Overall, my viewpoint on so many different topics including education, religion, and war has changed and expanded because of my academic experience here at King’s.
One aspect of academic life at King’s that differs from home is how the modules are constructed to be conducive to learning. I really admire the fact that so many students here love to learn for the sake of learning as opposed to studying for an upcoming exam. I have had so many insightful conversations and group discussions about lectures and/or seminars with people who are genuinely interested in learning more about the topic at hand. Due to the way the modules are designed for study abroad students, many of the classes in the Arts and Humanities department do not have stressful examinations, but rather require essays that assess my overarching knowledge of the topic. As a result, I feel less stressed and more engaged in learning about what interests me. (Who doesn’t like less stress, am I right?)
Just a typical day-to-day view for Study Abroad students in London
Life in the heart of London
I’m not going to lie, I sat down to write this blog post without typing a word for a solid 30 minutes, not because I didn’t have anything to write about, but because I had everything to write about. Compacting my positive experiences in the most central London University into 500 or so words is literally impossible. I live in Stamford Street Apartments, one of the best locations if you like minimal walking and tube rides like me. Walking across the Waterloo Bridge near Stamford at least twice a day is quite honestly one of the best starts and ends to my day. I often take the views for granted, hurrying off to my next class or obligation, but often the “Oh my god I’m actually living in London” realization hits me while walking across the bridge.
Overall, it’s been an absolute joy to explore and navigate London these past two months. From relaxing at Sky Garden at sunset to walking within a couple feet of the swans at Regent Park, my London experience has been almost like a dream. I’ve watched the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime in the theatre district, almost died laughing at my first stand-up experience at Top Secret Comedy, and listened to live music of local bands with Sofar Sounds. Museums have also been possibly some of the coolest adventures to satisfy my inner geek. (Fun fact: the British museum is usually within the top 5 best museums in the world on any site). Nerding out at the Rosetta Stone and marveling at the quirky art at the Tate Modern has made my experience in London so much more worth it.
To add, the markets in London have made my to-do list for exploring the depths of London twenty times longer. The famous crème filled doughnuts at Borough Market (trust me, they are 100% worth the 3 pounds) and the almost overwhelmingly huge maze of trinkets at Camden Market are just the start to all the amazing markets London has to offer. I have yet to buy souvenirs for my friends and family back at home, but the markets in London have definitely got my back.
And of course, another aspect of London is the vibrant nightlife. I’ve been to a fair share of pubs and bars, and it’s been an adventure getting to know people from all around the world in one of the most diverse cities of Europe. From getting tips on the next places to travel from a group of Europeans at a bar in Shoreditch to dancing the night away with friends in Soho, the nightlife in London has been one of the many highlights. I have always considered myself a night person, but spending a few nights out in London has 100% confirmed it. Overall, London has so much to offer whether you’re a foodie, music-lover, nature fanatic, etc. etc… whatever your heart desires, London’s got it.
The Changing of the Guards
Why study abroad at King’s?
Flashback to spring of last semester. I was stressed out of my mind with final exams back at my home university, I had obligations for this and that extracurricular, and I was trying to solidify my plans for my major (goodbye sleep schedule!) The last thing I really wanted to have to deal with was Study Abroad requirements, and trying to communicate with King’s College from 4000 miles away was just another to-do bullet to add to my already hectic schedule. Looking back, however, I realize that my commitment to studying abroad at King’s College London was the best decision of my life, and if I had to relive that hectic, crazy stressful semester again, I would apply to King’s again in a heartbeat.
“But Leah, what makes King’s so great?” I could talk about so many different aspects of King’s to answer this question, quite honestly. The academic prestige is one of the best in London, the Study Abroad team is dedicated to making your experience the best possible, the student body is diverse and unique, and its location in central London is absolutely unparalleled. Additionally, the campus has some absolutely incredible locations, including the beautiful reading room at Maughan Library (AKA the inspiration for Dumbledore’s office) and the Gordon Museum in the medical school (which I can literally spend hours in). Not to mention, the student groups at King’s are unlimited, and the student sports teams are always a lively crew. No matter if you’re on the grind trying to crank out a paper at one of the many libraries on campus or joking around with some friends at the student Waterfront Bar, King’s has the resources for all needs and interests.
Although King’s is so different from the smaller 5,000 student university I attend back in the States, I think that is what makes my experience so much more worth it. I am pushed out of my comfort zone and am encouraged to adapt to my new academic and social surroundings. As an internationally focused school, King’s has provided me with the avenue to meet and learn from so many people of different backgrounds. It’s been an adventure to share my views on U.S. politics, Greek life, and all the other “American” quirks while learning about the British and European ways of life as well. All the while, I am studying at a university that allows me to take classes in unique subjects I’m passionate about including education and healthcare. Overall, King’s has broadened my worldview immensely and has allowed me to branch out in new ways whether that means talking to other students about topics I’m unfamiliar with or trying to adjust to the customs of British life. Among all other reasons, King’s is a place where I have matured, grown, and learned so much, and if I were to apply again, there is no other place I’d rather apply to than King’s College London.
Iceskating with friends at Somerset House
Liza Michaeli, Macalester College
Settling in to life at King’s
Arriving in London was much like coming to a paralyzing, but then gradually electrifying, halt. I mean ‘halt’ not in the sense that I was prevented from doing anything, but in the sense that I had to pay more attention to the ever-changing metropolis, surrounding—and at times, drowning—me. I had to embrace, and actually learn to salvage my newfound anonymity.
Of course, this is everything I wanted. I’d been to Europe before, so the initial excitement of discovering a new place wasn’t new. What I came for was atmospheric clarity, new air, a rapid change of pace. Indeed, the halt, the shocking mountainous or city-center or oceanic view.
I’ve spent the better part of my life in the too-small, too-comfortable city of St. Paul, Minnesota, in whose streets you will rarely find crowds of the rushed and elegantly-dressed, ready to shove each other to the ground to arrive at their destination (yet with such astounding courtesy). This was likely the biggest part of my adjustment to the city’s immensity, the realization that I was no longer a tourist, but a resident who had to master the language of the kingdom.
I remember, and still often feel, the sweet, freeing frustration of rush hour as I journeyed for the first time alongside masses of people, all voiceless and indistinguishable, united in their desperation to return home to ‘suburban’ zone two, three, or four. Much of it felt like immediate disenchantment, like I’d just taken my dull college life and relocated to a city that would isolate me even more.
How wrong was I. The initial arriving-halting sensation was a challenge-in-disguise, a call to get up and start anew.
Sightseeing along the Thames
Academic benefits of studying at King’s
Before coming to King’s, I’d really only ever experienced academic life in a small liberal arts college, and an even smaller high-school, both of which held the Socratic method of dialectical seminar engagement as the superior mode of learning. Participation in these seminars was always essential both to passing my classes and to learning from my colleagues. Never before had I taken predominantly lecture-driven courses, or experienced so little contact with students and professors. In fact, I’d been taught out of valuing the lecture form altogether.
And then I came to King’s and in lectures I was no longer the opinionated and outspoken one, I could no longer ‘win over’ lecturers with a strong argument or sheer eloquence. I was, for the first time ever, one of many, asked to learn in a way radically different from one I’d ever valued or experienced. Have I stopped learning? Have I not been implored to experience the most difficult and beautiful aspects of literature, art, and film?
Of course not. It has been rewarding to engage intimately with students in reflective post-lecture seminars and satisfying to learn from beautiful minds simply by listening to the tones and textures of their voices.
I’ve always gravitated toward interdisciplinary courses that draw on music, art, poetry, theory, and film to investigate structures of language and being. When I came to King’s, I sought out modules whose texts and images would narrate lived histories of violence and war, whose poems and stories would make principle introspection, whose questions would destabilize consciousness and dismantle technologically mediated certainty. Simply seminars in which important, metaphysical questions about political violence, beauty, and meaning be discussed.
The courses I’ve ended up taking—Narrating Nuclear Disaster, American West, and Modernist Short Story in the English department, and Aesthetics in the Philosophy department—have done that, and so much more.
Narrating Nuclear Disaster has asked how artists have narrated environmental racism, imperial aggression, and nuclear trauma from disasters that are ‘known’—like Hiroshima and Nagasaki—to those that aren’t, or are ignored—like Palomares. American West has explored the psychic significance of ‘wild’ Western landscapes, the ugly magnificence of spaces that exist somewhere between savagery and civilization. Modernist Short Story has investigated the meaning of psycho-spiritual decay and the magic of intersubjectivity through the works of those like Woolf, Mansfield, and Joyce, while Aesthetics has analyzed approaches to the philosophy of art and empirical standards of taste in the artworld.
All of these courses, however radically different from one other, have asked what makes us human and how suffering can be understood and made beautiful through art or fiction.
Big Ben at sunset
Life in the heart of London
The more I’ve traveled away from London, the more special it has felt returning, and the more absolutely baffled I am by its majesty.
I’ve begun to revel in the freedom, the invisibility it endows me with. I’ve been able to glide as a shadow, through its streets that are stuck romantically in the past. I’ve found solace in parks so unfadingly green they almost seem ageless. I’ve beheld the bleeding pink and peach hues of a sun that concentrates, spreads, then disappears over London’s historic Westminster buildings like art. I’ve been electrified by the heavy, underground wind conjured by the tube as it launches from its platform. I’ve recognized the same construction workers, awake at the crack of dawn, reworking the city’s roads, mending its injuries. And how many times have I watched my breath form clouds at half-past seven in the arctic-feeling air as I wait to cram myself into a train of newspapers, lacquered shoes, and briefcases.
I speak so impressionistically of London because my impression of it is not yet (nor will it ever be) whole. Its boroughs are thirty-two in number. Bookshops; pubs so warm, so ornate you’d think you just walked into Joyce’s or Dickens’ London; galleries; museums, all in the hundreds.
I will never forget that day, thirty-six or so hours after the US election results came in, when I embarked on the herculean task of entering Holborn station during rush hour. I was frozen and distraught, feeling more alone than ever when outside the station was an old man handing out the Evening Standard, asking passersby if they were okay. It was not just the US that was startled, but London and the world, too. And yet, there was a kind of electrifying solidarity amongst us all, a respect for that sacred space that is our own in a crowded city, a cautiousness and empathy that overcame the fog and rain of that windy Thursday night.
This kind of embrace extends beyond that day. It is apparent to me when I’m given way to on the train, when I see one stranger helping another carry suitcases through Victoria station, when there is always, at any time of day, an officer ready to explain to me my fastest journey home.
It is, London, a stronghold in which I have and will always be able to be my unapologetically solitary, curious, intellectual self.
Enjoying Covent Garden, just a 5 minute walk from The Strand campus
Why study abroad at King’s?
No matter whence you come, or what you wish to study, you can find it, at its towering best, in London and at King’s.
Study abroad is meant to challenge, inspire, and transform you in ways other experiences haven’t and can’t. It’s meant to enrich you with that layered perspective it would take a person a lifetime to acquire.
In my case, where to study was a choice between going to a place that wouldn’t have been much different from home, from the extracurriculars I’d always done, the jobs I’d always had, the warm walkability of a St. Paul that rarely leaves me feeling excited or overwhelmed, or pursuing a lifestyle in a city that would challenge and test my independence. That I chose to direct enroll, instead of take part in a specialized study abroad program that would arrange my schedule and meals for me, that I chose to leave everything I know and grapple with one of the world’s greatest cities, is a decision I will never regret.
No doubt, at many points the initial excitement will fade and you’ll feel as if living in the city is more akin to overcoming an obstacle course than walking through a quaint, charming city. You’ll likely be daunted by the challenge of supporting yourself financially and emotionally, by the task of building for yourself a strong support network in a place that, by its sheer immensity, can often make you feel quite lonely. But these are precisely reasons to come to study at King’s.
King’s will present you with an extraordinary variety of seminars, colloquia, lectures, galleries, museums, parks, art installations, poetry readings, and exhibitions (yes, the list goes on) to attend at no cost at all. The ‘brutal urbanness’ of its campus, as my professor described it, is a breeding ground for incredible intellectual dialogue and artistic creativity. You’ll be granted the agency, not to mention the wealth of resources, to pursue whatever line of research or study you want, a freedom you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else.
King’s very location makes it such that, instead of studying about and imagining in your mind what a Picasso or Rembrandt might look like, or what a protest on Westminster might feel like, you get to see those things with your own eyes, to write about them as they’re happening.
And what’s more, despite the school’s reputation and largeness, despite the opportunities you’ll find within London as your intellectual arena, there will never be a shortage of community or closeness. You’ll be challenged more than you ever have been, but welcomed with open arms, accompanied by those from all over the world who’ll gladly take the journey with you.
You never know just what you're going to see in London next
Louisa Wyatt, Northwestern University
Settling in to life at King’s
Are you serious? Stop. This is ridiculous. This is WILD. This is TOO MUCH. London is INCREDIBLE.
These hyperbolic thoughts raced through my mind the first several days at King’s. Settling in to my first week at King’s was exciting, fast-paced, and BUSY. First thing I did is move into my dorm—Julian Markham House by Elephant and Castle station. I am literally handed a mimosa as I walk through the door—not the door to my flat, the door to the building. My Residence Assistants worked very hard to make my first day in my new accommodation welcoming and fun. I was pumped to move into my own room with my own bathroom (a very welcome change from the tiny dorm rooms at Northwestern) and meet my flat-mates. I spent the first few days exploring London, going out to bars pubs, and trying new foods. I was having an amazing time, but soon, new thoughts began racing through my head.
I’m spending so much money. I miss my sister. My Northwestern friends are all hanging out having so much fun without me. Was this a mistake??
As the realities of school work set in and as I began combing through charges on my bank account, thinking “There’s no way I spent this much in two weeks,” I realized that my time at King’s wouldn’t always be so dandy. I felt guilty and immature for spending my money so frivolously, I suffered serious FOMO (“fear of missing out”) as I watched my friends post pictures on Facebook of their lives at Northwestern, and I feared that December 10th (the date of my flight home) couldn’t come fast enough. The difficulties of studying abroad are not discussed enough, so, on top of the loneliness and frustration I felt, I also felt guilt that I was no longer having the 100% amazing, exciting version of study abroad I had been spoon-fed and initially enjoyed. This affected me for several days, and I called home voicing my doubts and retreated to the comfort of my (seriously spacious) flat. However, I soon realized I have control over my study abroad experience, so, after a week of genuine frustration, I decided to take action. I designed a weekly budget, I made a list of all the boroughs and landmarks I wanted to visit, I planned my trips at a reasonable pace, and I sought out my new friends for support. As I made these schedule changes and successfully met my goals, my thoughts and feelings changed too. By my third week at King’s, I felt empowered and ready to make the most of my study abroad (on a budget)!
I can do this. This is a once in a lifetime experience. SEIZE THE DAY (at a reasonable pace!!). And, every once in a while, it’s okay to treat yourself.
Sometimes I go to Shoreditch specifically for this mega waffle + Nutella + cookie sundae
Academic benefits of studying at King’s
At King’s, I’ve been exposed to new classroom and lecture dynamics, course schedules and offerings, and new critical thinking methods. My modules and KCL student events have pushed me outside of my US-centric perspective, and I have gained a greater understanding of European relations.
At Northwestern, I am a journalism and African American Studies major. In both areas of study, the focus is upon American issues. I chose two African diaspora modules at King’s: History of Portuguese-Speaking Africa and Literature of Empire. Both modules offer perspectives on colonialism and post-colonialism that I’ve never encountered before. By reading narratives from Caribbean and West African writers, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of the relationships between European colonizers and the colonized and the diverse ways in which slavery was altered, implemented, and institutionalized across the diaspora; this has allowed me to better engage with these relationships in my own country and will enhance my studies when I return to Northwestern.
London is one of the most global cities in the world, and King’s students hail from all backgrounds and regions. I’ve learned just as much from my King’s modules as I have from my peers; through discussions with fellow people of color at King’s and attending events for marginalized communities, I’ve learned more about civil rights issues facing Londoners and European people of color more broadly. Being a person of color in the US, I’ve rarely looked outside of US-based systems of oppression. When I return, I will do so with a greater sense of my social responsibilities and American privileges.
At King’s, I am surrounded by unparalleled professors and some of the brightest students in the world. I have been pushed to adapt to a very different academic system, one based more on single assessments than the multiple short essays and tests that Northwestern offers. I have encountered modules which have forced me to reassess my traditional study habits and to stretch outside of my comfort zone. But, most importantly, I’ve met students who have taught me more about their cultures and countries than I will ever learn in an ethnic studies or history course at Northwestern.
My law friends let me borrow their bags to snap this shot of my favorite building on Strand campus
Life in the heart of London
My walk to class is by far the part of my day I Snapchat the most. Despite being a part of my otherwise mundane routine, I am continually mystified by the number of world-famous landmarks I get to see just by walking from my flat to Strand campus. As I cross the Thames, I take in Big Ben, the London Eye, and the Shard to name a few. King’s location means all the best attractions are within walking distance (sometimes after class I just make the 10-minute walk to Buckingham Palace to update my tabs on Prince Harry). But King’s is also incredibly close to many of the alternative attractions London offers.
Ministry of Sound, a highly respected record label and stalwart of British club life, is five minutes from my South London flat. As an aspiring music agent, being so close to so many renowned music venues has proved an essential learning experience for me. I’ve been introduced to so many local genres, and I’ve fallen in love with grime, a London-born genre which encompasses rap, hip-hop, dancehall, electronic, and UK garage. Going out each weekend to a new club and being introduced to new styles, forms and methods of musical expression, seeing new dance crazes and street styles, and meeting people from all over the world, bonded by an art that transcends language, ethnicity, and nationality, has had a profound effect on my relationship to music and the unique cultures that surround musical movements. I used to think I understood the scope of musical diversity, but London has exposed me to so many genres I never could have imagined. London has instilled in me a greater curiosity and thirst to experience first-hand the ever-changing, constantly expanding musical universe.
But London has not only upended my approach to music, being in London has also changed my diet. Trying the chicken tikka masala at every Indian restaurant in London has become a new life goal, and my affair with fish and chips has increasingly threatened my relationship with Nandos. London houses so many flavors, and I feel safe knowing I’m always within 5 minutes of Pret A Manager’s butternut squash and ricotta mac n cheese.
During these ventures to specific restaurants and venues, I always encounter another gem to be explored. On a trip to see one of my favorite artists perform at a venue in Shoreditch, I realized the borough is a haven for street artists and street art. On one of my countless trips to get chicken tikka masala, I stepped into an art gallery and spoke with the artist for half an hour about her work. The benefit of being in the heart of London is, every time you step outside, you’re opening yourself up to encountering new, unique, diverse, and fascinating creators and creations.
Just a few of the dozens of amazing street art murals that grace the walls of Shoreditch.
Why study abroad at King’s?
I knew I wanted to study abroad in London, and I knew I wanted to study at a good school. Before walking into my Northwestern advising meeting for study abroad, I didn’t realize how broad my criteria were (I feel pretty foolish about that now). My advisor listed off several different schools, discussing their academics, the boroughs they’re situated in, and their student services. This last aspect of our conversation motivated me to choose King’s most.
I chose King’s College London because I wanted to be treated like a freshman: the orientation, the special programming, The Peer Advisors, the socials—all of it. I knew study abroad wasn’t always going to be a party, I knew I would need help assimilating into a new school system, a new dorm, and a foreign country. King’s proved to be the only study abroad option to offer this sweeping support. With a study abroad orientation and office as well as a team of peer advisors who host study abroad socials and even hold office hours, King’s College London really treats you like a freshman in the most supportive and welcoming way. I have never felt disregarded here, and I felt accepted as an important part of the KCL community as soon as I arrived. Our first week consisted of panels ranging from holistic academic info sessions to game-plans on how to best thrive in London, a peer advisor-led scavenger hunt, and daily drop-in sessions to assist with module scheduling and address any other concerns we might have had. The Study Abroad Office continued to send routine emails updating us on the events happening around King’s and in London, and our peer advisors sent out a monthly newsletter encouraging us, offering their support, suggesting useful tips, and inviting us to social events.
Remember how easy it was to meet people in freshman year? How you were paired with a group of complete strangers and food (the world’s greatest unifier)? Well, at King’s you get to relive that nerve-wracking but exciting experience. The people who run the KCL study abroad office understand the importance of relationship building as an essential aspect of transitioning schools, and their services not only provide support directly through their programming, but also indirectly through the support groups that stem organically from their programming. I have met some of my closest friends through KCL’s study abroad student events. I cannot imagine my study abroad experience without them, and I cannot imagine studying anywhere other than King’s.
My “annotated” study abroad schedule, which I’m low-key considering framing.
Max Steinhorn, Amherst College
Settling in to life at King’s – What’s More Challenging: The City or the Kitchen?
There is no question that being thrust into an international city is a daunting task. But as my plane took off from Washington, D.C., I thought – perhaps naively – that because I spoke the language it would be an easy transition. I was in for a shock. The sheer size of the city, the incredible diversity of its neighborhoods, and the little cultural quirks of London life were, at first, a lot to take in. From looking the wrong way trying to cross the street, to being lost in a city without a grid, to feeling helpless trying to decide between so many options for food, culture, and nightlife – the first few weeks were certainly a whirlwind. And on top of that, having to live on my own for the first time was, at times, a bit challenging. But as I look back on my first weeks an interesting comparison comes to mind – how learning to cook really mirrored my approach to taking on this great city.
As I stepped into my kitchen for the first time I felt – much like after I landed in London – a sense of bewilderment. I had never really cooked before, and the thought of having to be self-sufficient for three months was terrifying. So I resolved to take it one step at a time. For the first week I stuck mostly with basic chicken dishes and microwave rice – testing out different spices, but keeping it mostly simple. Similarly, my first few days in London were characterized by going to classic tourist spots, drinking at traditional American bars, and being mostly too shy to branch out from my core group of American friends. However by the end of my first couple weeks, things began to change. As I got more comfortable in the kitchen, I started making real dishes – from Cajun burgers to pesto stir fry to homemade chicken curry. It was no longer a question of whether I would be able to feed myself – but what my menu for the week would be. And as I adjusted to life at King’s, I slowly but surely adapted to life in London. I tried out and made the KCL basketball team, I made friends with students in my classes and at the student union bar, and I explored all that London has to offer – from walking around in Shoreditch to exploring Camden Market to ordering drinks at a fish and chips place on the Thames. I was no longer a study abroad student – I was a King’s College student who called London his home.
Me cooking sausages, caramelized onions, and brussels sprouts – maybe the favorite meal I made all semester
Academic benefits of studying at King’s – More Than Just Major Requirements
At Amherst College I am a History major, with a concentration in 20th Century American foreign policy and politics. Many of my previous classes have focused on the rise of the American Empire, and one thing is always clear: the United States and Britain are inextricably intertwined. The early decades of the 1900s saw the United States try to emulate the successes of the British Empire – expanding its influence from the Caribbean to the Philippines. American Empire was – like the British – economic in nature and driven by a sense of divine Providence. So taking a course on the British Empire at King’s affords me an incredible opportunity – I get to study the policies and principles that have become the basis of my major concentration at Amherst, and I get to do it from outside of the US looking in. Studying the British Empire from a British perspective has been a remarkable experience that will not only broaden my knowledge of world history, but also expand and enrich my perspective on American history.
But as a student at a traditional liberal arts college, I also sought out classes outside of my comfort zone – and the rest of my courses at King’s reflect that commitment. The Electric Cities module is interesting to me because it is not a traditional history course. Rather, this class takes a micro-historical approach that tries to get at the individual experiences of people living in newly modernized cities. The class is a blend of sociology and history, and is an offering I have never seen in Amherst’s catalogue. And how fascinating it was when my lecturer led a few of us around the Foucault Gallery, where he illustrated a lecture about impressionism and the importance of art in social history by actually taking us to see the Manet’s and Degas’ in central London. Modern Philosophy has been especially challenging for me, but taking time to think about abstract philosophical questions has taught me how to approach problems, view arguments from multiple perspectives, and articulate thoughts in a meaningful and refined way. And Art and Archaeology of Ancient Greece – along with being my first classics and art history class – has shown me how to engage with other cultures and interpret the symbols, icons, and images that define who they are.
But perhaps the most important aspect of my education at King’s has been the emphasis on individual learning. Unlike the United States, where weekly assessment forces one to stay up to date, at King’s I had to self-motivate to keep up with readings and deadlines. And being able to choose essay topics gave me the personal freedom to delve into whatever subject, theme, or area I found most interesting and important. It was truly refreshing to be able to take control of my education in a way that I couldn’t have in the United States – and it has certainly helped me become a more mature, well-rounded student and person.
The view from my British Empire history seminar – with the London Eye, Big Ben, and Parliament in the background
Life in the heart of London – Experiencing London – The Tube, My Home, and King’s Basketball
Coming from a school where my longest walk to class is five minutes, at first it was a shock to have to commute to the Strand Campus every day. But within the first weeks of school, Borough Underground Station had become my gateway into central London. I began to enjoy the feeling of being a true Londoner – even when crammed against the doors of the train in the midst of rush hour traffic. The Strand Campus soon did not feel so far away. And the more I rode the Tube, the more I felt comfortable exploring every part of London. Attending the most central of London’s universities, I have been able to engage with the rich culture that London has been molding for generations. The museums, monuments, pubs, cafes, and parks are all part of a unique education experience that occurs outside the classroom. From Camden to Brick Lane to Shoreditch to Notting Hill to Clapham, the Tube map guided me across all this great city has to offer.
And when the hustle and bustle of the city tired me out – I was fortunate enough to go back to a residence hall surrounded by many of my friends. Some of my best memories will be of my friends and I huddled around my flat’s kitchen stove attempting to throw together a rag-tag curry recipe – gauging the spice level with plastic spoons. And it will be hard to forget the many times we frequented the pub across the street to talk about the impossibility of a Trump presidency (and later the sad reality of a Trump presidency). The Great Dover Street Apartments – although perhaps having not the biggest rooms or nicest amenities – truly felt like home during my time in London.
Another really cool aspect about my time at King’s was the ability for me to play on the basketball team. I made it a point to try and branch out and meet new people, and in the team I found 20 guys ready to accept an American who hadn’t even played the sport in two years. Not only has the team not lost since the beginning of the semester, I have learned new phrases in the five different languages that people on the team speak. From the games and practices to the dinners and socials, it was an incredible experience to befriend a group of talented ballplayers and diverse individuals – and it’s an honor to be able to take my King’s jersey home with me.
The view from outside Borough Underground Station
Becoming an Adult in the Heart of London
My decision to come to King’s was not easy. Four of my best friends from college were going to Prague, and I had the choice of joining them. But as I look back on the past three months, I realize that coming to London was the best decision I could have made.
King’s College London is known across the world for its academics – and the classes I have taken certainly make me understand why. They are both challenging and stimulating, and have offered me a chance to improve as a writer, thinker, and speaker. From lively debates on the formation of the British Empire to lectures on René Descartes, I truly felt like I have received a world-class education taught by world-class educators. And even more than that, the emphasis on self-motivation has really forced me to grow as an individual and allowed me to take charge of my education.
But more than just academic scholarship, the opportunity to study in London – a vibrant and multicultural city – afforded me a chance to learn in other ways. Being immersed in the city I have had the chance to meet new people; absorb their diverse perspectives, cultures, religions, and ideologies; and discuss how our different experiences shape how we see the world and who we strive to become. I can’t think of a better example than speaking with my teammates at the first basketball game after the United States election. Trying to explain the Electoral College to people from Italy, Germany, Singapore, and Britain, and hearing how they felt about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was an experience I will not forget. It is interactions like these that I feel are unique to King’s College London.
And as a 20-year old coming from the United States, this was the first time where I could legally drink (for an extended period of time). But it’s not just having a legal pint that makes this meaningful. It’s what it symbolizes about the way my King’s experience has empowered me as an adult. While the first time I went into a pub and ordered a cider with my fish and chips I felt like an imposter – almost like a teenager again – by the end of this semester I truly feel like a grownup (though still only 20). Studying abroad at King’s has shown me how to be an adult – how to take challenges head on, organize my life and intellectual pursuits, meet new people and explore a city, and make decisions completely on my own.
King’s College London’s prestige is world renowned, but this experience goes beyond a mere booster for my resume. My semester here at King’s was an opportunity for academic enrichment, cultural learning, and personal growth. I was able to meet lifelong friends, call the city of London my home, and adapt to an entirely new academic system all within the short span of three months. For anyone looking for a truly life-changing experience, King’s is the place for you.
Sunset behind the Houses of Parliament
Sonia Gorenstein, Williams College
Settling in to life at King’s
I stumbled out of the Underground into the dismal embrace of an overcast sky above an outer London highway, to which I had been directed, from a total lostness, by a chivalrous man of ambiguous foreign extraction. These were my early days, and nobody in my early days - no matter how their eyes may have crinkled, or to what tones of reason and better knowledge their voices may have declined - could have convinced me that it was ill-advised, perhaps mad, to attempt to purchase and drag from a distant IKEA all - yes, all - of one’s household items at once.
What need had I to ‘settle in?’ Within a few days, not only would the kitchen cabinets be abound with cutting boards and baking pans, but the Tube map mastered, the bank account opened, and surely a couple, if not several, Shakespeare plays bought and read in advance of term, if only due to the restlessness resulting from any overabundance of free time.
The truth, as you may have guessed, is that to leave one’s old home, old country, systems, old conventions and to emerge in one’s new home, is to unsettle one’s life. One must settle into a new context. Any attempt to expedite this process is foolish. Adjusting to London is a large task.
I would have to surrender to the city I set out to conquer. Like two people becoming acquainted, London and I did not reveal too much of ourselves at once. Moments were spent at the windowsill with tea, with coffee, with London on the other side of the glass. The infinite possibility represented by that skyline began to lose its vast abstractness as it was coloured in by the particulars of my life within it.
The bookshelf filled up—slowly. I cooked porridge, I crossed bridges and I attended classes. Merely by going to my first classes at King’s, I had done much to resettle myself; I created a routine.
Before entering the Strand building, I would walk along old architectural lines that extended into tradition and history and the stairwells to classrooms in which they were upheld. Yes, it felt different. I spoke differently, and about different things, than the others. King’s was becoming my new stopping-point in a longstanding intellectual journey, and thus a manifestation of a place independent of geography: the intangible expanse of thought some people have always called home.
A typical King's literature students bookshelf
Academic benefits of studying at King’s
My carefully crafted semester plunged me into a dialogue of English letters spanning centuries, with an emphasis on the early modern period and single, monumental figures of English literature: Shakespeare, the Elizabethans, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf. I chose my modules using consideration of what studying literature in England could ideally be. While I had studied and loved English literature in America, the moment for delving deeply into the topic needed to be seized—and it was this one. I wanted to study English literature exclusively and to, as far as possible, incorporate London into the curriculum.
An example will serve to illustrate what I mean about this conversation between English writers set to the backdrop of London. In the module Shakespeare’s London, we spent weeks unravelling the influence of London and its theatrical context on Shakespeare’s plays, acted out four or five centuries ago on my very doorstep. Next, in my Elizabethan module, I considered, among much else, the intensive classical education underlying the work of the Elizabethans, such as Shakespeare. But it was Virginia Woolf who, some three hundred years later, deconstructs the venerable, learned Englishman, suggesting that the longstanding tradition of androcentric education bred nationalism, patriarchy, and war, and that for every Shakespeare there may have been a woman genius unable to actualize herself in that exclusive male world. At the same time that Woolf pays homage to Shakespeare, she offers herself as an entirely different bard of London.
Shakespeare and Woolf were my guides to London, and my readings an introduction to England and its culture as a whole. I learned of England through immersion, naturally forming a more developed idea of the country through repeated references to, for example, certain places, historical events, and works of literature. I walked along the Victoria Embankment to class shortly after reading Woolf’s evocation of such a walk and took a train to the Midlands of George Eliot’s fiction for the weekend.
This semester at King’s gave me my only chance to study English literature in such unusual depth. When I return next year to complete my literature degree, I will meet the English works on my syllabi with a far greater background knowledge: my reading will be rich with associations and connections. Few things could be more useful to a student of literature written in English than a semester or two in the country out of which so many of its greatest works were born.
Catching up with class reading
Life in the heart of London
Walking out of my residence and out onto the streets of Southwark is, even now, not without its excitement. Something arrested me about the area the first time I drove through it. Old red-brick buildings and narrow streets converse with the metallic dynamism of contemporary urban structures and forms. Colourful print-design shops in miniature border tall, sleek galleries with arched glass walls that corner up with the decaying façades of Victorian pubs.
Now that the game has been opened, there are four moves that I typically make: walking to and along the Waterloo Bridge to class, or Blackfriars Bridge, walking to Borough Station to take a train to the London Buddhist Centre, or to Southwark Station to visit almost anywhere else.
Rather than enthrall you with extraordinary possibilities—for there are many in London—I will recount to you an aspect of my weekly routine remarkable for being ordinary. Let’s make that third move, walking down Great Suffolk Street, turning left, taking a Northern train to Bank, transferring, and hopping onto a Central train bound for Bethnal Green in East London.
Somewhere in this vast metropolis could be found exactly those places and experiences conducive to any given person’s happiness. There are so many things that London can be to anyone at any moment.
Sunset over the Thames
Why study abroad at King’s
As a literature student with my heart set on London, studying abroad at King’s was too obvious to be called a choice. King’s outstanding reputation in my field is simply inarguable, and I am happy to have found my own experience in accord with this worldwide consensus.
King’s masterfully accomplishes a difficult feat: organizing a formidable research university in such a way that undergraduate students are sufficiently valued members of the institution. It would be rather absurd of me, I thought, to expect King’s to give me the kind of personal attention I receive at my small, rural liberal arts college. Yet I was pleasantly surprised by the helpfulness of my professors and the significant presence of seminar-based learning. I imagined that the scholar responsible for the latest Oxford introduction to A Room of One’s Own would be relatively uninterested in my own thoughts on the text, and I was wrong: her interest was evident.
So I was led to a rather curious observation. KCL at once attracts the most accomplished scholars in the world, and demands from them an exceptional standard of teaching. From what I have gleaned of large universities at home and abroad, this state of affairs is hardly a given. The respect accorded to students alongside the emphasis given to pioneering research is a combination with an unforeseen consequence: the treatment of every student as a potential contributor to serious academic scholarship.
I’ve never felt quite as I do at King’s. That feeling has something to do with Shakespeare, with the colossal Maughan Library, with the suited lawyers still shuffling down Chancery Lane: in short, with the gravity of it all. That sense of being part of something significant is what the very air is made of. At King’s, one is trusted to make a contribution. One is free to, within one’s chosen topics, study to the depth and direction of one’s interest. One is free to, within reason, personalize one’s own reading list. From this freedom emerges one weighty implication: education becomes less of an offering, and more of a process unique to the individual, the end of which is, ideally, unreachable. At King’s, an A is a 70. To receive an 80, a 90, or a 100, one must produce work of exceptional scholarly value. This standard of excellence is an invitation for any student to consider, not only what one has already learned and said, but also what one could someday—perhaps even today—be capable of. King’s challenges the student to match the caliber of the institution itself, and I will not easily forget that kind of treatment, even long after I’ve returned to America.
Susan Ye, University of Southern California
Panics, Crazy Cars, and Learning to Love London
Half-way through my seven hour journey from New York to London, the adrenaline rush from wanderlust finally fizzled out and turned into panic. “What am I doing here?! I’ve left everything I’ve known and loved back at the safety of my home in America. What’s going to happen when I land?!” These thoughts came at the perfect time – when I was trapped on an air-borne vessel zipping through the stratosphere, with no way out except a parachute and a will to jump – neither of which I possessed. Thus the only thing I could have done, and did do, was calm down by telling myself that London was just going to be another version of New York, or Los Angeles (the two places I call home). And luckily, I realized this to be very true – a bustling central city like any other, but with some charming British nuances sprinkled on top.
In fact, when I landed, all my fears had dissolved and I was quite at peace. On my journey to my new flat from Heathrow Airport, my eyes were glued to the windows of my National Express bus as I took it all in. “Trees, grass, cars, roads… Nothing that I haven’t seen before…Woah! That car just drove on the sidewalk to pass the bus! (yes, beware of that) More trees…and… New Cross Gate!”
When I finally reached my new apartment, I was welcomed with the familiar sight of a cramped dorm room, an empty bed, and clean desk. I plopped down on my new rickety bed and immediately texted my family and friends that I’d arrived at my new home for the next three months. After I was comfortably settled in, I walked into the communal kitchen and saw three strangers, all who have become very close friends of mine. In fact, I was very fortunate to become good friends with all my flat mates – who were all study abroad students. Naturally, we flocked together and spent the whole first week exploring everything London had to offer us. From exploring Borough Market, Oxford Street and Piccadilly Circus to Covent Garden, Camden Market, and the many museums across the city.
We worked together to overcome the new intricacies that were foreign to us, in our exploration of the city, as well as the academic system. Looking back, I chuckled at myself for being scared in the first place – after all, this was a once in a lifetime experience that I would never forget, and would always regret if I had not taken this opportunity.
Shortly after orientation – jumping at the first chance to take a typical tourist pic.
Learning from the Greatest Academics in the World
One of the things you will notice about King’s is that there is no lack of diversity – in the student body, or among faculty and staff. My European Political Economy professor speaks of her personal experience when talking about financial issues hitting certain European countries, in this case – Italy. My Epistemology professor shares interesting and illustrative stories in his thick Scottish accent; and this makes sense as the greatest philosophers came from Scotland. Lastly, my Military Strategy professor shares his views of British and international military/political strategies through the centuries.
My choice of courses for this semester may seem a little haphazard, but I am a sucker for variety. My interest in European Political Economy (EPE) stems from my curiosity of how the European Union formed and how it functions. My goals going into this class were to see how the EU changed the continent economically and socially. These goals were met through the exploration of how the union was formed, complications with implementing the agreements due to different countries’ differing cultures and policies, and well as how the different economies of countries in the EU fluctuated throughout the years.
Now EPE was something I was more familiar with, as I am an International Relations student back at my home institution. And since I still had elective credits left, I thought I’d take a stab at philosophy, as this was a subject I was always curious to try out. Note to self, don’t jump to the second level, unless you’ve pass the first. Although, I must admit – the module description did advise us to take a first level Philosophy module if we’ve never taken on before. However, I liked the idea of the study of knowledge and thought it would enlighten me. I was wrong – it has caused me to question more than I’ve ever done. While the module is still very interesting overall, I do not recommend it for those who are vulnerable to existential crises.
While Military Strategy provides me with copious amounts of reading and information – it is much more rewarding as an IR student, as also easier to digest as we don’t spiral down a path of endless questions. Each question brought up in class is new and provoking, and I actually look forward to writing my two lengthy summative essays. For those interested in the course, you will find on the first day of class, that the module does not focus on military strategy, but rather, political strategy. It discusses at length the effectiveness of military and political leaders to gain power (through war), and how well they have been able to sustain their gains, or not sustain them.
Although my different modules differ in content – I don’t feel as if the lectures are too different from my courses back home in America. However, I do feel more independent, as I need to manage my time well in order to meet deadlines as there are fewer, but longer assignments.
Feeling blessed to be surrounded by architectural beauty every day at King’s
A city-Lover and her Adventures (and Misadventures) in London
As a true born-and-bred city girl, I have to admit, London truly tops the list. I was mesmerized by the mix of modern structures and Victorian/Gothic architecture that meshed so surprisingly well together. To me, this shows what a majestic legacy Britain has, and how it embraces modernity without letting go of its colorful culture and history.
But these breath-taking structures aren’t just meant for display, the more rewarding part is what is housed in these structures. There is a huge number of free museums and exhibitions that allow for endless exploration into history, science, and art. Some great museums around the area include The British Museum, the National Gallery, the Imperial War Museum, and the Tate Modern. However, culture is not just limited to the museums, as live Broadway shows are a great way to spend a night in the city (I really recommend going to The Phantom of the Opera – I’m still convinced that I witnessed true magic!).
In addition to these cultural experiences, my personal favorite activity is walking along The Embankment as well as the bridges across and all along the Thames. There are so many breathtaking sights to see. Just around the corner of Somerset House is Waterloo Bridge. Look to the left, and you will see Victoria Embankment and Somerset House and King’s in all its glory. Look to the right, and you will find the London Eye on one side of the river, Big Ben and Parliament are further down on the other side of the river. For landscape photography enthusiasts like me, I will sometimes take a calming stroll down the embankment and snap photos along the way to save these memories. However, do be careful of scooters (true story: I was run over by a lady on her scooter one day, and I lurched forward and scratched my knee. Luckily my camera had its lens cap on…).
But do not let the fear of scooters stop you from exploring this amazing city – for it has so much to offer. Perhaps I should offer places that would allow you to stay clear of scooters all together – there is always the Sky Garden, which offers equally breathtaking views, accompanied by drinks from the bar; or walk across the glass floors of Tower Bridge and watch the skyline from a more unique vantage point.
All this talk of walking and exploring reminds me of the aftermath – hunger. But luckily, delicious choices are nearby. My favorites include Borough Market and Camden Market – both teeming with food vendors (selling at street market prices), but serving quality restaurant food. My favorite dishes include pad thai and moong dal dosa from Borough Market. Bonus tip: try out cheese and dessert samples when you walk around Borough Market!
The city girl in her natural habitat – up-top views of the skyline, enveloped by artificial light.
The Perfect Place for Me
For me, King’s was an obvious choice. Located conveniently in central London, with a short walk to all different types of landscapes, places of entertainment, and the best streets for shopping. Additionally, King’s is the best institution when it comes to resources, as the lecturers are very helpful, as well as the GTA (Graduate Teaching Assistants), and it is ranked one of the top research institutions. And my personal favorite – the university is never short on famous/notable alumni. From John Keats, Florence Nightingale, to Peter Higgs and much much more.
The most important thing that King’s offers however, is the diversity in the student body. I have been very fortunate to be placed with other study abroad students whom I get along with so well. My flat mates come from Canada, America, Australia, Finland, and the Netherlands. It has been so fun to learn about everyone’s cultural traditions, quirks, and funny anecdotes. It’s also comforting to be with others to commiserate with when we face the same obstacles when first settling down – navigating the winding streets of London, getting lost in King’s libraries, and sharing academic struggles. But we always had at least someone to cheer us up when we come home ranting about how we (or I) got ran over by a scooter and such. I honestly could not have asked for a better experience, given the choice, I’d pick King’s every time.
“ Why study abroad at King’s ?” should just be answered with this picture.
With my flat mates in front of Her Majesty’s Theater – t’was before I was awestruck by the forthcoming performance.
Tomomi Yamashita, Ritsumeikan University
The King’s Life
When I first arrived at King’s, there were so many things that fascinated me: the beautiful buildings, the friendly professors and the majesty of the traditional library. These were the things that reminded me of just how lucky I was to be given a chance to study at such a prestigious university so I wanted to make full use of my time here. However, like every good thing we experience in life, there are bound to be problems that we must face and overcome.
You may laugh, but the first issue was how often I got lost in King’s. The reason was that King’s is just so huge, and each campus has many buildings connected together in a complicated way. For example, the 2nd floor of one building actually connects to the first floor of the other. This might be trivial, but you would be surprised many students were late for classes because of this. At the beginning I would always made sure I arrived at least 20 minutes early. Now that I am familiar with the infrastructure, I try to help people who are lost to find their classroom.
The next issue I faced was something I believe many foreign students can empathize with: the language barrier and the difference in the education system and culture. During the first few weeks, I had difficulty understanding the lectures. Not only was I unfamiliar with the jargon used and unaccustomed to the talking speed of lecturers, I was unable to fully comprehend the lecturers due to their accent. At first, I was hesitant in asking the lecturers for help, but I realized that this could not continue. I started asking my classmates and lecturers questions and they all kindly answered any questions I had.
The other issue I faced was expressing myself in English. This was a direct clash of cultures. The people here are more direct and every time they said that they could not understand what I was trying to say and I started to lose confidence. To overcome this, I took everything positively and just laughed! When I could not convey to others what I was saying, I just told myself that what I am saying is not English, but rather some other unique language that I have created and laughed it off. This allowed me to become more positive and I am able to express myself in English without fear.
Now that I have overcome the issues I had when I first came here, I have become more positive, I hope that readers will also stay positive when facing their own problems, just like I had!
Enjoying London with new friends!
My academic experiences at King’s
Well-structured lectures, lots of reading and discussions with talented classmates are things I enjoyed about studying at King’s. Lecturers would upload the Power Point slides beforehand for us to prepare for the class, which is rarely seen in the Japan. This is so much better for international students like me, since I was able to research the unfamiliar theories that I did not understand in English. Because of this, I was able to understand the lecture on a deeper scale. I also came to realize the importance of following the reading list for each lecture. Of course, it may be challenging for students to read the many studies on the reading list, but what was offered on the list is vital information and studies selected by experts in that particular area.
Moreover, the interactive discussions with classmates and lecturers really show the difference between undergraduate and postgraduate classes. For example, I was bewildered when I first participated in the discussion for the class ‘Philosophy of Psychology’. There were questions left unfinished without any conclusions! I was confused since there were no answers given for the questions asked and the number of questions even increased at the end of the lecture! I wondered why the lecturers gave no answers, then I realized that if conclusions were given, it would make our brain stop thinking about it. Because of this I feel this is the right way to commit to research: to never stop thinking.
The module ‘World Novel’ has offered me a lot of practical knowledge related to my study. Books by authors from around the world helped me understand different ways of thinking, thus allowing me to broaden my horizons. Furthermore, reading these books helped me utilizing classic literature in my current research. When I had to do a presentation on the famous Japanese literature ‘Kokoro’, it was arduous to explain, since there were many words which could not be translated into English easily. Looking at the English version, these words were not translated but written in the original Japanese. For example, the title ‘Kokoro’, while similar to the word ‘mind’, has a different nuance and thus remained untranslated. I realized translation could change what the authors want to express. Because of this presentation, I can find different interpretations for the literature through my classmates. This has enabled me to apply English literature to fit into my Japanese studies.
Living with my host mother
Of course I am enjoying London life: going to musicals, taking pictures with Big Ben, touring the magnificent British Museum and so on. While it might be interesting to write about these things (and I do have plenty of stories related to them) these kind of activities appeal much more to people who are looking forward to sight-seeing in London, not people who are here long-term. Therefore, I would like to describe my residence which for me truly captures the ‘London Life’. I am currently living with my host mother near Islington in the north of London, and commute to King’s. When I first arrived at the Victorian-style house where I now live, I was moved by the beautiful furniture, refined kitchen and my host mother’s big smile as she welcomed me into her house.
From the first day, she had always tried to make me feel safe at home, and it was thanks to her that I was able to feel as if I have a second family in London. My room, while not the largest, is quiet and comfortable and from there, I was able to see her amazingly beautiful garden even on rainy days. From her stories about her garden, I learned how English people love nature and enjoy looking after their garden as many Japanese people do too. I realized that we, while having differences, share many similarities too. For example, I found that English people tend to be shy, polite and caring. My host mother occasionally invites her friends over for dinner and instead of treating me as an outsider, she always introduces me to her friends, her friends would tell me jokes and interesting stories about London. They often reminded me of Japanese people, since we usually do the same thing; this made me feel perfectly at ease talking to them. On the other hand, as the conversations go deeper, I also realized that there are in fact many differences that make every culture unique and I do enjoy learning about these differences while laughing about it. Thanks to my host mother, I was able to explore our cultural differences and improve my English!
With all that said, for those who truly want to live the ‘London Life’, I recommend you live with a host family. While King’s had offered me a great campus life, with the staff and lecturers being so supportive in helping students in their studies, being able to return back to a place where I feel I belong makes my study abroad experience all the more blissful.
With my host mother
Join me at King’s
I strongly recommend studying at King’s for two reasons. Firstly the diverse students studying at King’s. At King’s College, there are currently more than 8000 international students studying. King’s is a melting pot with plenty of opportunities to interact with students from all around the world as well as UK natives. I am currently a member of a student body made of students from around the world aiming to bring together different cultures, languages, behaviors, mentalities, beliefs, and religions. As an international student, I was able to exchange views, learn about different cultures, and understand different beliefs and religions to help me improve in my communication and interaction skills irrespective of my peers’ backgrounds. This experience broadened and deepened my perspective and this is one of the reasons that I recommend and urge people to study at King’s.
Additionally, staff at King’s are very supportive in helping you in your studies. In November I held my very first event ‘Book and Talk’ for international students. This was something I was very eager in conducting since it was directly related to my bibliotherapy major, which aims to promote one’s mental well-being through the use of books or poems. Since I was young, I have enjoyed reading and believe that stories have the power to heal; this is why I decided to become a trainee for the Certified Applied Poetry Facilitator (CAPF) at The International Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy and come abroad to King’s.
When I decided to hold my session, I had no idea as to which place I should reserve or how to tell students about this session. I went to King’s English Language Centre and explained the event and asked them for help. The staff were kind, understanding and supported me by helping me spread my flyers. They also searched for places where I could hold my event. The staff at King’s never abandoned me once and I really appreciated that. To me, this event would never be realized without the help and efficiency of the friendly staff working at King’s. While good lecturers help guide students to their goals in life, staff play an important role too. The staff at King’s would definitely help you in pursuing your dreams and urge you on your passions in your study!
My first event!