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North America: Student experiences

Read about King's student's experiences of studying abroad in North America, and find out what life is like studying as a King's student at a partner university.  Please note, although the content is very comprehensive, covering issues from housing to recommended activities, the Global Mobility team are able to help with further outstanding advice and more up-to-date information.

University of Pennsylvania

Amy Norris, 2015-2016

Top 10 Things

1) Campus

When I chose a university for my undergraduate, I was determined to stay away from campus institutions; I wanted to be able to escape the uni bubble easily and not get bored of the same five pubs before the end of my three years. However, Penn has the best of both worlds; the campus is everything Vampire Weekend sung about when I was in my early teens, with ivy clad walls and secluded quadrangles, but it fades out into the city so you never feel claustrophobic. I definitely miss having all of my friends live a maximum of 10 minutes away now that I’m back in London!


2) Philadelphia

I really believe Philly is America’s best kept secret; the city is the perfect size and an amazing blend of arty and historic. I really don’t think it’s possible to run out of things to do, or places to explore there, and the community is really like no other.

3) Classes

Penn’s reputation as a world class university is well-deserved; as well as being academically challenging, their course catalogue is more diverse than I could ever imagine. I studied ‘The American Sitcom’ as a literature module during my semester there! The faculty are also the best that there are – Joe Biden has just been confirmed as a Penn professor.

4) University Pride

There is nothing that can prepare you for the moment you walk into the Penn Bookstore for the first time. Easily twenty times the size of our King’s merch store, Penn has university branded EVERYTHING, from money clips to baby clothes. My personal favourite is the Penn pens. Drastically different to King’s culture, most people at Penn will be wearing at least one item of clothing that celebrates their university or club whilst in classes, and laptops are always full of stickers proclaiming all the different things students are involved with at university. It’s a completely different atmosphere, but lovely to see how proud everyone is of their achievements.

5) West Philadelphia

Famous as the area Will Smith moved from at the beginning of Fresh Prince of Bell Air, West Philly definitely has a gritty reputation. However, I’ve found it to be one of the most beautifully community-focused areas I’ve ever come across, and I’ve spent countless days exploring the area. With so many college campuses all close together in West Philly, there’s a ton of book stores and cafes full of students. I’m obsessed with the big Queen Anne rowhouses Penn students live in just off campus, with their wraparound porches perfect for Spring.


6) History

Both Penn and Philadelphia are stepped in historical importance, and you can barely turn a corner without bumping into a tour group photographing a single brick that you didn’t know was somehow fundamental to the founding of America. Sometimes it’s over the top, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

7) Social Culture

Penn students are determined to get the most out of university; from academics, to student groups, to social activities. All that means that you’ll never be without something to do, even for a minute, when you’re at Penn. My semester coincided with the annual ‘Spring Fling’, a weekend where the entire campus is dedicated to blowing off steam.


8) Location

Philadelphia’s location makes it the perfect starting point for trips along the East Coast, and I spent many an hour on buses across the US on my semester abroad. The overnight bus to Boston was definitely a challenge (6 hours each way) but so worth it!

9) Food

Everyone knows Philly is famous for its cheese steaks, but there’s also a ton of other food experiences that you can’t miss out on in the city! There are street food trucks based at Penn every day, and I would’ve been more than happy spending a full undergraduate degree making my way through them all!

10) The Weather

Not something anyone usually gets excited about in relation to Philadelphia, but bear with me… Philly is freezing cold in the winter, with temperatures under -10°C and snow storms aplenty, but then gets incredibly hot as soon as summer hits. After two years of middling London seasons, having a real Winter and Summer divide was a real novelty I loved.


Unless you are over 21, Penn requires all exchange students to live on campus in one of the ‘college houses’, and the accommodation is definitely pricey – I paid the same for my single bedroom at Penn as I did for a room three times the size in Camberwell. However, you pay for the benefit of being able to get to class within fifteen minutes of waking up, and for all the free food and social events your college house will put on!


I was heartbroken when it transpired that the picturesque Quad accommodation was only for freshmen, but you’ll find that most exchange students are placed within the High Rises; Harnwell, Harrison and Rodin. These are on the west side of campus, two minutes away from Commons dining hall (with its Starbucks), and about a 10-minute walk away from the English Department building. Most importantly, you’re just 5 minutes away from a Wawa convenience store and Smokey Joe’s, Penn’s university bar.

All High Rises have rooftop lounges with views over campus and the city beyond, and smaller lounges with televisions on each floor. I stayed in Harrison, which has the added benefit of a small gym in the basement. Harnwell seems like the most social of the high rises with lots of House-organised social events. It’s also the closest to classes by about a minute! Rodin is the closest to Chipotle, so they’ve all got their benefits!

The High Rises are set out apartment-style with a living room and kitchenette space, as well as one shared bathroom. They tend to have one less bedroom than the number of people living there, so two people get their own room and the other two share a larger bedroom. If you’re really worried about sharing a room, it’s maybe worth considering living in Gregory – it’s a little bit further out than the high rises, but you’re assured to have your own bedroom. However, looking back, I wish I’d had the chance to live with a roommate! It’s a big part of US college life, and my friends all really loved the experience.



The first thing I knew about the University of Pennsylvania was that it was an ‘Ivy League’ school – I was prepared for rigorous academics. However, I think the biggest difference between Penn and King’s is the volume, rather than the difficulty. You’ll have three hours of contact time per week for each module rather than the standard two at King’s, and there’s a lot more regular assessment. Two of my classes required me to submit small informal papers every week on the assigned reading, in addition to the normal Midterms and Finals. In addition, your class participation usually counts towards your grade so you’ll miss out on key marks by not turning up to class or not contributing to the discussion. However, I found that they were more forgiving in their marking; it’s easier to get an A at Penn than it is to get a First at King’s! Your professors are also usually more willing to informally move around deadlines for you if there’s a clash with another class or commitment. There’s also no 40% cap if you’re a second past deadline – your professor will design the penalty for late submission but it’s usually based on a gradient. The challenge really comes in juggling all the different assignments and mountains of reading rather than the content itself.


Having said this, Penn really encourages you to think about your discipline in different ways, and so you’ll be ranging around other fields of study in a way you perhaps haven’t by your second year at King’s. Plus, you’ll be expected to contribute to the university beyond academics. Because of this, the library is busy at all times in its open 24/7 schedule. Penn students are committed to achieving in all areas of college life.

In a radical departure to King’s mythical timetabling system, you can see when classes are scheduled to take place before you choose your module and so can design your schedule to have a long weekend, or a second weekend in the middle of your week! However, this means that you’re in charge of making sure you get into the modules you want rather than having someone in the administrative office sort it out for you, and also making sure that you’re taking a normal course load. Penn Course Review is your best friend for this – make sure that your average course difficulty isn’t much more than 3.0, otherwise you’ll be in for a tough semester. If you find the classes you want are full, sign up to Penn Course Notify, and you’ll get an email as soon as someone drops the course so that you can jump into their space.

Weekend activities

University City is just a stroll away from Philly’s Center City (although you’ll probably end up Uber or Lyft-ing more times than you’re proud of). Explore Old City, America’s most historic square mile, with its hip coffee shops and independent stores mixed in with Independence Hall, and the Liberty Bell. South Street is one of my favourite parts of Philly, with the “magic gardens” mosaic art installation stretching across the East side of the city. At some point in your time there, you have to make like Rocky and run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, even if you don’t make it inside, and put in some serious time trying the different cheese steak options so you can find your favourite.


Although our West Philadelphia location may be most famous as the inner city haunt of Will Smith at the beginning of the Fresh Prince of Bell Air, there’s plenty of nature to be found within a half an hour journey. The Wissahickon Gorge is my favourite place to hike close to the city, and a relatively easy option if you’re new to outdoor pursuits. The Circuit Trails are one of the largest trail networks in the USA; 300 miles of connected paths perfect for exploring Philadelphia, and the Schuylkill River Trail offers a perfect 30 mile stretch for cycling or jogging alongside the water. I’d recommend heading north on the trail towards the boathouses one morning to watch the university’s rowing clubs take to the river.  

Philadelphia’s location also makes it the perfect base for weekend trips across the East Coast: just 2 hours on a bus to NYC, 3 hours to DC and 6 hours to Boston.


As cliché as it sounds, my semester at the University of Pennsylvania has been the best six months of my life. I would count studying abroad as one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and choosing Penn is something I’m grateful for every day!

The Penn experience is unique as ‘The Social Ivy’; there is the prestige and academic rigour of an Ivy League institution but also the focus on an extensive social life. During the week, it’s not unheard of for study groups to start their meetings past midnight but, from Thursday night to Sunday morning, everyone clears their schedules for red solo cups and frat houses. The motto ‘work hard, play hard’ was pretty much defined by Penn students! It’s definitely demanding at times to keep up (both academically and socially) but it’s so worth it. My time at Penn pushed me to my limits at times, but it’s meant that I can redefine where my boundaries are; I’m capable of a lot more than I previously gave myself credit for.

Penn has a claim to be the oldest university in the country and a president currently in office; I was expecting an uncompromising focus on the traditional. What I found was a subversive and progressive curriculum. A lot of my classes were cross-department listed so I’ve returned to King’s a lot more willing to take out-of-department modules and I’ve begun working with my professors to make my essays range across time periods and academic disciplines. More than anything, my time at Penn has confirmed to me that I want my future to be in academia, and that I want to go back to the US to pursue that goal.

I’ve always been an independent person, but I think that sometimes comes as a detriment to my academics; at Penn, I was graded on class participation which forced me to start vocalising the questions I had. I’ve gone from being a silent member of a seminar group to actively leading discussion. This has translated into my personal life too as my time abroad has helped my confidence immeasurably. I’ve gone from being anxious over making phone calls to presenting papers at academic conferences and travelling alone. This love of travel is also something that I’ve rediscovered through my time abroad; there’s so much of even Philadelphia that I didn’t get to see after half a year there, and I’m eager to see as much of the world as possible. This was partly inspired by the friends I made at Penn, friends I still speak to every day, and whom I’ve travelled to see since. Having another set of friends spread across the globe is definitely handy in saving AirBnB money, but having another perspective outside of the King’s bubble is invaluable in reminding me there’s life beyond my dissertation!

Georgetown University

Josh Duxbury, 2015-2016

Top 10 Things

1.     The area

The campus itself is in the area of Georgetown: a small, affluent area of DC, featuring picturesque rows of townhouses and excellent opportunities for both high street and high-end shopping (M Street). It’s close to the waterfront and a few small national parks, so it is a very pretty place to be, too. It’s also not too far from the more central areas of DC (Dupont and Foggy Bottom), so jogging to the Lincoln Memorial for a morning run isn’t too much of an arduous task.

2.     The city

As well as having Georgetown and all it has to offer just a few blocks away, Washington D.C. itself is albeit a quiet city compared to London, but has so many things to do – from the dozens of museums and galleries to concerts and political talks. When it’s warm one of the best things to do is grabbing a picnic to have at the National Mall.



3.     GUTS Buses

While the DC transport system doesn’t have a patch on London, Georgetown provides 5 free shuttle buses to get from Georgetown to other key parts of the city. There is a metro system, but rumour has it the rich residents of Georgetown fought against having a stop built to avoid it being easily accessed by others. A slight problem for us now, but thankfully the buses are efficient and help a lot!

4.     Food

Washington, D.C. isn’t really famed for its food, except for Ethiopian food and cupcakes. There are two main cupcake shops in Georgetown: Georgetown Cupcake and Baked & Wired. The former shop is infamous for its reality show – plots included making too many cupcakes, or how to make a wedding dress out of cupcakes. Baked & Wired is its hipster alternative, featuring excellent coffee (and far better cupcakes IMO), and unlike Georgetown Cupcake, there’s rarely a line to the end of the block. Other highlights in Georgetown: Sweetgreen (5 minutes from campus – excellent salad), Il Canale (just off M Street – excellent pizza), Kintaro (excellent Japanese). In the summer Georgetown has its own weekly farmers market too, with crème brulée donuts a plenty.  


5.     The history

Being able to walk past the tavern where John F. Kennedy proposed to Jackie O, or the former house of Thomas Jefferson on your daily walks to Baked & Wired is pretty cool. Georgetown itself is historic, featuring the oldest building in DC, and many famous churches.

6.     Internship opportunities

Internship culture is prevalent across campus, and even within exchange students. Not everybody does it, but the option is available, and the university is very helpful in both securing a position and working out the necessary visa paperwork. Exchange students I know have interned at a variety of places –presidential campaigns (something I did), Think Tanks, lobbying firms, and a fair few at the Capitol in Congress. 

7.     The talks

Being such a prestigious institution, Georgetown attracts high-level speakers often on a daily basis. Bill Clinton (an alumnus) and Madeleine Albright (a resident professor) both do a collection of talks each academic year, the latter of whom I was able to see. Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton also spoke last year, with students queuing for hours to secure a spot for each of the talks. Other notable speakers across the semester include: Edward Snowden (via video call!), the Queen of Jordan, David Miliband, Martin O’Malley, Carly Fiorina, Robert Putnam and many more. 



8.     Location

Washington, D.C.’s proximity to other cities around the East Coast makes travelling both easy and cheap. You can get the bus to New York for $5 if you book far enough in advance, and for a 3-hour journey it’s perfect for a weekend trip. Philadelphia is only 2 hours, too, and Boston is 6-8 hours away.

9.     The classes

While there is a lot of work, there is a great academic edge at Georgetown that is hard to find elsewhere. With a former Secretary of State included in the staff, as well as famous journalists referenced in House of Cards, professors hold impressive credentials and expertise to their subjects.

10.     The campus experience

The experience of being on a campus is the complete opposite to being at King’s, as you can imagine. Whilst you are in the middle of Washington D.C., you also have a little bubble within campus. You could stay on campus and have everything you need: there’s the dining hall, a supermarket, restaurants, and coffee shops. I wouldn’t recommend this however, because there’s so much to see! The best part about being on campus is not having to commute unlike London, with classes being a couple of minutes walk away. You will notice that everybody wears Georgetown merchandise too – everybody – give it a few weeks I’m sure you will join in, I did. Hoodies and t-shirts are most common, but many people wear Georgetown jackets, coats, sweatpants and the like. Also, being on campus, students are far more relaxed with what they wear, wearing sweatpants and flip flops to class.

blossom (the student experience)


Housing at Georgetown is rather hit and miss. While the best thing about the accommodation is the proximity to classes - almost every dorm (the only dorm that doesn’t is a freshmen dorm, and exchange students aren’t placed there) requires less than a five-minute walk, the quality of the dorms are a little substandard compared to King’s. Although, providing all your documents are sorted on time, King’s students are guaranteed on campus accommodation.

There is no opportunity to rank your preferences for housing, but you can state whether you would prefer a dorm (40-50 a floor, shared bathrooms and common room) or an apartment style (4-8 in a flat, shared bathroom and kitchen/common area), and the housing office simply allocates what is available. Being the United States, you will have a roommate, or in a few cases two roommates, and they are likely to be another exchange student. The majority of the exchanges are in the following two dorms – Village C East and Kennedy Hall. Village C East is unique in that it is the only en-suite dorm, whereas Kennedy is a typical shared arrangement. The exchanges are placed with upperclassmen – junior (third years) and seniors (fourth years). From experience and talking to others, if you are only there for the spring semester, it is harder to make friends with the full time students in your dorm than compared to being there from fall.

I stayed in Village C East, and have had a positive experience, despite it being a bit dated. The rooms on the top floors have gorgeous views of campus, and from a few you can see the Washington Monument in the distance. The cooking facilities are in the common room and are a bit substandard, so if you can see yourself cooking more than eating at the dining hall, it may be worth opting for apartment style accommodation. I bought a fridge so I could have options for breakfast in my dorm, and a few other exchanges have done the same. Very few however opted to cook in the dorms except for breakfast, with the dining hall making things a lot easier. Admittedly, the food isn’t fantastic, but it’s easy and primarily it’s a good social opportunity.

It is also worth noting that Washington, D.C. and particularly Georgetown is one of the most expensive cities in the US, so housing rates are similar to London.  


The biggest thing to consider about Georgetown’s academics is the intensive system, with constant assessment throughout the semester. Even though this rigorous system is difficult to acclimatise to at first, it does become routine, and the content is easier, but you have to ensure prioritizing a large amount of your day to make sure you get everything done. If you don’t, you suffer falling behind, and in class it is noticeable if you do.

The classes at Georgetown are almost all a mix of lecture and seminar in one, meeting two or three times a week. This is common throughout most departments, and in my classes (Government and Philosophy), we had a mix of teaching and discussion. The professors lecture for most of the class, but they encourage participation, even in classes upwards of 40 students. Class sizes vary too, from just three to four people, or up to 40 (the limit).

Class lengths are not too different, with the majority being being 1 hour 15 minutes, and some being 2-3 hours. The start and finish times are quite diverse however, with some starting as early as 8am, and some finishing at 10pm. When you choose your classes though, you can see the times of the classes and tailor-make a schedule to your liking, so super early or late classes are not a necessity! Most study abroad students take four classes, what King’s requires, but it is possible to take five if you want.

The biggest adaption for studies was the amount of work and the resulting assessment. Seeing as classes meet two or three times a week, you often have readings for each of these classes, so it is not uncommon to be given 100-200 pages of articles/chapters per module per week. You are expected to be knowledgeable on these readings, as participation is sometimes a large portion of the grade. One of my classes requires a one-page review of the readings each week, and another has tests each class on what we have read. The main forms of assessment come in the form of midterms (exams) and papers (essays). Most classes have either a combination of midterms and papers with a final. For my situation, as well as regular quizzes and reading reviews, I had two midterms and a final for one class, three mid length papers for two classes, and two long papers for another.

While the amount of work seems daunting, the level of the content is less difficult than King’s, so it is easier to do well. Paper titles often encourage independent research, and allow you to choose something you are interested in to write on – provided it is relevant to the class. This does make the amount of work more manageable, and there is always the knowledge that if you mess up one paper or midterm, you have many more opportunities to get your grade up.

It is important to note that the amount of work can be difficult to cope with, and some students (exchange and full-time) often became overwhelmed at times. The library is open 24/7 throughout the semester and it is busy the majority of the time. Professors are aware of the intensity, and because of this they are often flexible with deadlines. The administration is also aware of the workload, encouraging time to relax and unwind, and they also provide an efficient counselling service if needed.

In light of the intensity, the workload is manageable once you get used to it, and it is incredibly rewarding. I would say that it is one of the best parts of the experience, with the professors providing highly engaging and informative classes, the workload forces you to organize yourself and be diligent in how you study. The Georgetown academic experience is certainly unique and a great difference from King’s, and provides a new, useful approach to your subject of study.

Weekend Activities

Being Washington D.C., there are enough things to do for each weekend you’re here. With Georgetown being a short uber, bus ride or mid length walk to the National Mall, you are never far from museums, galleries and monuments. Within the DC Smithsonian institution alone, there are 17 museums and galleries, as well as the National zoo. 11 of the Smithsonian museums are on the National Mall, including the National Gallery, National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of American History, the Renwick Gallery, and many more. All of the Smithsonian museums are free. There are dozens of other museums around that do require a small fee, but some are well worth visiting – particularly the newly opened Newseum.

20 minutes on the bus, a short jog, or a 45-minute brisk walk gets you to the White House and the monuments themselves, and seeing those goes without saying. As well as seeing them in the winter when it’s quieter, the best time to see them is during the National Cherry Blossom festival in March/April. There are hundreds of cherry blossom trees (donated by Japan) that bloom each year, making the whole city beautiful – and particularly the Tidal Basin by the Jefferson Memorial of the mall. The Capitol Building, the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress are at the other end of the mall, furthest from Georgetown. You can get guided tours of the Capitol, too. Walking the entirety of the mall and trying to fit in all the monuments at once is a bit of a trek, so it’s best to do separate trips for each part of the mall.

It is possible to get a White House tour – but it’s unlikely if you’re British. To get a tour you have to coordinate it with your embassy, but the British embassy doesn’t offer this. I know from friends that the Australian embassy does! Another thing I recommend is a tour of the Pentagon, which is open to all providing you complete a security check. Nearby the Pentagon is Arlington Cemetery, which is worth the trip over to Virginia.

Washington’s location makes it perfect for day trips to nearby cities too, such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, Colonial Williamsburg, and Alexandria – all of which are less 1-2 hours away. At a stretch you could make a day trip to New York, but it’s best to make a weekend of it. Also, during the long weekends it’s possible to go further afield, and some exchange students went to Boston (by bus – 8 hours) and Chicago (flight – 2 hours).


My time abroad at Georgetown has been one of the best experiences of my life. I know it seems that everybody seems to have this sentiment, but it really is one of the best times to have as an undergraduate student. It is one of the best decisions I’ve made, and if you choose to apply to study at Georgetown - then I can vouch that your experience will be unparalleled.

Being able to have another set of friends and experiences in another city outside of King’s is immeasurable, and really throws you out of your comfort zone – in a good way. The Georgetown experience is certainly unique, but you still get to embrace the typical US college experience, red solo cups and all. Whilst the time here has been challenging at times, being able to get through it and having memorable trips throughout the semester really adds to both one’s confidence and independence. 

University of California

Inti Mantripp, 2015-2016 at University of California San Diego

Top Ten Things

1. Food

It’s so good. The number of places I got excited about and the quality of portion sizes are things I could write this whole article on. Firstly, there are loads of cuisines available. Obviously millions of Mexican places. You have to go to The Taco Stand, Lucha Libre, Mike’s Tacos and if you really want something more authentic then Tacos El Gordo in Chula Vista. It isn’t really Mexican food as you’d get in Mexico, but it’s still amazing. Other cuisines though: Georgian/Uzbek/Russian, Lebanese, Japanese, Korean, Turkish, typical American diner experience. There’s a lot to try and it’s amazing.

2. Weather

Obviously it’s incredible. I don’t really know how else to reinforce it. Be prepared for beautiful views of the sea and a temperate lifestyle.

3. Living on campus

It’s really different. UC San Diego’s campus is about 2 miles long and a mile wide. All first year students live on the campus, and some second year and third years too, so every day the people you see are students. Honestly, I’m glad I experienced it, although I do prefer living in London. It makes for a very different environment to study in, and the student community is considerably more connected because of it. The campus is also right next to the beach (something you won’t get in London for sure).

4. Being from the UK in California

If you have a British accent in California, people look at you like you’re a mixture of unicorn and celebrity when you speak. It’s pretty amusing.

5. Surfing

I started surfing with my best friend. We still talk about it and are planning on going to the Philippines together. UC San Diego’s recreation department offers probably the best deal on surfing ever created. $60 for 8 weeks of lessons (8 lessons) with board rental included (although you might need to rent a wetsuit).

6. Sea lions/whales/marine life

So UC San Diego is actually in northern San Diego, in a very fancy neighbourhood called La Jolla (on Sundays loads of millionaires fly their biplanes around). La Jolla Cove is a small cove area super close by with a ton of sea lions just chilling on the beach. You can go really close to some of them (they can smell so bad), and in spring their pups are with them. There are also whale watching tours you can go on, which I 100% suggest you do (I do love whales). I saw pods of Grey Whales and a Blue Whale coming out of the ocean. There are pelicans flying around the place, crabs, and very occasionally the ocean becomes luminescent (algae in the ocean begins to glow and it looks incredible).

7. Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is in Northern California, and the climate there is considerably different to San Diego (which is about as far south as you can get). We went there during Winter Break to go skiing. I’m just going to let this picture do the talking.

Inti and this Lake

8. Crazy standard of living in La Jolla

So, for the first quarter I lived off-campus in an apartment complex. Now, while it was a comparable price to what I pay in London, the complex came with a pool, volleyball courts, hot tub and communal BBQ areas, and as far as I can ascertain that’s just the standard expected in the area around UC San Diego. There are those facilities on campus too, just 5-10 minutes’ walk from wherever you are. 

9. Having loads of international friends

I ended up making friends with people from so many different countries. A lot of Mexicans, one of my best friends was Japanese, a girl from Kazakhstan, people from the Philippines, South Korea and Ecuador. The university is super international, and the fact that you will make friends with people from so many different backgrounds is absolutely one of the best things I think you will experience. 

Inti and these friends

10. Ending up in crazy situations

 This mainly stems from the Japanese friend I made. He was the kind of guy who would call me to ask what I was doing, and then tell me he was outside in his car and that we were going surfing. Because of him I ended up in lots of crazy situations. Interviews with banks, competing in dance competitions, hosting a radio show, playing on the main stage of a music festival are all things I can trace back to him.


So, the issue with UC San Diego for EAP students (as you probably are) is that they only have accommodation on-campus for about 30% of the EAP students who are coming. Those students are housed in I-house, which is a super fun place to be and has the best rooms on campus (you get a room to yourself, which is rare for US colleges, many people I knew were in triples). Getting into I-house requires you to complete an application form and answer several questions. My advice is to try and show awareness of the activities in I-house, and also to try and convey your personality as much as possible. Each application question is marked and then the highest scoring people are offered places. It is competitive though.

I didn’t get into I-house at first, which was stressful. I had to find accommodation off campus, in a place I had never been to before while in another continent. It is doable though! There are many Facebook groups for students looking for off campus accommodation, with people advertising rooms and looking for them; and there will be other students from King’s going to UC San Diego, so my advice is to reach out to both these groups. Also get in touch with other students from King’s (probably not all of them got into I-house either). The college operates bus services from many nearby residences, so getting to and from campus isn’t difficult off campus (I actually cycled, which most people thought was insane). Nearby apartment complexes you could also try getting in touch with are: Nobel Luxury Apartments, Costa Verde Apartments, Villas of Renaissance, International Gardens and Solazzo Apartments.


The system in the US is different. For starters, there are three quarters of study each academic year, rather than two semesters as we have had at King’s. Each quarter lasts 10 weeks, with a break for Christmas after the first quarter and a week in between the second and third that happens towards the end of March.

The way you choose classes is very different too. At King’s, I am used to choosing my modules 6 months in advance, and then those choices being fed into some great timetabling matrix with everyone else’s and some timetable that works for everyone being produced. What happens at UCSD is that each class runs a number of available times, say three times a week at different times. Students can then enrol in classes on a first come, first serve basis. So that there isn’t some mad avalanche rush for classes, each student can enrol in classes after a certain time, so the enrolment times are all staggered. Basically, what this boils down to is that you might not get the classes you wanted depending on the times you are allocated for enrolment. It also means though that you have some control over your timetable, as you can choose the classes you want to take and see when those classes are.

Another way it is different. Textbooks. Loads of classes in the US require you to buy a textbook for the class, and these are stupidly expensive. This is just something to be prepared for. It’s super annoying and I appreciate King’s so much more because this doesn’t happen, but it’s therefore worth checking classes to see which textbooks they require you to have and then seeing how much those are.

Assessment is also super different. Here most of my modules have been assessed on the basis of essays I submit at the end of the semester or on final exams in May, and that has been 100% of my grade. There your grades are assessed from lots of small contributing factors. It might be 10% attendance, 10% contribution, 25% on a midterm, 25% on another midterm and then 30% on a final exam. This couples with the different grade boundaries, where an A is 90%+, a B 80-90% and C 70-80%. Below 70% is a fail.

What I found is that getting a high grade wasn’t hard. The small assessments we took throughout the class weren’t difficult, but they were just time consuming. So doing well took time but not so much effort. A paper that in the UK would receive say a low 2:1 would receive an A in the US, but you’d have to complete it in say 3 days rather than a week or two.

Weekend Activities

Beaches - They’re amazing. You will definitely go. Surf while you’re there. Swim. Get a tan.

Pacific Beach/Gas lamp district - San Diego has some super fun nightlife areas. Pacific Beach (PB) is where a lot of students go, either on Thursdays (a lot of places offer cheaper drinks) or weekends. Gaslamp is more where everyone in San Diego goes, and a lot of artists perform at the venues there. The Chainsmokers were there when I went, and Snoop played a few nights. 

San Diego Zoo - It’s genuinely really great. I love animals but I am not a huge fan of zoos. San Diego zoo is so cute though. Definitely check out the birds they have there. Many of them are so impressively majestic and not many people go there because it’s a bit more of a walk.

Potato Chip Rock - This is a really good hike with a great picture spot at the end (although there will invariably be a queue). The trail is over and around some mountains (hills?), and over a lake. You can go fishing the lake too.

Inti and friend

Mexico - Most of my best friends were Mexican, so they took me over the border for some nights out. Some people advise against this, but I had probably one of the most fun nights of the year there. The clubs there don’t close at 2am like they do in San Diego, and entry and drinks are way cheaper. 

Aquatics Centre - There is an aquatics centre nearby which offers loads of water-related things you can do. I went paddle boarding and you could also rent jet skis.

Travel - You should (and probably will) travel while you’re there. You can visit Mexico, Nevada (Las Vegas), San Francisco, LA, Santa Barbara all just with a car, and they’re not too expensive to rent as a group, or alternatively fly too. 

Inti and this Bridge



During that year I met some of the most incredible and important people to me, and together with them made some of my most treasured memories. So much happened all the time that right now the period merges into one big blur of stuff happening.

Leaving was very sad. I left my friends and girlfriend there, unsure of when I would see them again. For a while after I was determined to return there when I graduated, but that has changed a little with time and having been back in the UK for a while. This is because, while being there was amazing, I also now appreciate a lot of the things we have here and in other countries a lot more. Some of these things are:

During that year I met some of the most incredible and important people to me, and together with them made some of my most treasured memories. So much happened all the time that right now the period merges into one big blur of stuff happening.

Leaving was very sad. I left my friends and girlfriend there, unsure of when I would see them again. For a while after I was determined to return there when I graduated, but that has changed a little with time and having been back in the UK for a while. This is because, while being there was amazing, I also now appreciate a lot of the things we have here and in other countries a lot more. Some of these things are:

1) British people are absolutely hilarious.

2) Public transport, the NHS and free museums are things we should be very proud to have and value.

3) We have so much history around us, especially living in London.

4) Europe feels more internationally aware than the US. Pretty much all the news you receive in the US is about what is going on in the US, and much of what is going on in the rest of the world simply isn’t reported, as if it isn’t considered interesting or relevant. I prefer being in a place that is more internationally aware.

5)  There are lots of other places I’d like to see. Peru and maybe Japan this Summer J.

Inti and this girl

Rosie Willis, 2012-2013 at University of California San Diego

Top ten things

1. Living in I-House: Living in an International House was an amazing experience. UCSD I-House had a mixture of international and US students which gave me the best of both worlds. Living with American students enabled me to experience first-hand what student life was like for them; they were all involved in societies and extra-curricular activities and were very busy and productive. Whilst the American students provided an invaluable experience, having other international students around enabled me to learn of other cultures and traditions from all over the world at the same time. Also, since all the international students were on exchange, we were all keen to make the most of our time abroad. Every opportunity that arose we would organise road trips meaning I saw more of the US than most of my American friends had! Living with other exchange students also meant that if anyone ever felt homesick there was always someone to talk to as we all went through the year together. I-House was a community and we all helped each other along the way.

2. Campus life: Campus life was extremely different to life at King’s. My classes, dining halls and markets were all a 5-10 minute walk away. Library walk, the main street on campus, was always full of stands for student societies, clothes stalls and food. There was a weekly farmers market on campus selling food from various countries, fresh fruit and veg and some amazing lemongrass chicken! There was a movie theatre on campus, regular dances and student run performances such as musicals, plays and comedy improvisation groups. If there was anything you wanted to get involved in, from sports to politics to volunteering, there was always a society or an event on campus that would fulfil your need. Campus had such an exciting buzz about it. Although sometimes I felt slightly disconnected from the outside world, it was great to be a part of and I am so thankful I had the opportunity to experience it.

3. Weather: The one thing I have found really hard to adjust to since I returned to the UK is the weather. I don’t remember it being this cold before I left! The weather in San Diego was beautiful; it was sunny all year round, it hardly ever rained and in the winter it rarely went below 18 degrees. I never had to wear anything bigger than a jumper to keep warm, even in the winter! I do remember one day where it rained quite heavily in San Diego. The reason I remember is because they talked about the rain on the news for hours and even interviewed people on the street asking for their opinion on the rain. Having come from the UK, I found this bizarre! To me it was just a rainy day, but to the San Diego residents it seemed crazy that it had rained for more than a few hours. I have very few memories of rain other than this one. The rest of the year was warm and sunny but since Southern California is a desert and campus was right by the sea, it never felt humid or too hot. It was the perfect temperature all year round.

4. Beaches: San Diego is home to some really beautiful beaches. Campus is only a 5 minute walk from Blacks, a beach famous for its powerful surf (and also famous for being a nudist beach, although the majority of people will wear bathing suits so don’t let that put you off!). La Jolla Cove, Pacific Beach, Mission Bay and Ocean Beach are all a bus journey away and each one is as stunning as the next. Many of the international students I lived with took up surfing whilst at UCSD, either learning from friends or through a class run by the University (having tried surfing before and failing miserably I opted not to take up these classes). Welcome events at the beginning of the academic year were often held at the beach with free food, free kayaking and surfing classes and even some surfing dogs! Watching the sunset at the beach or heading down in the evening for a bonfire was a regular occurrence. Now that I’m back in London I really miss seeing the ocean almost every day, the River Thames doesn’t quite have the same affect!

5. Travel: Wherever you are studying in America, you are always going to be able to travel around. Flights between cities are usually quite cheap, renting a car is easy and relatively cheap and petrol is much cheaper than it is here in the UK. USA is such a big country with so many different environments to offer from snow-capped mountains to farm lands to deserts. I got to go skiing for the first time and, although it was a bit of a disaster, I am glad I had the chance to try it! Throughout the year I visited LA, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Austin, New Orleans, Miami, Salt Lake City, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, New York, Washington DC, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Boston and Mexico. San Diego was in a great location; Mexico was a 30 minute drive away and LA and Vegas were close enough to visit over a weekend trip. Before I went on exchange I never imagined I would be able to visit such iconic places as Vegas or New York. Looking back I feel so lucky to have been offered the chance to live in America for a year and visit the places I did. It really was an amazing year.

6. Classes: The structure of classes at UCSD was very different to that which I had experienced at King’s College. I took 3 upper division Math classes per quarter; each class had a weekly homework which counted towards my final grade, one or two midterms throughout the quarter and a final exam at the end of the quarter. Having come from King’s (where I take 4 modules per semester and have 8 final exams in May contributing 100% of my final module grade) I was initially slightly overwhelmed by the regularity of the work. After a few weeks I became accustomed to working more often and by the end of the quarter it was a much less stressful experience than the last minute cramming sessions I am used to at King’s. Having completed the year at UCSD I am certain that I will keep up the work ethic I adopted whilst away for my final year of study at King’s. Classes were also a lot more personal at UCSD. I took a few classes which had less than 10 students attending meaning I got to talk to the Professor more than I would at King’s. Since homework counted towards the final module grade everybody went to tutorial sessions and had a strong academic and personal relationship with the TA’s. There were also reading modules available to students; a class which involved one to one classes with a Professor and individual reading on a subject. I participated in one of these classes which enabled me to see how a professional Mathematician works and introduced me to individual reading.

7. Being British in America: Americans love British people. It’s a fact. As soon as people meet you they are instantly intrigued by the accent. Being born in the UK, we can take for granted what a quaint and unique country we live in. The students I met from all countries had lots of questions and really wanted to know what life in the UK is like. Americans are also very welcoming people; they will go out of their way to make you feel at home. I personally had a host family for the first 3 days of my time in the US; I was placed with an American couple who had volunteered to welcome international students to the country. They helped me set up a phone, a bank account, showed me where the campus was and took me to some great Mexican restaurants. Having a British accent can also be a lot of fun in America; people are more likely to believe anything you tell them due to the accent (which can be very amusing). You won’t have any trouble making friends with a British accent in America.

8. College traditions: There are traditions which are common place for American students, some which happen in colleges all over the US and some which are college specific. One of the nationwide traditions which I was most surprised by is the quarterly undie run; every Wednesday of finals week students meet on campus in their underwear and continue to run around campus. This may sound like a breeding ground for bad decisions but it really was not! It was just a bunch of students meeting up and doing something completely crazy to take their mind off of exam stress. And it worked.

9. Sun God Festival: Sun God is an annual day long music festival held on the UCSD campus. It is free for UCSD students and is the biggest campus event of the year. Sun God is wild. Every student goes hard for the day, Professors cancel class and the whole campus is like one big party.

10. San Diego: San Diego is an amazing city to live in. It was the perfect balance between city and beach life; not too hectic a city, but not too small. The people were so friendly and relaxed. Every time I visited Pacific Beach there would be people rollerblading along the beachside, music playing and people dancing, and there was always a man hula hooping about 20 hoops. It was such a relaxed and calming environment. I visited a lot of other cities around the US whilst I was on exchange but San Diego was definitely my favourite. There are plenty of things to do around the city such as visit the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, Balboa Park, Coronado Island, visit the beaches and much more. I absolutely loved living in San Diego and really hope I can go back one day. 


On campus accommodation: Living on campus is extremely common for first and second year American students. There are 6 different colleges within UCSD (each with their own halls of residence) an International House and The Village, a residence for transfer students.

As UCSD is the largest of all the UC campuses, your class could be anywhere from a 2 minute walk to a 10-15 minute walk depending on your residence and the location of your classes. There will usually be a building for a certain subject (i.e. the Applied Mathematics & Physics building) so it is worth having a look at where your classes are likely to be and seeing how far away the residence you are going for will be from this building; will you walk there each day, use the UCSD shuttle services or ride a bike to class?

International House: I-House is known around UCSD as the ‘most fun’ place to live on campus. There are around 300 students that live at I-House consisting of approximately 50% international students and 50% American students.

Although living in I-House can seem quite expensive ($9,626-$10,426 for the academic year), your fees each semester will come with a dining planmeaning you don’t have to buy that much food for yourself. There are 2 dining halls close to I-House and 2 markets a few minutes walking distance away (one of which serves the best burritos!).

I-House is also one of the only residences on campus offering mainly single rooms. Having a roommate is quite common place in the US so if you choose to go for another on campus residence or a private apartment off campus you are likely to be sharing a room.

I-House is around a 5 minute walk from the Price Centre (the main hub on campus) so most classes won’t take too long to walk to. However, some students would cycle to class or catch the campus loop bus which stops right outside I-House and is free for UCSD students.

Blacks beach is around a 10 minute walk from I-House and La Jolla shores will take you about 10-15 minutes on the bus. Students at I-House would often take trips to the beach between classes as it was so close and the weather was so nice!

The application process for I-House can be quite daunting. There are 4 essay questions, a creative piece, and you are required to provide a reference. The main thing they want to see in your essays is that you want to get involved in the activities and clubs available to residents of I-House such as the language conversation classes, I-Slam open mic nights, Model United Nations and much more.

The best thing about living in I-House is that you get to meet and live with people from all over the world. Living with other exchange students is great as they will all want to make the most of their year abroad and travel to other destinations is the US (something which I found the US students were not always that keen to do). Not only do you get to experience the American college lifestyle at I-House, you get to learn of other cultures and ultimately, have friends all over the world.

The Village: The village is a residence designed specifically for transfer students (students who have completed 1 or 2 years at another University in the US and have transferred to UCSD to finish their degree). The Village is around 2 minutes walking distance from I-House so it is not hard to be involved in everything happening at I-House and meet other international students. It is slightly further away from the rest of campus than I-House but is slightly closer to the beach.

Price will be around $9626 for the full academic year which is cheaper than I-House however you will be sharing a room with another student when living at the village. This price includes a $2350 dining plan and dining halls and markets are only a short distance away.

As an exchange student you may not receive your UCSD student number until after the application deadline for on campus housing. The application to live in I-House is a completely separate process to the rest of the on campus accommodation; once you receive your student number you will still be able to apply to live in I-House before their application deadline. However if you choose not to apply to I-House or if you are not awarded a place you will have the option to put yourself on the Undergraduate Housing Waitlistuntil a room becomes available for you to live in (it is advised that you put yourself on this waitlist even if you are going to apply to I-House in case you do not get a place). This is how you would apply to live in The Village or in any on campus accommodation other than I-House.

Halls of Residence: When living in campus halls of residence it is highly likely that you will be in a double or even a triple room. The price for these rooms would be $9179-$9979 for the academic year. Single rooms are sometimes available in halls of residence and cost $10,779 for the academic year. Both of these options include a $3060 dining plan for the year. Each hall of residence will be in one of the 6 colleges of UCSD and each college has its own dining hall and market so you will always be close to these.

Halls of residence at UCSD are often quiet and do not automatically equip one with the social life you would expect as a student. If you would prefer a less lively and quieter setting, halls of residence may be right for you. If you would like to spend some time meeting other students and socialising I would advise opting for I-House or The Village.

Off campus accommodation: UCSD has an off campus housing department. There are a number of pages offering help for students wanting to find off campus accommodation, students looking for roommates and specific help pages for international students. All of this can be found on the UCSD Housing website. Students who lived off campus would usually pay around $500-$900 a month. This would depend on whether they were living in a house or an apartment or if they were sharing a room or not.

A lot of off campus students tend to live on Regents or Nobel drive. La Jolla is full of apartment complexes so there is plenty of accommodation available for students. There are several buses from UCSD to the surrounding areas in La Jolla and any bus that passes through the UCSD campus is free for USCD students so you shouldn’t have to pay for your transport to campus.

Some students arranged housing through the off campus housing web pages before they arrived in San Diego although others stayed in a hostel when they arrived and found accommodation after arriving.

Arriving in San Diego: It is unlikely that you will be flying in to San Diego and going straight from the airport to moving into your accommodation. There are several hostels around UCSD where you could stay and a lot of people met other international students who were going to UCSD in the hostels. There are also shuttle services from the airport which you can book online before your flight so you don’t have to worry about arriving and finding a taxi. There is also an organisation called Solana Beach Host Families which pair international students with host families. Once paired the host family will pick you up from the airport, give you a place to stay for your first few days in the city, probably help you set up a bank account and mobile phone, and help you move into your accommodation. 


Classes: Each class at UC is usually worth 2-4 academic credits. If you are planning on taking a class you will need to find out how many credits it is worth as you are required to take 12 units per quarter (or 16 units per semester if you are at UC Berkeley) to maintain your visa status.

There are 2 types of classes; lower division and upper division. Lower division classes are intended for first and second year students. They will often be large classes, anywhere up to around 200 students, and there will be students from all majors in the class as US students have to fulfil certain GE (general education) classes as well as classes in their major. Upper division classes are intended for third and fourth year students and so, tend to be smaller as they will only contain students in that major.

Each class will have weekly lectures and discussion sessions (the same as a seminar or a tutorial).

Assessment: You will be assessed far more regularly throughout the quarter at UC than you would be at King’s. There will usually be some form of assessment each week per class. This could be homework sheets, a brief in-class test, or a short essay. On top of this there will be one (sometimes two) midterms for each class occurring anywhere between the 3rd and 9th week of the quarter (the quarter is 10 weeks long). After the 10th and final week of classes they have ‘finals week’ and your final exam for the class will be in this week. The final exam will usually contribute around 40% of your grade for the class, the rest of the mark coming from the assessments throughout the quarter.

Enrolment: Most classes will have prerequisites so you will need to get permission from the department to take the class before you can officially enrol. You can do this by emailing the Undergraduate Program Advisor in the department. In the email you should tell them what class you want to enrol in, what prerequisites the class has and what classes you have taken that are similar to those required.

You can take any class from any department in UC (as long as you satisfy the prerequisites). This means you can take classes in show choir, photography, ballet and even The Beatles. But remember, you will need to make sure you take enough classes to transfer back to King’s credit.

Academic Help: You won’t have a personal tutor at UC. However there will be academic advising offices that you can go to if you need help with general things such as how many classes to take, finding tutors, etc. If you are having trouble with a specific class you should speak to the Professor of that class or one of the TA’s (teaching assistants), both will have regular office hours each week. The TA for the class will be the person who marks your homework or tests and often marks the midterm and final as well so they will be a great help if you are stuck.

Weekend activities

Pacific Beach: PB is close to the UCSD campus; you can get a (free) bus from the campus straight to PB. There are lots of shops, restaurants, bars, ice cream parlours and a beach to top it all off. PB is quite a vibrant and liberating place. You will see all sorts of people around and often there are street performers by the beach. On Tuesday nights, they have ‘Taco Tuesdays’, which means all you can eat tacos for $5 and cheap cocktails. My advice: never have more than one AMF.

Go to a theme park: San Diego Zoo, Sea World San Diego and Legoland are all in the San Diego County and are great for a day out on the weekend. If you’re looking to go a little further, there a many theme parks in the Los Angeles area such as Six Flags, Universal Studios and Disneyland. UCSD also has its own aquarium situated at the Scripps Institute which is free with a UCSD student ID.

Balboa Park: Balboa Park is a beautiful park which is filled with museums to visit. There is an Automotive Museum, Air and Space Museum, Art Museum, Museum of Man and many more. Each Tuesday, certain museums will be free for San Diego residents. Take a look at the Balboa Park website to see which ones are free on which weeks and take your student card for free entry!

Coronado Island: Coronado Island is a small place with a few restaurants, a great ice cream parlour, more beautiful beaches and a famous hotel. A lovely place to go for a day!

Potato chip rock: If you like hiking, Mt Woodson Summit is in San Diego and there is a 4 mile trail to the famous ‘Potato Chip Rock’. The trail is around a lake and the San Diego Mountains which make for amazing views, and when you reach Potato Chip Rock it makes an amazing picture!

Travel: If you have a long weekend, San Diego is in the perfect destination to go travelling. Flights can be cheap if you book in advance or you could rent a car which is not too expensive if there is a group of people.

San Francisco is around an 8 hour drive or a short flight. The drive to San Francisco is along the coast which is beautiful. You can see the ocean for the whole journey and there are lots of small beach towns to stop at along the way. San Fran is also a great city. It’s vibrant, cultural, and there are a lot of things to do and see.

LA and Santa Barbara are only a couple of hours north of San Diego. LA offers many theme parks and attractions. Santa Barbara is a smaller city with amazing beaches and a quaint and chilled downtown area.

The Grand Canyon is a great place to go if you have a long weekend. It’s a rather long drive, around 12 hours, but you could stop for a night in Phoenix, Arizona along the way and see the city. Monument Valley is another national park which is a couple of hours further from the Grand Canyon and it’s quite easy to fit both places into a long weekend. Both places are incredibly beautiful and I would definitely recommend that you visit them.

Vegas is only around a 5 hour drive away and is a great place to go for the weekend! The city is like nothing you will have seen before. Everything is extravagant, from the dancing fountains to moving statues to a canal in a mall equipped with gondolas and singing gondoliers! 


During the last few days of my year abroad, I was somewhat apprehensive about returning to the UK. Now, one year on, I feel like my time abroad has allowed me to appreciate the UK in a new way; I’ve enjoyed this year in London much more than my time here before studying abroad (that’s not to say that I’ll be staying here forever!).

My plans for the future have definitely changed since studying abroad. Before I went away, my goals were mainly academic. Although I still plan to pursue postgraduate studies, I’m taking some time out upon finishing my degree to improve my language skills and to have the opportunity to live in more exciting countries, particularly countries whose native language is Spanish. This will be a challenge for me and is something I never would have considered had I not spent a year abroad in California; studying abroad gave me the confidence and independence to do these things.

Working as a Peer Advisor has enabled me to see how much effort is put in by others in order to enable King’s students to have these experiences. The new partnerships currently being made are further expanding the global recognition of King’s, and I’m very jealous of the opportunities students coming to King’s are going to have!

Overall, studying abroad really has broadened my horizons; I no longer feel the need to restrict myself to living in a country whose culture is similar to that in the UK, I am willing to study more areas unrelated to my degree such as languages and history, and I feel confident that whatever I want to do, I will be able to do it.

Kate Rudzite, 2011-2012 at University of California Los Angeles

I absolutely loved my time in the US. I attended UCLA, which is a very beautiful and huge campus. The campus by many is believed to be the second most beautiful after Stanford. The main thing I wanted to experience was see how it is to attend a university, which has one unified campus, and that is exactly what UCLA offers. The campus is very big, I actually had to walk every morning about 25 minutes from the halls to the other side of the campus, to get to the Film and TV department. However, it was very interesting for me, as all the major traffic is restricted within the campus, which means that everywhere I went around the campus, there were mostly only students just like me. This is something very different than what universities in London offer.

What I also found interesting was how very active students are - most of them are participating in some kind of sports activity. UCLA actually has two big sports fields as well as a stadium, tennis courts, a gym, basketball and volleyball halls, basically a place to practice any kind of sport from football to Quidditch. Sometimes I had a feeling that I actually was attending a sports-education school, which is not completely false, as UCLA students at the London Olympics won 9 medals, 6 of them gold.

Another interesting thing I found was how very structured the life at the campus was. I was living in the halls, and was automatically enrolled to have a meal plan - either 11 or 14 meal swipes a week. Thus I could go to any of the diners within the campus and have anything from the menu by just swiping my student card. I also liked that my UCLA student card worked both as a credit card, a meal card, access card to computer rooms and dorms, as well as an ID. As most of the students are using meal swipe system, many of them actually didn't feel a need to leave the campus, as it has stores, cafes, diners, student-run theatre and even a police and fire department, health centre and a hospital. 

One of the disadvantages is moving around outside the campus. While Westwood, a small district of cute little shops, cafes and cinemas is next to UCLA, the LA downtown is pretty far. In the LA if one doesn't have a car, it is rather difficult and time-consuming to get around the city, as it is huge, and with a bus to get to the downtown it actually takes at least an hour or even more. To get to the Santa Monica beach also takes some time - 45-50mins., however it is worth it.

As for my experience as a film student, I think UCLA is a very good choice, as it is considered to be one of the best film schools in the country. While I wasn't allowed to attend any practical courses, I enrolled in a screenwriting class, which is something KCL doesn't offer. There was some overlapping between the modules I had taken at KCL and UCLA, for example, many things I already knew in the History of European Cinema, as well as History of American Cinema. Therefore it was also easier for me to get better grades. The overall level of education as well as lecturer expectations are also lower than at KCL, which allowed to get better grades as well. The classes I took were mostly open for every major, therefore many people who took them were actually science or humanities majors, and many took film class for the first time. Therefore lots of times TAs returned to basics during the first few weeks of semester, giving overviews on how to read film properly.

Studying abroad is a great experience, it gives you opportunity to get to know completely different culture and country, as well as meet new friends from all over the world. I would definitely recommend students to use this opportunity.

Chandni Lakhani, 2011-2012 at University of California Los Angeles

I really had an amazing experience at UCLA, it was worth everything I went through to get there including the nerves and financial cost. I made some of the best friends I will ever have and really had so much fun, as well as learning a lot both academically and socially. At first, I found the UCLA campus extremely daunting, LA as a city is a very large city where the best way to travel around is by car. The first few days there was probably the most scared I have ever been in my life; but it was all worth it in the end. The campus is beautiful and comprehensive, literally everything to the dining halls to leisure facilities and student union are all designed for students to make the most out of. It is very easy to make friends with an English accent, all you have to do is put yourself out there and people will be more than willing to show you around. 

However, in order to achieve a smooth transition, there are a number of things students must do before they go to LA, which is not always made clear. For example, you must find accommodation before you go there, especially if you have never been to LA before it is invaluable to already have somewhere to live when you arrive. By going to the housing website and looking at the different options, and booking them with your ucla ID which you will be emailed, you can easily find accommodation on campus and often you can purchase a meal plan with it (which I thoroughly recommend because UCLA dining halls are incredible). You also need to pay attention to when you can enrol on classes online, which will be in November/December before you go! They have two passes when you can enrol and if you really want to do a particular class you need to pay attention to this! And bear in mind that classes start pretty much immediately once you arrive so you may need to already purchase books, which you can do from the UCLA book store although this store is expensive! I am happy to contact students on an individual basis to help them with these things!

Also make sure you contact the Daschew Center for international students and attend their orientation meetings, as well as taking part in their fantastic outings and events which allows you to meet amazing people and see great things in LA such as universal studios and Lakers games! I would also recommend making friends with both locals and other study abroad students, because that way you have friends who know the university, and who are in the same position as you, being new and unfamiliar. Study abroad students tend to want to make the most of travelling and sightseeing more so than local students! 

Most importantly, make the most of your time! Go travelling, meet new people and remember that these six months will fly very quickly and you need to take advantage of your surroundings! During spring break I travelled to San Francisco with my friends and had an amazing time! Doing English at UCLA also allowed me to take advantage of classes I could not do at home, such as Literary Los Angeles and different American lit classes, which I thoroughly recommend. Classes at UCLA are longer and more interactive, which is great because you can earn your grades by just participating fully in classes. You also get to meet lots of people in classes and hear different ideas and opinions which provides you with an interesting perspective on the texts you read.

One major challenge I faced while I was abroad was having a roommate. Although I would say this is part of the experience, and it is not uncommon for people to have problems or disagreements with their roommates, it might be worth considering whether you are the type of person who might prefer paying extra to have a single room. Although the idea of sharing a room can be worrying, I would say don't let it put you off, as I do know other students who have been great friends with their roommates, and even if you do have problems there are always solutions such as moving rooms, which I did initially and so did another friends. Being in a unique environment such as UCLA will probably mean you won't spend much time in your room anyway! 

I hope all of this helps, sorry my thoughts aren't that well organised, there is so much to say!

Melissa Gardner, 2012-2013 at University of California Santa Barbara


There are several accommodation options for students going to UCSB. As it is a campus university, everything is pretty much in one place. There are several options for housing:

In America, university Halls of Residence mean that you’ll be sharing a room with two or three roommates. The rooms are often very small, but there are plenty of other study and leisure areas on campus. You can expect to be sharing with mostly first- or second-years. Halls of Residence places are not available to international students every year and, although they’re within easy walking distance of campus, you might be expected to move out between terms and they don’t give you a great deal of privacy.

UCSB provides a better option for students in their University Apartments. You apply for a place through the university accommodation system, so it is easy to organise before you go. If you are offered a place at one of the three sites (Santa Ynez, El Dorado or Westgate), they give you the opportunity to find potential roommates who share you interests via a closed Facebook page. You’ll still be sharing a room with one or two other people, but you have communal kitchen facilities and a living room area. There is a real community spirit to living in these apartments and most residents are international or transfer students (third-year students who have just transferred from another college to UCSB), so it’s easy to make loads of new friends. They are open for the entire academic year, although you do have to move out quite quickly once the third semester is done, which is not so great if you want to spend the summer travelling. Most of these are within 20-30min walking distance/10min bike ride.

If you aren’t offered university accommodation, or you’d rather live out, Isla Vista is the number one location for student housing. It is a square mile of privately owned housing, mostly occupied by students, right next to campus. It provides easy access to campus and a selection of shops, but is much more expensive and bills are not included. You probably won’t be able to get a house until you’re there, but you might be able to meet people to share a house with online. There are also some private residence halls (like Tropicana del Norte) and co-operative housing options available here. Some students choose to live in Goleta or Santa Barbara itself, but you’re looking at a 20-30min bus ride each morning and, although you get a free bus pass, you might start having to plan your social life round the bus timetable, as they don’t run all night. 


Before the start of each semester, you’ll be asked to sign up for classes through GOLD. Be aware of when your ‘pass times’ are, because different people sign up at different times to make the system fairer. As an international student, you have high priority, so should get the classes you want before they fill up. A standard class is worth 4 units, you can take a maximum of 21 and a minimum of 12. Check with your home department that your choices will be able to count towards your degree before your pass time starts.

Even if you sorted out your timetable properly, there might be occasions when you have to crash a class (switch to a full class by sitting in on it without being enrolled). This sounds scary, but is pretty simple; go to the class you want to join, make sure the teacher knows you’re an international, keep up with the work and they’ll often prioritise your enrolment. Similarly, when a class requires you to have done prerequisite classes before you can take it, if you think you’ve done something similar, email the teacher and they’ll give you an add code so you can join.

Classes are ten weeks long with an eleventh exam week. There is normally a midterm around week five, a final in week eleven and some coursework/fieldwork/lab work along the way, although classes differ. Some classes, especially language classes, have weekly or fortnightly in-class tests which will also count towards your grade, and attendance is often 5-10%, so it’s best to turn up to every class and participate occasionally. At UCSB, modern language exams are often on the Saturday immediately after week ten (otherwise known as dead week, because of all the studying for finals), so be aware that you haven’t got as much revision time as you have at King’s.

The study facilities at UCSB are excellent; they have an extremely well stocked library, plenty of computers and group or individual work areas either in the library or in the UCen building. The preparation required for classes is similar to at King’s, although sometimes teachers set some rather creative assignments. You’ll get used to the system quickly and if you have any problems, section (seminar) leaders and lecturers are really good at finding time to support you. 

Hannah Morris, 2012-2013 at University of California Berkeley

Top Ten Things

I studied at UC Berkeley for a whole year and, for any one who has the chance to go, I couldn’t recommend it more highly. Here are my top 10 things about studying at Cal:

1. The Climate: The sun is always shining in the Bay Area. While I was there it rained maybe 5 times total (although I’ve heard this is unusual) and from August to November it constantly stayed above 25 degrees. It’s usually foggy in the morning due to the Pacific Ocean but it’s always clear by around 9am. It’s not as hot as in Southern California (better known here as SoCal) in places like LA or San Diego, but for me personally, I prefer warm temperatures rather than temperatures reaching 35 degrees all year round.

2. Location: The Bay Area is in such a good location. You’re about 20 minutes away from San Francisco if you take the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), which is kind of like the London Underground. San Francisco is an amazing city, one of my favourites in the world that I’ve visited. There’s always something to do there, including Pier 39, Ghiradelli Square (famous for chocolate and ice cream), Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf and too many other things to mention. I would definitely recommend befriending someone with a car! There are lots of places more easily reached by car, for example, slightly further down the coast there are some beautiful beaches. You’re also a short flight (or 8 hour bus journey) away from Los Angeles and San Diego.

3. Classes: The way people choose classes is very different than at King’s. There are no set modules for first, second, third or fourth years, you can just choose to do any of them within your chosen discipline. For example, I was in the Integrative Biology department so all of my classes were chosen from the Integrative Bio and Molecular and Cell Bio classes list. There’s lots of choice and the way you sign up is very easy. Once you have your Cal ID and password you just sign into ‘Telebears’ and enter the number for you class and voilà! Also, you can choose the amount of workload you want; At King’s you have to take 120 units, whereas at Cal you can take anywhere between 13 and 20 units (classes are usually 3 or 4 units each). Be wary though, upper division science classes require a lot of work. Most local students only take 1 or 2 harder science classes per semester with some easier ones, whereas we have to take solely these classes.

4. Community spirit: Cal pride is a really big thing over here. I would really recommend going to one of the American football games. The stadium sits 60,000 people and the atmosphere is amazing! I have to admit the team isn’t very good though! Everyone wears UC Berkeley t-shirts and jumpers around campus and you can buy these in various shops very cheaply. UC Berkeley is also very into helping the Berkeley community and there’s this day called ‘The Berkeley Project’ where students volunteer just for the day and go out into the community and help people. For example I went to a Youth Community Centre and did some gardening and painting and things like that. It’s a lot of fun and you can do it with friends so I’d definitely recommend this also!

5. Campus: The UC Berkeley campus is beautiful. There are plants and trees everywhere and it doesn’t feel like you’re in urban America at all. Most of the buildings are around 100 years old and look very grand, and there’s a 94m high tower called “the Campanile” which you can go up and see the view of the Bay.  

6. Food: The portions really are as big as everyone says they are over here! There are lots of student friendly places with cheap prices and very good food! There are places which you’ll come to know and love, such as Cinnaholic – a build-your-own cinnamon roll place, Cream – a California-famous ice cream shop and Cheeseboard – a pizza and cheese place that has sooo many different types of cheese, it’s amazing! Aside from all these, there are lots of vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurants and lots of Asian-style cuisine restaurants around. If you live in the dorms you get a meal plan and so there is breakfast, lunch and dinner all on site.

7. Being British: It is really weird how much Americans love British people. I can’t count the number of times people have come up to me and said ‘say, “water”’ or ‘say, “bottle”’ or various other words. They think that it’s awesome that you’re from the UK and I’ve been asked if I’ve met the queen about a dozen times.

8. Golden Gate Bridge: You can see the golden gate bridge from campus if it’s a nice day and it’s just such an amazing thing to see as you’re walking to class. If you get the chance you should definitely go and visit it up close, because it looks amazing. Fun fact – the people who are employed to paint the bridge never finish because as soon as they get to one end, it’s been long enough that they have to start again at the other end already.

9. World renowned professors: The professors that teach here are all invested in current research and what’s happening in their field of study at the moment and so they are excited to teach you and help you. In America, the professors and teach assistants both have these times called ‘office hours’ where you can go in to their office to talk to them about work and things you don’t understand. I love this idea and it’s helped me out a lot when I’ve found something difficult. It’s very different to England where, other than in lecture, you don’t have much contact with the professor. Some of the professors are famous in the academic world as well, and just this year one of the biology professors won the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology.

10. The General Experience: I can’t stress enough how much I recommend studying abroad anywhere in the world, even if it’s not California. I’m not going to lie, I was terrified before I came here but my time abroad has been absolutely amazing and I’m so glad I decided to do it. The time difference between the West Coast and England is 8 hours and that does suck sometimes but (and I know this sounds cheesy) to study in another country for a year without having to pay extortionate fees really is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Eddie Seabrook, 2012-2013 at University of California Berkeley


As an exchange student at UC Berkeley, you have many possible options for accommodation, each of which with its own advantages. There are three main categories to choose from:

Dormitories: Berkeley is home to a variety of dormitories, many of which are very close (if not adjacent) to campus. One of the most popular choices for international students is International House. This residence offers a truly unique experience for study abroad students, by allowing you to live with almost 600 students and researchers from every corner of the globe (including the USA). A variety of other dormitories are located around the edge of campus. It’s worth noting that some of these (such as the Units) are open only to first/second year students and some are also only open to either boys or girls (such as Bowles and Stern). A large majority of the rooms in these dormitories are shared, between 2 or more people of the same gender. Whilst single rooms certainly are available, they are often in higher demand and are significantly more expensive. All of the dormitories will come with a meal plan, and you will eat your meals in a dining hall either inside your dormitory or you will be able to dine at a selection of nearby locations.

Co-operatives: There are 20 residences in Berkeley which are known as Co-ops. The idea behind these residences is that they are run and managed entirely by the students. Jobs, such as cooking and cleaning, are split up into equal work shifts (usually 5 hours a week), which everyone has to participate in. This allows the students to have a bigger influence on the residence than they would in a dormitory environment. For instance, they decide what food gets cooked, how the house is decorated, when to have parties etc. The co-ops offer an experience which is truly specific to Berkeley and are certainly not an opportunity to be turned down easily. The atmosphere at all of these residences is incredibly friendly and welcoming and it’s rare to find somebody not enjoying their time there. As with the dormitories, you are also likely to share a room in a co-op. The co-ops are also advantageous in that they are one of the cheapest options for housing on campus. Some of the coops are significantly bigger than others (the largest houses around 150 students and the smallest around 10) and so the atmosphere in each is quite different. Read more information on each of these residences.

Private Accommodation: If you aren’t keen on either of the above options then there is also the choice to seek your own accommodation in a shared house/flat or an apartment. This will give you more freedom to live further away from campus (if this is something you’d prefer) and also to live with fewer people. An online resource commonly used for finding accommodation (and also a host of other things) in America is Craig's List. Here you will find adverts from potential landlords and also tenants looking for new housemates. Follow this link for more information on seeking accommodation, either on your own or with other people.


Berkeley offers a vast and extensive range of courses. Depending on your course requirements, you will be able to tailor your choices to your specific academic interests.

Classes: If you look at Berkeley’s general catalogue, you’ll notice there are often two types of course: Upper Division and Lower Division. Lower Division courses are intended for first/ second year students whilst Upper Division courses are intended for third/fourth year students. Depending on which period of your degree you spend abroad, you will know which of these is most suitable for you. The amount of students present in a class can vary from less than 10 to over 700. A common course weighting that you will see is 4 units, and this is roughly equivalent to 15 credits at KCL. Most of these courses will be comprised of roughly 3 hours of lectures given by a professor and a 1 hour seminar given by a TA each week. A variety of small courses (worth 1 or 2 units) are available to take at Berkeley. These include general interest courses (such as the Letters and Science Discovery courses), group studies and seminars. Another option is to take a Decal. These are organised by students and usually involve one hour a week of class/discussion, covering many fun and interesting topics from Bob Dylan to Star Trek (http://www.decal.org). If you have room in your academic schedule, courses such as these provide a unique opportunity to try something different to what you would usually do at King’s.

Assessment: It’s likely that the experience you have learning at UCB will differ somewhat from what you are used to at King’s. Almost all courses at Berkeley have midterm examinations in addition to finals. This may come as a surprise at first, for many courses at King’s will have only a final examination. This means you have to be on top of your courses throughout the whole semester, and not just leave studying till the end of term. However, this does have its benefits because it means that by the time you reach the final examination, you already have a part of your course completed and so the stress of the final exam might seem less intense. For literature based majors, you are likely to have a large amount of papers (maybe instead of exams) due throughout the semester which again means that your workload is more evenly spread out. Your exams and papers are likely to be marked by your TAs, but in some particular cases by your professors. Homework and class participation are also often included in your grade and so this further adds to the fact that your grade will assess how you have performed throughout the whole semester and not just on the final exam. As regards scientific majors, there is a great opportunity to try courses from different departments. Indeed, it’s common for physics, engineering and math students to all be in the same classroom together. Also, in many science departments there is a high level of undergraduate research taking place. Many students assist professors in their research (sometimes for university credit) and this is something which is also open to study abroad students.

Enrolment: Once accepted into Berkeley, you will be given a specific time slot in order to register for your first selection of courses on an online platform called Tele-BEARS. Later on, you will be able to add more courses to your schedule but during this first sign up slot most students are allowed 12 units. It’s a good idea to be prepared for this time slot as some classes can start to fill up and it’s a good idea to try and get enrolled on your most preferred classes as soon as possible. Once filled up, many classes will have a waitlist which you can add yourself to. Sometimes, once the semester begins, if the professor is willing to, they will let any extra people on the waitlist join the class. A lot of classes will have prerequisite classes which need to have been taken in order to enrol. As an exchange student this may hold you back due to time limitations and not being able to complete all the prerequisites. However, it’s a good idea to contact your undergraduate supervisor and sometimes even the scheduled lecturer for the class to ask them how serious the prerequisites really are (sometimes they aren’t in fact completely necessary). Sometimes, if you inform them about your specific situation and throw in the English card they are will let you onto the course anyway.

Academic help: Every professor will organise scheduled office hours each week where students are free to approach them with questions relating to the homework sets, exams or even the course itself. In addition to this, the TAs will usually also have scheduled hours if you would prefer to approach them instead. If you are struggling with the course more generally, there is a building on campus known as the Student Learning Centre (SLC) which provides help to students from all majors with their studying. This is a really useful resource and is used by students of all levels and all majors. Alternatively, your department may sometimes organise a period each week where some graduate/PhD students will be available at a certain location to help you with any course from your major.

Libraries: There are a great many possible locations to study around the clock at Berkeley. Sometimes, you will be able to get access to your department building whenever you want, so that you can enter the study rooms there at any hour of the day or night. Also, if you choose to live in a dormitory, there’s a chance that you will have a library located inside your dorm which makes it incredibly efficient to go about your studies. Aside from this there are numerous libraries open to all students such as Doe Library, an expansive and pretty looking building which is an ideal location to study due to its spaciousness.

Kieran Terry, 2011-2012 at University of California Berkeley

Studying at UC Berkeley last year was an extremely enjoyable experience and one I will remember for the rest of my life. The people at the university and in the San Francisco Bay Area are extremely kind and accommodating, many of which are very impressed with the fact you are British, so often it can be a good ice-breaker, and a great chance to meet people.

With regards to the university itself, I feel it really depends on the course you are taking and the requirements by your department. I studied Molecular and Cell Biology (MCB) there as part of my Biomedical Science degree, and although I really enjoyed it and it has done wonders for my CV, the workload is a constant battle. The structure of the semesters is completely different to here at King's with most courses having several mid term exams and then a final exam at the end of the semester. Although a final will only normally be worth about 25-50% (depending on the course) you get just one week to revise an entire semester's workload. I had to study all MCB courses, most of which were the "Upper Division" classes. This puts you at a disadvantage to other students, as whilst I had a lot of tough courses to do, they typically do one or two MCB courses and a few easier ones. Your grades are based on "curves" where they take your mark and compare it to the average, which is set at a different grade depending on the class. For most MCB classes, this average is typically a B-. Having said that, you get holidays, such as Christmas, entirely to yourself with no revision to do!

The campus is very large and has a reasonably pleasant atmosphere. Sproul Plaza is a place where you will find yourself a lot, which is a public space full of students trying to sign you up for things and protesting certain political changes. There are good facilities including a leisure centre. There's a much stronger feeling of college pride there. I'd definitely recommend going to one of Cal's football games. Single Tickets can be expensive (about $70), or for an extra $30 you can get a season ticket.

Berkeley as a city itself is not the nicest city in the US, there are some problems with crime. However, Berkeley is perfectly safe during the day. Some neighbouring areas (some Oakland suburbs, Richmond) are trouble spots. In general the area South of the campus is not so good and the area to the North is much better. There is a really strong "hippy" feel to it, and the city (along with the rest of the Bay Area) is very liberal. Every bin has two next to it for recycling. As a UC Berkeley student you get a free bus pass to use on all buses in Alameda County, so in less than an hour you can get the bus in to San Francisco. The BART is also a tube system that serves Berkeley and connects to the rest of the Bay Area.

I lived in UC Berkeley's own halls. I had a room mate and my room also adjoined a triple room, so providing you get on with your room mates it's a really nice way to get to make good friends and it stops you from feeling too home sick. The halls are much nicer than here at King's. However as a study abroad student not entitled to California's financial aid, they are very expensive (=£10k/yr). You may want to consider looking at the cheaper "Co-ops". The community in the halls is very nice and very pleasant. They are about 5-10 minutes walk from campus. You also get a meal plan. Be wary though as International students have to be at Berkeley a week early for orientation and the halls don't accommodate for this. What's more they lock the halls over Christmas and kick you out the day after exams finish.

In terms of travelling, the San Francisco Bay Area is extremely easy to explore due to the good public transport. Therefore it's easy to discover most of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. I also left the Bay Area and went to Sacramento (California's State Capital), and also to Los Angeles. I would highly recommend visiting both.

All in all, I'd really recommend it and studying at UC Berkeley was the highlight of my degree and one of the best experiences of my life.

University of California Irvine


UCI is one of the colleges in the University of California that operates on a quarter system, as opposed to semester. So each semester consists of two quarters at UCI and King’s requires you to take a minimum of three classes per quarter (12 units). This means that the teaching is very fast-paced and the focus in each class is on breadth rather than depth. I definitely grew to love the quarter-system because it enabled me to be more adventurous in my module choices – as I knew I wouldn’t be taking the class for long!As an English Literature student my favourite class was ‘The Female Gothic’, where I studied classics like Jane Eyre alongside Korean Literature (something I have never explored before in my degree).

UCI has an online ‘Schedule of Classes’ which operates as a course catalogue, enabling you to search for the quarter (e.g. Fall Quarter 2015 for classes starting in September), your major (e.g. History) which will then provide you with a list of classes you are able to take. Students at UCI take General Education classes for the first two years of their degree, thus a second year student at King’s would be classed as a third year (or Junior) at UCI. This means that you can only choose Upper Division classes from the course catalogue. The great thing about the ‘Schedule of Classes’ system is that, unlike Kings, it tells you in advance the day and time of the class (so if you are not a morning person you can ensure you don’t have all 8am classes like I had!). It also provides you with additional handy information, such as the format of the class (whether it is a lecture or a seminar) the date of the final exam, as well as the amount of students that have currently enrolled in the class (so you know when the class is full). Most of the Upper Division classes are seminars – so I had a range of 8 to 25 students in my classes.

Here are my top tips:

  • If the class you want to enrol in is full, my advice would be to show up to the first lesson anyway. Students often switch and drop out of classes during the first two weeks and if you have already attended the first lesson the professor is much more likely to allow you to enrol then if you have just emailed them.

  • The ‘Schedule of Classes’ also tells you what lecture hall or room your class will be held in, so I’d strongly recommend getting a map of the campus from the Study Abroad Centre (they are also available online) and taking time to go onto campus and locate all of your classes before teaching starts to save yourself stress!


I was fortunate enough to have some friends already studying at UCI who allowed me to move in with them. There ended up being eight of us living in a three-bedroom apartment, which was a very fun (and crazy) experience! However, I would regularly visit friends who lived in on-campus housing and was able to get a feel for the vast array of options open to study abroad students. Over 12,000 students live on campus each year so the atmosphere is incredibly lively! UCI has 10 student housing communities which are all tailored to meet the diverse needs of students. The three options available for study abroad students are Arroya Vista, Vista del Campo Norte, and Camino del Sol. The last two are located on the east side of campus and, as the campus is huge, UCI provides a free shuttle bus service (the Anteater Express!) to take students to the centre of campus.

Arroya vista is a themed house community, which means that you have the option to live with students who either share your major or a common interest. When filling out the accommodation application you can select a theme from the drop down list, such as: humanities, culinary interest, international students (among others). This is a great way of ensuring you have something to talk about with your new neighbours! Arroya Vista is also a pleasant 10-15 minute walk from the centre of campus and, as with Vista del Campo Norte and Camino del Sol, there is also the option to take the free shuttle bus.

I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed with either of the on-housing campus options available for students studying abroad. In fact, they tend to resemble hotels more than they do university accommodation! Both Vista del Campo Norte and Camino del Sol boast their own swimming pool, hot tub, barbeque grill, DVD library and 24-hour fitness centre. Arroya Vista residents also have access to their own private basketball court!

As with King’s accommodation, residents in the three accommodation options are able to prepare their own meals in a shared kitchen. There is a small store on campus where you can buy groceries or a larger ‘Trader Joes’ in the University Town Center (UTC) opposite UCI. Alternatively, the Anteater Express has an extra route on Saturdays to the Irvine Spectrum - a large shopping centre which contains everything from Wal-Mart to high end clothing stores and restaurants. If you find yourself missing the London Eye, the Spectrum even has its own Ferris Wheel! On the other hand, if the thought of grocery shopping and cooking does not appeal to you, there is also the option of purchasing an ‘Anteater meal plan’ (ranging from $300 to $1,500) which grants you access to the cafeterias on campus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I ate in the cafeterias a few times and can attest that the food is delicious! There is a running joke amongst the students that those with a meal plan (typically the first years) will gain 15 pounds by the end of the year – which has affectionately been termed ‘the freshman fifteen’.  

Weekend activities

While California trumps London in many ways (weather immediately comes to mind) public transport is, sadly, not one of them. Fortunately, on weekends the Anteater Express takes students for free to Newport Beach and Fashion Island (a huge shopping complex overlooking the ocean). The Irvine Spectrum is also a great place to spend your Saturday – it has an outdoor mall, an IMAX cinema and a huge array of places to eat (The Cheesecake Factory is a must). However, there are also many ways to entertain yourself without leaving campus; I got to experience ice-blocking in Aldrich Park (which involves sitting on a giant block of ice and sliding down one of the many hills in Aldrich Park). The Anteater Recreation Centre (ARC) also hosts various gym sessions and classes which are a lot of fun to take part in (swimming, Zumba and Jiu Jitsu to name a few). If you do not want to participate in sport, there is always the option of watching it! (I felt like my American college experience was complete after experiencing the electric atmosphere at a UCI men’s basketball game).

Hiking is also a popular weekend activity in California, and I would recommend climbing Turtle Rock (which lies in the San Joaquin Hills) for a beautiful view of Irvine. If you are eager to travel outside of Irvine, the Study Abroad Centre at UCI regularly organises trips for students, so be sure to enquire about them when you arrive so that you do not miss out (this year they are planning a trip to Costa Rica during Spring Break!)

There are also many clubs and societies at UCI which you can join, from dance and Acapella groups to the running club (that you will see regularly jogging around Aldrich Park). As soon as I arrived at UCI I joined the group Alpha Omega (which is not a sorority, despite the Greek name). Alpha Omega is a Christian group open to all students (you didn’t have to be religious) that participated in a lot of community projects in California. I was also able to go with them to Tecate, Mexico to volunteer at an orphanage during Spring Break which was a life-changing experience. I ended up making best friends in the Alpha Omega group, and will be meeting up with one of them this Summer in Boston!

Top ten things

1) Getting involved from the very beginning! More specifically, joining the Alpha Omega group on campus because it instantly felt like I was joining a family. Taking part in service projects and trying to make a difference in people’s lives also helped me to shed my ‘tourist’ identity and feel like a valuable member of the community.

2) Volunteering at the Tecate Orphanage in Mexico. I learnt a valuable lesson in gratitude from the children in the orphanage who, despite having practically nothing, had a contagious joy. As a result of this experience I am now going to be volunteering at an orphanage in Bolivia this Summer.

3) I definitely made some life-long friendships whilst studying abroad and shed tears when I had to leave them! They threw me a USA-themed leaving party with an amazing American flag cake! I felt very loved.

4) Having my sister fly over from the UK to visit me! We hiked up to the Hollywood sign, went to Disneyland, travelled to the famous Venice Beach in LA and down to San Diego to see the seals in La Jolla.

5) Road tripping straight across America from the West Coast to the East Coast – passing through 12 states in total and being able to sit on the edge of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

6) Deep-sea fishing in the Pacific Ocean (and watching a sea lion steal my first fish).

7) Experiencing my first baseball game in St. Louis, Missouri (and watching a friend propose to his girlfriend on the field before the game began!)

8) Hearing Barack Obama speak in the Angels Stadium for the 50th Anniversary of UC Irvine - definitely a ‘pinch-me’ moment.

9) I definitely fell in love with hiking whilst in America. I was able to go hiking with friends in three different states – my favourite was Red Rock Canyon in Nevada.

10) Great professors. I was fortunate enough to have some truly amazing teachers whilst at UCI – I got particularly close to my Spanish teacher who ended up inviting me over to her house for Mexican food at the end of term!

Jessica Elmer, 2014-2015 at University of California Davis


My major was biochemistry and molecular biology (MCB), the biggest major in the school of Biological sciences. The minimum workload requirement is 12 units in order to be registered as a full-time student, a condition that must be met to qualify for your visa. Most courses are 3-4 units and each unit corresponds to, roughly, one hour of contact time per week. You are allowed to take one or two courses outside of your major and Davis has some great ones such as introduction to beer brewing, a coffee lab class and tractor driving. Bear in mind that you have to pay a lab fee which ranges from $50-100 for a lab course.

Science courses often have at least 2, possibly 3, midterm exams as well as a final. Throughout this year I took 42 exams, which is an average of 1.5 per week! Having said that, each exam is only worth 30-40% maximum (and most of them a lot less than that) so the pressure is a lot lower than the ~70% weighted exams we take at King’s.

Do not worry if you have to waitlist for courses – this is completely normal. Many students also ‘shop’ for courses in the first week or two before deciding which ones they want to drop or continue with, so classes which are full will often become available just after they start. If you are concerned about getting on a course which you require, drop the lecturer an email or make sure you see them on the first day of class and explain your situation.


I would really recommend trying to sort your accommodation before you go. I stayed in an apartment complex about a 20 minute cycle (15 minute free bus run by students) from campus. My rent included all bills and internet which was convenient, although expensive. They ran an EAP specific roommate matching scheme which several complexes do. Trying to get university accommodation is can be difficult, pricey and it is almost guaranteed that you will be sharing a room! Alternatives include The Co-Ops which are communal living and have a very hippy vibe. You could also arrive in Davis slightly earlier than required, stay in a hotel and try and find accommodation then – it is likely that you will get a better price but it is a slightly riskier option.

Weekend activities

I studied abroad for a full academic year beginning in September 2014 at the University of California, Davis campus. Anyone who has spent any time in this rural college town will know that the 3 things Davis is most famous for are biking, cows on campus and the annual Picnic Day, the largest student run event in the US which attracts more than 70,000 people.


Davis students have free access to the state of the art ARC (Activities and Recreation Centre) and pool. You can pay a yearly membership to have access to group exercise classes which is incredibly reasonable. College sport is a BIG deal and as a student, you can go to any of the games for free – although UC Davis is not ranked particularly high, it is still interesting to go and watch!


If you are doing a science, I highly recommend doing a lab course in the first term. Lab courses are incredibly time intensive and it will enable you to make some American friends who you can socialise with later in the year. Seriously though, they love the whole British thing – I lost count of the number of times I was asked to pronounce “water” and “table”, etc.

I had a couple of international friends who joined fraternities but in all honesty I think you will make better friends by getting involved in sports or one of the hundreds of societies available such as SOS (skiing or snowboarding club) which has a big social scene. If you are 21, there are several really nice breweries located around Davis and a weekly ‘Mojito Night’ which is run on Thursdays and is very popular. People tend to go out a lot earlier than we do here – this means you can get to bed and feel well rested the next day!


Davis is located about 25 minutes from Sacramento, California’s capital city, and 1 hour 20 minutes from San Francisco. There are several long weekends throughout the year and you should definitely make the most of these and try and explore the vastness that is California. It is quite difficult to get around without a car but many car rental places have student discounts so it is worth looking out for these. Internal flights are also really cheap, so make the most of this. California is incredibly varied with loads of great beaches for surfing, national parks for hikes/climbing and snow for skiing.

Studying abroad has opened several doors to me already and provided opportunities I am not sure would have been available otherwise. I enjoyed meeting other study abroad students from various UK universities who have now become good friends. Studying abroad is not easy and people shouldn’t be under the impression that it is a glorified holiday – it is hard work but an incredibly rewarding experience which makes you stand out as a global citizen in a world that is increasingly demanding more from university graduates.

University of San Diego

Parisa Ahmadian, 2014-2015

Top Ten Things

1) The Campus

Set atop a hill looking down on San Diego, it’s one of the most beautiful campuses in the US. There is Spanish architecture running throughout the whole campus, and the university gardens and flowers are always perfect. Other than being aesthetically pleasing, the campus also has so many student facilities. The best one would probably be the outdoor pool and sunbeds around it, followed by the soccer, football, basketball and baseball fields where students go to watch games all the time - there’s a huge university spirit. The view of the bay and the ocean from the Garden of the Sea behind the IPJ building is spectacular, a great place to go to study if you’re bored of the library.

2) Torero Program Board (Equivalent of KCLSU)

TPB organises SO many student focused events - it would be impossible to list them all, but there are about one a week throughout the whole year - I’ll pick out some highlights. I loved the apple festival, where students came to an afternoon of feasting on apple related foods (for free) from pies to candied apples to tubs of apples we could help ourselves to. Homecoming was also a great experience. It was a fairground theme with bumper cars, ice cream, popcorn and fried oreos (again, all free), followed by a concert where MAGIC! (the guys who sang ‘Rude’) performed.

3) Beaches

The university is within reach of several beaches - Pacific Beach (or PB) is a 10 minute drive away, and also a major partying spot. Ocean Beach (or OB) is also closeby, and it’s slightly more edgy (think tattoo parlours and vintage stores). Prepare to be eternally tanned.Parisa Pacific Coast

4) Classes

There are so many more specific classes to take at the school of law. This means it’s possible to actually pick things you’re specifically interested in - for example, I took a class on Transitional Justice and Mass Atrocities, which was a very specific class and so interesting.

5) Mexican Food

Being so close to the border of Mexico means that there’s an unlimited supply of restaurants  that provide delicious, authentic Mexican food. Old Town is a great place for Mexican food and it’s inside (funnily enough) an old town so you feel like you’re in the old west. Must go for Taco Tuesday where tacos are $2-3 and margaritas are half price.

6) People

Having lived in London all my life, it was refreshing to be around constantly happy people. It’s probably the sunshine, you can’t help but wake up feeling happy. Also they love the English accent.

7) Farmers Markets

There are a few farmers markets in San Diego, the biggest one being in Little Italy, Downtown, on Saturdays. It’s a great place to buy fresh fruits and vegetables and flowers. Ocean Beach also has a farmers market on Wednesdays with slightly different vendors. Grab some food from one of the food trucks and go sit on the beach and eat it as you watch the sunset.

8) Eternal Sunshine

Worthy of being given its own point - it hardly ever rains, and you could go to the beach on Christmas Eve and it would be warm.

9) La Jolla

This is the slightly more posh area in San Diego. The restaurants are great - a lot of seafood places. And you can even go see the seals basking in the sun in La Jolla cove. Be warned, the smell is overwhelming.

10) Hiking

So many amazing hikes in San Diego and LA, my favourite one was the Potato Chip Rock hike (or Mount Woodson). At the end of the hike you go and sit on a thin rock overlooking a drop - terrifying but worth the amazing pictures.

Parisa Desert


Graduate and undergraduate housing are in different areas, and since you will be considered as a graduate student, the popular choice is Manchester Village. This overlooks the baseball and (American) football field. It’s predominantly apartments for sharing between two people so a roommate will be allocated (based on a personality test you do before you arrive). It’s fully furnished with a dining area and a kitchen and there are community rooms, conference rooms and study rooms, also a fitness room. The main gym is also just up some stairs towards main campus, as is the outdoor swimming pool, sunbathing area and tennis courts.

As for laundry, there are facilities within each residence and you top up your laundry card and use that instead of change.

There are shuttles which constantly go through campus, so if you’re not really feeling the 12 minute walk to the law school, then you can just hop on one of those.

I waited a little too long to apply for accommodation at Manchester Village so the accommodation services offered me another (slightly more expensive) option of having my own apartment in San Antonio de Padua (or SAP). The first floor were individual apartments for graduate students so I met some law students and other exchange students through living here.

If you would prefer to live with other students by the beach, as the majority of undergraduate students do, you can find an online Facebook page to find housemates. However, you will need a car as it’s impossible to walk anywhere in San Diego. While the beach is only a 10 minute drive away, bear in mind a lot of the roads in San Diego are essentially motorways so it would take hours to walk.

For home shopping, Target is the way to go. They sell pretty much everything and it’s affordable and there are loads of Target stores around. There is also an IKEA which is an obvious good option too.

At the beginning when you’re trying to get around San Diego to buy all this stuff, I would recommend using the Uber app because it’s cheaper than normal taxis and there are so many Uber and Lyft (another app) drivers in San Diego.



There are so many modules to choose from compared to King’s, understandably because it is a graduate programme and students actually start specialising for their area of practise in law school. My favourite ones that I studied were Transitional Justice and Mass Atrocities, Health Law and Reproduction and American Constitutional Law. Constitutional Law is actually a first year compulsory module which you have to request specially to take, but I would really recommend it as it’s so interesting especially to compare to the UK system.

You have to take 12-13 credits each semester which equates to 4-5 classes so it’s quite manageable. You will get a one-on-one session at the international office to pick your classes and it’s really helpful as you’ll get an insight into the course and the professor who teaches it.

Classes are quite small (compared to the compulsory ones like Constitutional Law, but even this is smaller than our first year lecture numbers) so it feels more like a seminar than a lecture. They actually don’t differentiate between lectures and seminars so you have 1-2 classes per week of that class. But it’s quite interactive - I remember thinking Legally Blonde was quite accurate when they showed her getting called on in class to answer a question. So to avoid embarrassment, do the reading beforehand. It’s also a good incentive to actually make sure you’re doing some work.


Unlike at King’s where everyone could get a 2.1 if they did well, U.S. law schools grade on a curve. This means only a few people can get an A, some have to fail/get Cs and the remaining people get Bs - so it’s graded based on the quality of the group. This sounds scary but if you just do the assigned reading you will get a B.

But this means that everyone gets slightly more competitive and one edge during during finals time, but just stick to what you know and study at your own pace and the scariness of the curve won’t bother you.

Weekend Activities

You will never run out of weekend activities while you are there. Ever.

If you’re over 21, Vegas is a top choice for a weekend away. It’s a 5 hour drive from San Diego (in the U.S. a five hour drive is considered short). If you’re not over 21 then a popular choice among the undergraduates, and the graduates actually, is to take the half hour long train ride to Tijuana, Mexico, as the drinking age there is 18. However, word of warning - take your passport and other student VISA papers with you whenever you cross the border otherwise you will not be able to get back in. Also, while I did not have any bad experiences in Tijuana, it is slightly more dangerous than San Diego so it would be wise not to drink too much.

Mission Bay Aquatic Center is a short drive away from the university and they have so many water activities there - paddle boarding, sailing etc. USD actually organised a free drop off and pick up day with access to all of the activities in the first few weeks of term so look out for that and definitely go. They also had lunch there and other free things being given out so no need to even take a packed lunch.

Parisa Car

Mission Bay Beach also has bonfire pits so if you get the chance, definitely go out there one night and make smores over the fire. The Office of International Students is a really good student organisation and they organise loads of social events for the international students, one of them being a bonfire night, so look out for their events. It’s also a great way to meet people.

If you’ve ever watched any American college movies you will know about fraternities and sororities. They’re surreal and so many people join them. I think it’s necessary to experience at least one fraternity party in order to truly have had the American college experience.

Another good weekend activity is watching a baseball game at PETCO park and cheering on the San Diego Padres. Or watching a football game at Qualcomm stadium and cheering on the San Diego Chargers with a beer in one hand and a hotdog in the other.

If it’s a particularly long weekend then you can go to places a little further away. During long weekends we planned trips to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park, LA and Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Zion National Park etc. There are so many beautiful natural parks and different cities that are less than an 8 hour drive away so try and see as much as you can. You could also go a little further - I ended up going to New York just before Christmas because internal flights within the U.S. are so much cheaper than if I were to book the flight from London. And you will have made friends by Christmas time so you could even visit one of them in a different part of the U.S. and have an American Christmas.

Parisa Grand Canyon


There is a lot of good food to be enjoyed in San Diego so I have made a list of places I particularly enjoyed and would recommend.

  • Snooze in Hillcrest for brunch – usually a queue but well worth it.
  • Sab-e-Lee down Linda Vista Road (the road USD is on) – the most amazing Thai food I have ever had. Spiciness is rated from 1-10 but do not go above 4, however much you think you can handle spice.
  • Mexican food – JV’s on Morena Boulevard, California Burrito is a must (2 minute drive from USD)
  • Casa de Reyes in Old Town (5 minute drive from USD) good food and fountains and fire pits as well as live Mexican music and dancing on the stage within the area.
  • Queenstown Public House in Little Italy – on the corner of the road from the farmers market, great for brunch.
  • Better Buzz Coffee, Pacific Beach
  • Baked Bear - ice cream sandwiches at Pacific Beach. A must. Pick two cookie flavours and and an ice cream flavour for the middle and walk along the beach eating it while you contemplate how something can be so delicious.
  • Hodad’s burgers in Ocean Beach – the most American burgers you will ever eat and a cool interior with bumper stickers and license plates covering every surface
  • Dirty Birds - a sports bar with the best chicken wings you will ever have (the dirty ranch wings were my favourite)
  • And last but not least – In-N-Out. It may look like a weird version of McDonald’s from the outside, but it’s not. Secret menu – animal style fries must be tried.


I can honestly say that my year abroad was, hands down, the best year of my life. Admittedly, it was partly having a year away from the stress of London that made it so amazing, but mostly it was San Diego and the people I met there that made it so unforgettable.

When I imagined southern California and googled the images of San Diego (almost every day) before I had left, I thought I was creating a much too idealistic image of the place. But it’s truly a slice of paradise and you constantly have to remind yourself that you are not on holiday in a sunny location. I found myself envying the students there and the fact that they did not have to leave after a year.

Of course, other than the copious amounts of fun to be had, there are loads of practical things to be learned and gained from the experience.

American law is very interesting to study. While it is similar to UK law in some ways, like the fact that it is a common law system, the differences in the government and particularly the political aspect of the judiciary immensely influences case law, which is why I would thoroughly recommend taking Constitutional Law.

There’s also the experience of moving to and living in a different country by yourself and the initial fear and then quick change to elation that comes with it. I did freak out when VISA appointments weren’t as early as I would have liked and when I didn’t get the accommodation I applied for, and while it would not be possible to tell someone ‘not to freak out’, it’s important to remember it always works out (eventually).

I’m grateful that this opportunity existed and that I ended up in a place that felt more like home than home in London does. It’s impossible not to have a good time, so take the opportunity.

Parisa Festival

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Elzbieta Urlakyte, 2013-2014

Top Ten Things

1. Being able to choose very interesting modules
2. Being taught by the world-leading experts in their field
3. Using movies and pop culture as learning material for Blacks and Popular Culture Module
4. People in North Carolina were super friendly
5. Met some amazing people!
6. Enjoyed eating organic food and shopping experience in the States 
7. Fell in love with the nature in the States
8. Fell in love with the country and beautiful Chapel Hill campus
9. Travelled to NYC and LA during spring break 
10. Became a more experienced and enriched adult


My academic experience at UNC Chapel Hill was superb! I got to choose from variety of modules, and here are the five modules I ended up with: Holocaust, The Soviet Politics, Introduction to Africa, Spanish, and Blacks and Popular Culture. As you can see, the modules are very different from each other, yet all very exciting. I was taught by the world-class experts in their fields, and it was just incredible to learn from such knowledgeable people. In Blacks and Popular culture class we looked at racial inequality using movies and pop music as our study material, and we even had a member from a very well-known hip-hop group performing to us in the lecture. That was the best experience ever! However, don't get me wrong - the lectures were very intellectually stimulating and of the highest quality. 

Weekend Activities

There were loads of society to join. I would go to Spanish speaking and Russian speaking groups, joined the university gym (for free!) and enjoyed fun Zumba classes. There were lots of nice cafes and restaurants on the main street, some of the offering lovely live music.


The time in the States was one of the best times in my life. It changed me and enriched me on so many levels. To all those wondering whether to go and study abroad, I would definitely say 'JUST DO IT!'

Zoe Fitzgerald, 2013-2014

Top Ten Things 

1. The people: As cliché as it sounds, I met people whilst I was away that I know I will be great friends with forever. From my suitemates, to people you see once walking to class, everybody is SO friendly and welcoming. Sharing a room and living with 7 other girls was really fun, and there was never a chance for you to feel homesick or lonely because there were always people about. Being British seems to make people even more friendly, as soon as they hear the accent they will not want you to stop talking. Also, people are eager to welcome you into their homes for holidays like Thanksgiving and their families are just as welcoming - Southern hospitality is definitely a thing at UNC. Travelling and experiencing everything with the friends you meet will make you really close. Making friends with so many people is great for holidays after you come back too - free accommodation all over the world

2. The campus: UNC is a completely different college experience than Kings. The campus is fairly small, you can walk across it in around half an hour. This makes a nice change from having to commute in, you can just get up and walk straight to your class. Campus is beautiful as well, there’s lots of green space and walking through campus on a sunny day is really nice. It also means that the dining hall, the gym, a coffee shop or the library are never far away so you can get everywhere easily. I loved being able to sit outside in the sun to do homework without being stuck in a library. 

3. Being a tar heel: When I first got to UNC I thought it was crazy that everybody (literally everybody) was wearing a Carolina blue shirt or at least some form of UNC merch. School spirit is huge at UNC and it makes it feel like you’re in a big community. After a few weeks of going to sports games, and learning all the fight songs, I stopped feeling silly about wearing a baby blue UNC shirt a and suddenly felt quite normal. Everyone in Chapel Hill loves their college, so don’t be surprised when you get there!

4. Travelling: NC is a great place for travelling in the US, you have easy, cheap access to all of the East Coast. Overnight buses to New York, Florida, South Carolina, Atlanta etc. are really cheap and a fun experience. Travelling in NC is worthwhile too; the mountains are beautiful and the cities are really fun. You can also get to the Bahamas or go on cruise etc. for not too much money, so look around!
5. Food: This was one of the best and the worst things. North Carolinians like to deep fry things a lot. Don’t be surprised when you come across deep fried pork chops, deep fried broccoli, cauliflower, courgette, and every other vegetable possible, deep fried mac and cheese, deep fried pecan pie…pretty much anything is game. Aside from the deep fry, NC BBQ is famous around the US and traditional bbq is so good. Bear in mind you may come back a little bit heavier than when you left.

6. Basketball: Michael Jordan went to UNC so naturally basketball is huge there. Basketball season is incredible, the atmosphere at the games is amazing, and the players are treated like gods. Make sure you go to a basketball game even if you don’t think you like sport, and be prepared for the game against Duke University where the entire campus will literally go insane. 
7. Teaching: My teachers were all great, they were all really friendly and helpful and some of them have even helped me out with my dissertation from home. I learnt so much from them, in class and in office hours. They made the classes really enjoyable and definitely made my experience worthwhile.

8. Country night: One of those nights out that is so bad its good. Basically, a basement bar that plays only country music, sells 25 cent beers, and is full of students in flannel shirts and cowboy boots. You’ll either go once and hate it, or go every week and love it. 
9. Weather: Being in NC you get the best of both worlds. Arriving in August I got the 35 degree sunshine (and ridiculous humidity) for a few months, a beautiful fall, and then snow around Christmas time. Its like English seasons but way better. So if you’re going for the year, you’ll need every type of clothing.

10. The Yoghurt Pump: Known to everybody as “YoPo”, this is the favourite froyo place in Chapel Hill. It tastes like ice cream, they have the best flavours (think toasted marshmallow, red velvet cake and thin mint) AND a “small” cup is the equivalent of about £1. There is always a line but its always worth it. 


Studying at UNC was a completely different experience to Kings. With more contact hours, and more regular assessment it felt more similar to being in sixth form. That said, it wasn't a bad thing! There are a lot of differences to get used to though.

Selecting modules:

One of the best things about studying abroad was the freedom in your class choices. Although you may have to take some general classes for your degree, there is hundreds to choose from and you can pick things that you are really interested in. You will be given an enroll time on a specific day to join these classes. When you do this, make sure you do it as soon as your time opens up as there will be thousands of other students also trying to get into the class. This sounds a bit intense, but you are given full instructions and even if you can't get into a class the study abroad staff there are great at helping you out and making sure you're happy with your classes.

Teaching style:

Aside from the lower level classes, a lot of the classes will be a lot smaller than you might be used to at Kings. This does depend on your degree subject, but for my Geography classes they were around 20 people max. Having smaller classes is great, it allows you to get to know the professor and have more discussion. Discussion in lectures is something that doesn't happen too often in Kings, but at UNC all the students are very keen to participate and part of your grade (around 10 or 15%) is often made up from "attendance and participation".
One of the biggest differences was the assessment. There are constantly essays, homework and exams to do. Most classes will have both midterms and final exams, along with essays and problem sets to work on. This sounds awful, but it is nice to have less stress on one final exam. By the time you get to your finals you will have likely already passed the class on your other work! Although this means having to work consistently throughout the semester, once you get into a routine you won't even notice. 

Teaching style is also fairly different to Kings. The professors are very attentive and most classes also have a TA, so if you are struggling with homework or concepts you can go to their office hour and they will help you out. Textbooks are also a huge part of teaching, with some class texts costing upwards of $100. The libraries don't tend to have most of the course textbooks, so websites like Amazon or Chegg will be your friends. You can rent books from both of these websites for a lot less than the in-store price.

Don't stress:

Although it sounds like the workload is huge, it is very manageable and having lots of little things seems a lot less daunting than a 4,000 word essay that is worth 50% of your class. There is SO much help on offer to you if you are struggling in any way, be it through office hours, academic advising, or counselling. Also, the university does a lot to try and take the stress off during midterm and finals week. The dining halls have a late night breakfast with music so you have somewhere to eat if you're studying late. As a tradition, at midnight on the night before the first day of exams students run naked through one library into the other with only a mask on - a great way to distract yourself from finals! UNC also brings in therapy dogs and cats so you can have a cuddle, and there is always free coffee or red bull around. This makes finals week weirdly enjoyable.


Most students live on campus in university accommodation. Unlike Kings, students normally stay on campus until their final year and even then not all of them move off campus.

Residence Halls

There are 32 different halls on campus, so lots to choose from! If you live in halls you will most likely have a double room, there are also triples and some singles but these are more expensive and competitive to get. A double room in residence halls will cost around $2,964 per semester, with single rooms costing around $3,513.The halls are either suite style or corridor style, suite style rooms tend to have 4 bedrooms and one bathroom, while corridors have a corridor of people sharing one or two bathrooms. The halls are then split into “communities”, which have a couple of halls in each. These communities have a team of staff who oversee the community and plan events. 

I stayed in Avery dorm with looks over the baseball stadium and is a really nice location (right next to the dining hall!). One thing to note is that dorms will close during holidays, so you can’t stay unless you get special permission and pay extra – this is a good excuse to go travelling more!

Applying: When you apply, you can put your top choice of halls, and then fill in a profile to try and find a roommate that matches you. I found my roommate on here, and we exchanged emails before we got to UNC so we knew a bit about each other before moving in. This is a really good way to feel more at ease about sharing a room with somebody you don’t know.


UNC also offers apartments, so you can still live on campus but have a kitchen and living room. These are more expensive, and are located a little bit further away from the main campus. For a single room, with shared kitchen and bathroom it costs around $3,662.

Off campus

There are also lots of options for living off campus, with loads of apartment complexes on offer. This may be a bit harder to organize, but it is still an option. There is a list of apartment complexes.

Granville Towers

Granville Towers are private halls that are just off North campus and they have their own dining hall and gym. Prices range from $4176 to $9688 per semester so are quite a bit more expensive than the UNC halls. They are quite popular though, room pictures etc can be found online.


Most students at UNC have a meal plan to use in one of the two dining halls, there are quite a few options for meal plans ranging from Unlimited ($2,050 per semester), Value plans ($1,276 - $1,891), and Block plans ($1,269 - $1,818) http://dining2014.csit.unc.edu/MealPlans/2014-15MealPlans. You can also use “Dining Flex” which is money on your student card which can only be used in certain places on campus so you aren’t restricted to the dining halls. Off campus meal plans are also available if you don’t live in halls. There aren’t any grocery stores on campus, but Wal-Mart is a $2 bus ride away.

Weekend Activities

Activities on campus:

Being at a campus university means that there is always things going on to entertain you. There are loads of clubs and societies to join, EASE is the student society for incoming exchange students. They are great and have events throughout the year, a lot of these provide transport too so you can get to do some fun things for free or cheap. Sport is a huge thing at UNC, there are plenty of clubs to join with intramural teams if you don’t want to get too serious. You’ll find a society for whatever you’re interested in and everybody is really friendly and will love for you to get involved. Even just sitting in “the pit” (which is the central part of campus) is a good way to spend free time, there are always people dancing or singing here and free things to pick up. Watching UNC games is also a lot of fun, make sure you try and get to see a basketball game because the atmosphere is incredible, but football and all the other sports are worth watching too.


North Carolina is a great spot to be in to explore the East Coast. You can get to most states by the Greyhound or Megabus which are both cheap options. New York, Atlanta, Florida, and other places on the East Coast are only around a 12 hour bus ride, lots of them are overnight so it doesn’t feel like a long time. For spring break there are plenty of options like a cruise around the Bahamas, or Cancun if you’re brave. It also isn’t very far, or too expensive to travel over to the West Coast so you get to see it all. Don’t forget to travel in North Carolina, the mountains during fall are beautiful and Raleigh and Charlotte are nice cities. There’s also a theme park that borders NC and SC called Carowinds, and Biltomore house. 
Going out:
If you are old enough, most students will go to Franklin Street in the evenings. There are quite a few different bars that are popular on different nights and it’s always a lot of fun. Getting back to your dorm is easy too because they have a shuttle bus that runs until 3am to make sure you get home safe. There is also a big frat scene at UNC so plenty of frat parties. If you’re under 21 it isn’t a big deal because there is still plenty to do without going out. Franklin Street is always busy during the day too, with students shopping or sitting in restaurants and cafes. 

Shopping, food and films:

There is a mall a bus ride from campus called Southpoint Mall which is a nice place to spend a few hours. Aside from the shops there is a big cinema, and loads of nice restaurants. Franklin Street also has a cinema, but if you don’t want to pay there are really new movies on every month on campus for free so try to get a schedule for that. Even if you have a meal plan, make sure you try all the restaurants on Franklin and in Carrboro there are loads and some are amazing (some not so much).


Returning from study abroad is really, really weird. Everybody who has studied abroad will tell you the same, as soon as you come back it’s like it never happened. It was probably one of the best years, or semesters of your life and then you come back to your normal life and it is such a strange feeling. That being said, it’s great coming back and seeing everybody and telling everybody what you did (even though they don’t always want to listen). 

Coming back to Kings from studying abroad has definitely made me a better student. Being in an environment where you have work constantly, and way more contact hours has made me much more organised and doing work before a deadline comes doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea. Living in a different country for a year with a load of people I’d never met before also made me more confident and excited to meet new people.

Being abroad also gives you itchy feet. Within two weeks of being back home I was ready to go somewhere else because being away makes you realise how much more there is to see and how small home feels. I’m also more open to travelling to places I wouldn’t have thought about in the past, I would never have gone on holiday to North Carolina but it turns out it’s really nice there.

Overall, I am so happy I spent my year abroad, it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I got to pay less tuition to go and spend a year in a different country, and then come back to Kings with way more life experience. It all sounds very cringey and cliché but it is definitely a life changing experience and I can’t wait to go back.  

Janna Jung-Irrgang, 2011-2012


Despite the time spent abroad felt very short, I had a great intensive experience that I wouldn’t want to miss. I learned a lot about the US, the people and culture while getting academic education of a level absolutely on King’s level. Chapel Hill and the surrounding region in North Carolina is a little liberal bubble full of creative progressive heads which makes for a great atmosphere on campus. In general, living and studying away from a bigger city like London gives a completely different experience – it was great to have all friends together on one place and spending all day with them while having enough time for university work and outside activities – getting the full US college experience within a few months of studying abroad. Everyone was, quite the Southern stereotype, very open and friendly and made it easy to settle and have a good time.
Although it was challenging to be in a small place and not have the same access to everything as readily as in London, it was great to explore the US from there – and at the same time make most of what was on offer within the two (very young and culturally live) towns. Night buses to Washington or New York make for exciting trips.

University of Toronto

Tom Flanagan, 2012-2013 University of Toronto St George Campus

Top 11 things

1. Toronto: Snow. Cold. Moose. Maple Syrup. Drake. Snow. These are all pretty much the things that come to mind when people say Toronto, and they’re all relatively accurate (apart from the Moose bit because apparently you won’t just find them wandering around the city). That said, there’s more reason to make your way over there than just plain Drake so take note.

2. Sport: Hockey, Basketball, Baseball, Football, whatever your sport, Toronto has you covered. Take a walk down to the Lake Shore and you’ll pass the Rogers Centre, home to the Toronto Blue Jays, the city’s premier baseball team. A little bit further down you’ll find the Air Canada Centre, which doubles as a sports and concert venue. For sports though, the Raptors (Basketball) and the Maple Leafs (Hockey) are a must. Seriously, you don’t even have to have a clue about the sport - it’s why they get the crowds to dance and play games during interludes. That is a thing apparently.

3. Walkable: I like to think of Toronto as New York’s younger sibling - its got that big ‘old skyscraper look, but a little (a lot) smaller (in a good way!). You can walk anywhere and everywhere, and if you’re really lazy, you can take a streetcar, which is basically a tram. I’d say I’m a fan.

4. Pancakes: You haven’t been to Canada until you’ve tasted their pancakes. You can find your own favourite haunt but just make sure you do. My bet? Check out (hilariously) The Queen & Beaver, Toronto’s own “British” Public House. Rather than trite and tacky, this place is cute and cosy, and the pancakes are the real deal.

5. UofT: The University itself is reason enough to study abroad in Toronto. A massive 180 acres of campus right in the centre of the city, this is really what a city-campus should be. It’s got history written through it, in its architecture and its reputation. Ranked 1st in Canada and top 20 in the world, UoT is on it. Oh and it used to be called King’s College too, so you know...

6. Reslife: Need I say any more than ‘all you can eat’? Most of the college’s residences provide meal plans, which means food at most any hour, and means you can avoid that dreaded feeling of an empty fridge on your return home. As far as it goes, Chestnut Residence provides the best plan as it’s basically a hotel. After the omelette and waffle bar on weekends, you won’t even want to eat out.

7. Canadians: Like the perfect cross between British and Americans, Canadians are probably the nicest set of people I’ve met. My first night in Toronto I had most of my drinks bought for me, which as a Londoner nearly killed me off in shock there and then. Accommodating, funny, friendly and so so polite, you’ll want to take one home with you.

8. Publife: On that note, Canadians are big on their pubs, which as a visiting Brit, you might find appealing. The difference is they’re not rowdy and over the top as the term pub might suggest. Instead, everything is a lot more relaxed; they even have waiters so you don’t even have to go up to the bar for a drink, which you can decide whether that’s a good or a bad thing.

9. Location: If you do want to leave Toronto, then you’ll have plenty of choice of where to go. Head East and you’ll find Montreal and Quebec, and head even further you’ll get to New York (eventually). Head West and you’ll see London (Ontario), Detroit and Chicago. And you could go North to Ottawa I suppose.

10. CN tower: It’s iconic and worth the view. Touristy but it has to make the list.

11. Drake: So maybe Drake is a good enough reason to visit Toronto. Driving into and out of the city you’ll come face-to-face with a gargantuan billboard, with a set of Drake lyrics plastered across it. Started From the Bottom if you’re wondering. It’s a sight I haven’t forgotten, and come on, if that doesn’t get you buzzing en-route from the airport, then make it your first point of call when you’re home to acquaint yourself with Toronto’s favourite.

Top Tips

*FACT* - 60% of Toronto’s population is International.

There’s lots of things to get excited about in Toronto, and accommodation is probably not immediately one of them. However, now that you’re going to be one of those 60% of International peoples living there, sorting out a roof over your head is definitely a priority. Toronto is luckily cheaper to live in than London, but not drastically. On the plus side, you can pretty much decide for quaint neighbourhood living, or smack in the city centre because U of T offers quite the variety of residences. There’s lots to know, and it can feel a little daunting but don’t fret, because regardless of what happens, you will have a place to live, so breathe deeply. Plus that’s what this is for, a little guide to navigating housing. And if that still fails, well you can always come and begrudgingly talk to me (Tom), and I’ll try and get things sorted.


Hopefully you’ll all have been sent a welcome pack at this point, and if not, let us know, and let U of T know, because it’s really important you have the information provided in that!

The University of Toronto tries to allocate a certain amount of places for exchange students in each of its residences every year, and will let you know approximately 2 months before your arrival. That said, there is no 100% guarantee of getting a place, so it’s good to explore all options. Below are links to the Housing Portal (where you apply to for the on-campus residences), a Vacancies List, which will let you know which residences have places available, as well as links to the U of T Housing Service, and off-campus residences.

Residences: First of all, check out the Residences! All are fantastic places to live and built on a house system, so it’s a bit like being back in school/Hogwarts. Depending on what you’re looking for, there’s something for everyone. If you fancy living in the centre of downtown, albeit for a bit more money, then Chestnut Residence is the one! If you prefer your living more grand and castle-like, then University College might be more to your taste, alongside Trinity, Victoria and St.Michael’s Colleges, which all might as well be from a Harry Potter book. All the prices are on the website but housing can range from $2000-7000 CAN for the semester on campus. And they ALL have a meal-plan (Chestnut’s is the best).

MyRes & Housing Portal -MyRes is the place where you APPLY to any of the on-campus residences and the housing portal is where you fill out the rest of the admin once you’ve chosen and thenbeen allocated a place!

Vacancies List - So this is the little list that always gets away from most people. Usually vacancies won’t appear until November time when U of T has had a chance to allocate spaces and/or free up them, so don’t fret if you can’t see any yet! That said, if you’ve had a look and know where you want to live, get on that waiting list and keep an eye on this for any updates!

Off-campus Housing - If you think you’d prefer off-campus housing and want to look elsewhere for whatever reason, then this is a good place to start. U of T offer lots of advice in aid of this so do make use of it as they’re only too happy to help!

Some suggested places off-campus: Below are a couple of places that are great living spaces off-campus! I knew people who lived in these and all had good things to say. If you’re trying to save a bit of money and don’t feel like the U of T residences are affordable then definitely check these out. Tartu Residence and the Campus Co-op are basically on-campus even though they’re not officially U of T residences, whilst this Youth Hostel is situated in the lovely Old Town right near St. Lawrence’s Market, so that’s nice right?

FACT: Drake is from Toronto, so that gives Toronto about 1000000000 points.


At the University of Toronto, academics are rigorous and they expect a relatively large time commitment for work (which really just means you have more excuse to go out harder once it’s all done). The classes work on a 3-hour a week basis where you take a minimum of 4 classes a week, with the average students taking 5 and sometimes 6. Similarly, classes start as early as 8am, and end as late as 10pm so be prepared for one or two long days. In Canada, seminars aren’t really a thing, so you’ll only have lectures/tutorials, with class sizes ranging from 30-300. As the 5th largest North American University, you can expect to be one of many in each of your classes, especially if you have lectures in UoT’s Convocation Hall, which houses up to nearly 2,000 students in one room. That said, class participation is actively encouraged, so don’t be afraid to put your hand up in lecture and ask (as long as it’s sensible, and not how it relates to your life as so many students over there seem keen to express).


U of T has three main campuses: St George’s (UoT), Mississauga (UTM) and Scarborough (UTSC). UTM and UTSC are effectively different universities, situated west and east of Toronto respectively, but

part of the University of Toronto . All King’s students are likely to be at St George’s which is the traditional and main hub of UoT, located in the city centre of Toronto. Located between College and Bloor street, the campus is a huge quadrangle in-between, and with only a 10min walk down University Avenue, or Yonge St to get to Dundas Square (Toronto’s own Times Square), it’s a good place to be. UTM is found west of Toronto, about a half hour bus ride, whilst Scarborough is east, and a similar distance.


Assessments are far more broken up at UoT then they are at King’s, which means you’re likely to have weekly assignments such as in-class tests/quizzes, essays, presentations and exams. Though the work’s more frequent, it also means the final exams aren’t worth as much, and you have more opportunity to do well. The University also counts class participation a lot more than King’s do, so just going to class gets you 15% of your mark. Similarly, the exams though they usually take place in big halls, aren’t nearly as intense as here (you’re allowed to bring most things inside the room and can go to the bathroom even in the last 15min of the exam unlike King’s regime).

Academic Help

UoT encourages a more personal approach to learning than perhaps we’re used to, so expect to meet with your tutors and lecturers frequently, or have activities outside of class involving them. The Deans organise dinners so maybe one day you’ll get lucky and snag and invite.

Weekend Activities 

Even with the landslide of reading that is no doubt going to be making an appearance on those cherished weekends, there are so many fantastic things to do in and around Toronto you’ll be hard-pushed to stay indoors clinging on to that totem of a book you’re supposed to be reading. Unless there’s a blizzard outside, in which case do stay inside.

St. Lawrence Market  

Situated just on the edge of eastern downtown is St Lawrence Market, dubbed “the world’s best” by National Geographic. Toronto’s flagship market house fresh Canadian produce with eastern European influences - if it’s meat, vegetables and bagels you want, then this is the place to be.Whilst primarily food-centric, the market’s lower floor and outdoors section also plays host to a variety of antique stalls and galleries for the more cultured half in us all.

The Distillery District

Just off St Lawrence you’ll find Toronto’s historic Distillery District, home to a mesh of eateries, bars and galleries. As its name might suggest, The District was previously home to the world’s largest distillery, but has now been pedestrianised into a cobblestone metropolis. Toronto’s signature Mill St. Brewery is worth a visit if beers out on the patio are your thing, whilst for those trying to stay teetotal should definitely check out Balzac’s, a cute literary cafe that pays homage to writers, poets and the rest of their kind.

Air Canada Centre

Anyone visiting Toronto will quickly realise it’s a city that loves its sport, and like any true Canadian city, hockey comes first. If you can grab tickets, head down to the Air Canada Centre to see the Toronto Maple Leafs in action, and *fingers crossed* see them win. The Air Canada Centre is multipurpose and is the home of the Toronto Raptors, an NBA Basketball team. Probably the most fun you’ll have at any sport, the Basketball has events and rally’s throughout the match to keep the crowd going, making it a truly inclusive experience. And if it’s baseball you want, then hit up the Rogers Centre come the spring-time to see the Blue Jays in action. Maybe this season their transfer spend will equal out to their points.

Kensington Market

Like a nicer Camden, Kensington Market is the more arty-grungy area of Toronto. More small-town village feel than big city area, Kensington Market does indeed have its own farmers market, an array of restaurants for every taste (check NU BUGEL and Wanda’s Pie in the Sky) and antique stores, all housed in Victorian style houses, that give it its old-school feel.

Little Italy & Little Portugal

Located on College St.West and Dundas St. West respectively, both Little Italy and Little Portugal are neighbourhoods that rival any major city equivalent. Little Italy is like any Italian district, filled to the brim with bakeries, pizzerias and gelato parlours, which all come to life at night when the streets are lined with fairy-lights. Little Portugal is similarly quaint and wonderful, crammed with cafes serving classic Portuguese faire, so if it’s fish and chicken you like with a touch of colour and flair, then this is the place to be. And no, there’s not a Nandos.

Toronto Island  

Worth a visit at any point of the year, though summer will be warmer (but busier) Toronto Island offers unrivalled views of the city. A short ferry-ride to the Island and you’re there, and it’s home to a collection of houses that look like they’ve wandered out of a Lewis Carroll novel, so a stroll through this neighbourhood is like nothing else in the city. Get a few pictures of the cityscape whilst cycling along the Island paths, and why not finish it off with a stop at the Rectory Cafe, one of the Island’s last remaining buildings from the early 1900s.

Niagara Falls

World-renowned, the name speaks for itself. The view is incredible, and the Falls are like nothing else. Get your pictures, and if it’s warm enough, get on a boat down into the Falls themselves. Niagara-on-the-lake is a beautiful neighbouring town, a world away from Niagara itself which is pretty much a little Las Vegas.


A year ago today, I remember sitting down in my room in Toronto, trying to write an essay on illness (of all things) in Jane Austen’s Emma, whilst a blizzard raged on outside. And whilst that’s not perhaps my fondest memory of my time abroad (though I maintain Emma is actually a great read), I’d still do anything to go back to that day if it meant studying abroad all over again.

Ask anyone who’s been abroad and they’ll tell you the same thing. First thing they’ll tell you is how much they want to go back, then they’ll sermonise you on why you have to do it too, then they’ll scream because it’s been a year and “it all feels like a dream now”, and then they’ll go on and on about their dissertation and that’s when you can stop listening. Are we predictable? Absolutely. But how can we not be when we’ve had an experience like studying abroad?

The one thing you realise on coming home is that it’s something you don’t ever really get over. When I got back, I felt like I was ready for wherever my next destination was. Travelling becomes a fever you can’t shake and suddenly everything seems ordinary and plain. Coming back then, is harder than going away, and reverse culture-shock is most definitely a thing.

However, having gone away and not wanted to come back, I can say hands down that I’ve become a better student now that I’m back at King’s. Studying abroad is the breath of life you need come the second year of your degree, and something that completely reinvigorates your perspective and attitudes towards it. Having been in an environment when I was constantly having to work on weekly assignments and go to double the amount of class, my approach to work coming back was definitely one in which I was more prepared and organised i.e. starting essays, or at least planning them, prior to the Christmas Holidays.

So that’s one good thing. I’d definitely say I’m more positive and proactive as a result too, but that may have nothing to do with studying abroad. As far as the future goes now, I know I’d love to do something with people in a global environment. Being part of an international team has proved to be a key aim for me and I can only thank my time abroad and as a Peer Advisor for that. More than anything though, my time working at the Study Abroad Office has taught me that it really is the people you meet that make the experiences you have worthwhile.

Harisa Ashraf, 2014-2015 at University of Toronto, Mississauga Campus, 2014

Top 10 things

1. Proximity to Niagara Falls

A real advantage of UTM’s location is that, as well as being close to downtown, it is also closer to Canada’s best known landmark, Niagara Falls. Its proximity to the falls means that there are frequent trips there organised by societies. 

2. Free shuttle to Toronto

One of the most useful campus facilities at UTM is the free shuttle which links it to Downtown Toronto. The fact that there’s one every 20 minutes means that transportation to the city really isn’t a problem and students can enjoy the benefits of the city just as much as those located at the central St George campus.

3. Eating out

Due to its amazing ethnic diversity, the food in Toronto is amazing. The sushi located on Spadina is among the best quality and value I’ve ever had. Kensington Market is rich in tacos and burritos. If its Korean food you prefer, Toronto’s Korea town has the best do-it-yourself meat barbeques you will ever try. For the full Canadian experience, there’s poutine (Canada’s national food - chips with gravy and cheesecurds) located virtually on every street. And the bubble tea / frozen yogurt opportunities are endless. If you like food you’ll love Toronto.

4. The wildlife

The University of Toronto Mississauga is located on the outskirts of the city, in relative isolation. Its scenery is breathtaking covered in snow and in sunshine, and makes a nice change to bustling London. The deer that wonder around the campus are also a novelty I don’t think I’ll ever get over.

5. Proximity to New York

UTMs proximity to New York is one of its standout features. It may be an 8 hour coach journey, but in Canadian terms that positively close. The cheapness of the coach journeys means it’s an opportunity really worth taking advantage of.

6. Quality of accommodation

In stark contrast to London accomidation, student residences at UTM are modern, spacious and great value for money. The advantage of it being a Campus University means your walk to class will never be more than 10 minutes, something even the centrally located St George Campus can't boast. You'll never have to top up your oyster card again and there's even on campus catering included in all residences. 

7. Snow / skiing

Although the weather in Toronto can leave a lot to be desired, one perk is the constant supply of snow in the winter months - resulting in an extended ski season. For beginners or weekend trips, Blue Mountain is located just over an hour away and home to many different slopes. If you’re after more challenge and variety, Mont Tremblant, located in Quebec, is one of the largest ski resorts in North America and just over 7 hours away. The ski society does an annual trip there in reading week, which was personally the highlight of my entire study abroad experience. Quebec is beautiful and the traditional French-Canadian village and couldn't be more different to Toronto's modern architecture. 

8. You will never complain about the weather in London again

No amount of warning could prepare me for how cold Toronto can get in the winter. Despite being equipped with a North Face Arctic Parka, the constant snow and temperatures of around -20 c meant that I will never complain about the weather in London again. Also the summers are far warmer than England so if you’re studying abroad over the course of a year you’ll be able to experience both extremes.

9. Living on a campus

UTM couldn’t contrast more greatly with King's in its campus layout. It makes a really nice change to be able to get out of bed 10 minutes before your lecture. The canteen, library and lecture halls are all closely dispersed throughout the campus meaning none of your time will be wasted commuting. Also there’s a Starbucks on campus, which was a personal highlight for me.

10. Teaching

The style of teaching couldn’t be more different to what I was used to but even so, its nice to experience a whole new way of being taught. The types of assignments you’ll be expected to do are also quite different to King's but it can be quite refreshing to study in a completely different way. In a sense it stretches you to do things you aren’t used to or necessarily comfortable with but that’s part of the joy of studying abroad!


One of the best things about studying at the University of Toronto Mississauga has to be the accommodation. Unlike the St George and Scarborough campuses, students are guaranteed housing, which alleviates the stress of having to search for housing yourself. Additionally, the housing at UTM is of a far better standard than any type of student housing you’ll have experienced in London. Its much cheaper, spacious, modern and has the most picturesque views in winter time.

Students are given the opportunity to rank their top choices for housing shortly before arriving. The choices are Erindale, Oscar Peterson, Roy Ivor, Schrieberwood residences and McGrath residences. I would recommend researching all 5 options on the universities website as it is a decision which will greatly impact your study abroad experience.

Erindale is primarily for first years so you’re unlikely to get it, which is a shame due to the fact that it’s modern and also the fact that it’s set up in halls, so is probably the most social.

I would personally recommend putting Oscar Peterson halls first because not only are they social, but due to the proximity of the canteen. Having to walk outdoors even for one minute can be a massive struggle in freezing Toronto so the luxury of having a canteen downstairs can’t be overstated.

I was situated in Roy Ivor, which is divided into apartments of four. The advantage of Roy Ivor is that the living space is much bigger than average. Each apartment comes with 4 bedrooms of a larger than average size, 2 bathrooms, a living area and a small kitchen. Having said that, all students are required to purchase a meal plan so the kitchen isn’t a necessity. Whats more, Roy Ivor has a tendency to be hard to socialise in, as there is little interaction between the individual apartments.

Schrieberwood and McGrath residences are both for upper year students and are individual houses, which are slightly isolated from the upper residences. Unless you like your own space, I would personally not recommend selecting these as your first choices as they’re normally for upper year students who have to work on their dissertations.



There can be no doubt that there are significant differences between studying at UTM and Kings. While the same amount of work and effort is expected from both, assessment at UTM is far more widely dispersed throughout the term. Additionally classes can often take a different format, with more emphasis being put on lectures rather than seminars.

As a History student, most of my classes consist of 2 hour lectures in Toronto, with less seminars than at Kings. Nevertheless, this varies between subjects with many classes having tutorials and practicals. The standard sizes of my classes were also a lot bigger with lecture theatres on average holding over 100 students at a time. Participation is encouraged in lectures and students are often given time to ask questions or voice concerns.

As well as this there are several differences in terms of timetables. Many classes can finish as late as 10pm and the on campus library is therefore open till very late to cater for this. The UTM library is extensive, with a wider selection of books and even its very own Starbucks. If you’re after a wider selection, Downtown Toronto’s St George Campus is home to one of the largest libraries in the world.

One of the biggest differences between North American universities and British ones is in terms of assessment. Exams and essays are set far more frequently than you’ll be used to which means a consistent level of work is needed. Assessment does vary between courses but many will have several essays due that can also take the form of research papers and reviews. As well as this, classes also have midterm exams as well as a final end of term exam. This is beneficial in that it means the pressure is taken off the final exam, although it does require consistent work throughout the year.

There is also a different approach to teaching. All students are required to purchase often an extensive range of textbooks, which can often be quite expensive. As a study abroad student I would suggest talking to your lecturers about this and finding out if you could possibly borrow the books instead of purchasing them all. Many lecturers are happy to accommodate this request and there are often rental schemes which you can participate in. There is much emphasis on these texts throughout teaching, so getting hold of them is vital. Often exams are based solely on these textbooks and lecture notes. As a History student this teaching style contrasted to what I was used to as there was less emphasis on historiography, and more concern over specific events and dates.

Nevertheless, adjusting to a new form of teaching and assessment is one of the things which makes studying abroad so unique. It takes you out of your comfort zone and challenges you. It allows you to experience a completely different teaching and learning approach to your subject and therefore is one of the most useful parts of your experience!

Weekend Activities

Unlike the University of Toronto’s St George Campus, the Mississauga Campus is located slightly on the outskirts of the city. The benefits of this are twofold. Students have the luxury of being able to use the free shuttle service to enter town at their convenience, yet are also living in a campus environment without the hustle and bustle of the city.

There’s a lot to do in central Toronto and thanks to the free shuttle service, students at UTM don’t miss out on any of this. The shuttle is included in your fees and comes every 20 minutes or so, so I would highly recommend taking advantage of it as much as possible and exploring the city. Toronto is a vibrant place and there’s lots to do. Everyone has to visit the CN tower, if only for the amazing view it gives of the city. I would recommend going just before sunset, because you are able to see Toronto’s amazing skyline during the day and also at night. The CN tower also is home to the most amazing rotating restaurant so a 360 degree view of the city can be enjoyed whilst enjoying a lovely meal. 

Toronto is also home to many markets such as Kensington and Lawrence market. China Town, located on Spadina Avenue, has the best quality and value for money sushi I have ever tried and the shopping on Queen Street West is always worth a visit. For fans of malls, the cities Eaton centre is also incredibly popular. Toronto is also home to the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) and the Art Gallery of Ontario which has really fun late viewing parties on the first Thursday of every month.

Another advantage of being located at UTM as opposed to downtown is that it’s closer to Niagara Falls. A visit to Niagara Falls is a must on any study abroad student's agenda. Visiting in April when the weather is a bit warmer is always a good idea as they have a boat, which takes you right underneath the falls.

One of the things I can’t gloss over about Toronto is that it’s freezing. But then an advantage of that is that, unlike England, there’s normally a fresh supply of snow. For skiers/snowboarders, it’s easy to go to Blue Mountain, located just over an hour away from Toronto, for a day or weekend of skiing. The universities skiing and snowboard society arrange trips there every Saturday which shouldn’t be missed.

And lastly, perhaps the best thing about studying abroad in Toronto is it relative proximity to New York City. Coach trips with greyhound are very affordable and any long weekend you have can be spent in the city that never sleeps. New York is an absolute must for anyone studying at UTM and I couldn’t recommend spending any free weekends you have there highly enough.

Matteo Pellegrino, 2012-2013 at University of Toronto, Mississauga Campus


If you are unsure whether to apply to UTM for a study abroad program, please stop. Don't hesitate, it is just one of those things you won't regret. Yes, it does get cold, but it is an experience within itself. I have never met such welcoming and kind people, nor seen such beautiful and vast landscapes. The University is NOT in downtown Toronto, therefore a lot calmer. It is situated at the core of a natural park, surrounded by forests, rivers and wildlife. Restaurants, bars, and parks are scattered all over the place, as well as the world famous 'Square One' shopping mall just one bus ride away. The transport system is great and the people there will truly make your stay unforgettable. It simply a great experience, very different from the European reality we are accustomed to. I guarantee you will make great friends and learn new things about an exhilarating culture.

Université de Montréal

Tanisha Onyenaoha, 2012-2013

 Top Ten Things

1. Bilingual city

This is a great remedy for that overwhelming feeling of arriving to a new place. Although it won’t be beneficial to you to rely on English for your whole time away, it is really nice to know that when you first get there, you can fall back on it. Most people are bilingual in the city, although you will find some people who don’t speak English (and even some who don’t speak French). Employees in shops greet you ‘bonjour, hi’, and you can choose how to respond. The university, on the other hand, is completely French speaking, so that provides a good balance.

2. Diverse city

There is definitely something for everyone in Montreal. You will find all different sorts of people from all different places. There are lots of other international students around Udem, so plenty of people in the same boat as you! What’s great as well, is that there are people from all over the French speaking world, so you can make international friends whilst still practicing your French ;).

3. The prices

 Montreal is a relatively cheap city (especially in comparison to London). I found a nice room in a four bedroom flat for about £270 a month. Once you get your Opus student card (like an Oyster card) you can get a metro and bus pass for around $50 dollars a month, or a four month pass for $180 dollars. With all that being so cheap, there’s lots of cash left over for miscellaneous activities like going to ice hockey matches or going to concerts and festivals.

4. The people

So, it’s never great to stereotype, but the general consensus is that, Canadians are very friendly. This was clear from the moment I stepped onto the plane. I found that people in the city were very helpful in general and it was also quite easy to make friends.

5. The summer

The summer in Montreal is definitely worth sticking around for. There are loads of festivals, concerts and parades throughout June to August. The Jazz festival and the ‘Just for Laughs/Juste pour rire’ comedy festival are probably two of the most well known. They are packed with people from all over the country and the world. If you can be around in the summer, definitely don’t miss out!

6. The winter

Even though most might think that the winter is to be avoided, it’s something that can be enjoyed (with the a thick coat and waterproof boots, mind)! There are plenty of activities during the autumn and winter from apple picking to skiing to checking out the ice bar in Old Port (where everything is ICE)! Plus, once you’ve experienced the Canadian winter, anything London has to throw at you in your final year will be nothing!

7. The location

Montreal is in a great location to visit other places. Québec city (a historical and cultural hub) is only a few hours away by road. Toronto is about five hours away. New York City is eight hours away on the greyhound bus. Unfortunately there are no budget airlines like we have in Europe (i.e no Easyjet/Ryanair equivalent), but it goes without saying that Montreal is a lot closer to lots of North and South American destinations. It could be a good opportunity to go a bit further afoot!

8. The nightlife

There are so many options for a night out in this city. Downtown, Crescent street and St Laurent are lively from Thursday evenings onwards. They are packed with loads of bars and clubs. In terms of clubs, once again, there is something for everyone! From indie to pop to salsa to R&B, you’ll find it in Montreal. For a more mellow night, they also have the equivalent of out Orange Wednesdays, but on Tuesdays- and you don’t have to be on a specific network! It is also packed with restaurants, so going out for a meal is always an option.

9. The countryside

Mont Tremblant, the well known ski village is about an hour outside of Montreal and it is active outside of the ski season too. During autumn and summer people often go up there for the day or the weekend to take in the views and get away from the city. It is very beautiful and I would definitely recommend it.

10. The shopping

I think it is safe to say that I came back with nearly double what I set out to Canada with. It’s easy to get carried away with the high street shopping in Montreal. You can even be tempted out to the shops in the sub zero temperatures as they have one of the biggest underground shopping malls in North America (so no need to brave the cold).


In Montreal, there are three main options that you can consider in terms of accommodation.

1) Université de Montreal (Udem) Halls of Residence

The university offers a range of different rooms to cater for different needs. There are four different types: a single room, a double room, a double room with an en suite bathroom and a room suitable for disabled students. They also have mixed buildings and female-only buildings. One of the great things about these rooms is that they are right on campus and they are super cheap. The monthly rent ranges from $370 for a single room (or the room with disabled access), to $602 for a double room (or $695 for a double room in the female only building).

The rent includes internet access and the buildings have washing and drying facilities that function on a top up card system.

Not all of the rooms have access to a kitchen, which can be annoying. I suppose the only way of being sure which room you have been allocated is by asking once the university contact you after you have applied for your room.

The application process for halls of residence at l’Udem is usually in March, opening on the 1st and closing at the end of the month (but this may vary so you should check on the website.

I did not live in halls but heard mixed things about them. Some people recommended them based on their proximity to classes and others expressed negative reactions about the less sociable side of the halls.

Remember: If you do want to live in halls, make sure to apply early within the application window. There are a certain amount of rooms allocated to international students so make sure to bear that in mind.

2) Finding a flat share or a flat for yourself

This is the option that I decided to take and I had a very positive experience. I found some flats to go and look at on www.craiglist.com. I didn’t find it hard at all to find a place, there were loads of reasonably priced rooms to rent on the internet, so it was just a matter of finding one that suited me. I ended up a ten minute walk away from the campus which was great. My rent was $440 a month (about £260) which was great. (My only piece of advice would be to find a flat super close to a metro station for when the cold sets in)!

Check out this entry on www.thirdyearabroad.com about Montreal by Louise Wiseman who spent some of her year abroad there. There’s a good bit on accommodation.

3) A home stay

Not having found a place to stay for the duration of my time in Montreal before I got there, I organised to stay in a home stay for two weeks while I found a flat. I found mine on www.homestaybooking.com and found it was a nice alternative to staying in a hostel or a hotel while looking for flats. There were tons of different families on that website that offer out a room in their house from anywhere from a few days to a whole year. My experience was a good one. The lady was very friendly and helpful and in and there were loads of other students there as well which was good. I had my own space and food wasn’t included so I did my own food shopping. Each setup is different and some do include meals. It was a nice way to avoid that feeling of not knowing anyone in a new place. The only downside was the cost, it was about double the price I paid in the flat share!



At Udem you are required to take a minimum of four modules (classes) each semester. The format of the classes is different to those at King’s; there is no lecture/seminar system. Instead there is one three-hour class per week which takes the form of a lecture, although depending on the class size (which can range from 10-200) and the teacher, the classes can be relatively interactive. The exception to this was first year classes where the three hour class was complemented by a workshop a few times a semester to work on coursework and exam preparation.

When choosing your classes, all timetable information is available on the university’s website quite far in advance so you can structure your own week. There are three sessions in which your classes can take place; morning (8.30am-11.30am), Afternoon (1pm-4pm) and evening (4.30pm-7.30pm)

The Udem campus is quite spread out and is made up of several ‘pavillons’ that stretch out between two metro stations (Edouard-Montpetit, Université de Montreal and Côte-des-Neiges). The walk from one end to the other is probably no more than twenty five minutes and there is an underground route that connects the majority of the buildings for once the cold sets it!


It seemed that the method of assessment varied from class to class and could normally was made up of a combination of two or three of the following:

-Coursework (travail de session)
-A midterm exam
-An exam at the end of the semester
-Group or individual presentations

Continuous assessment methods:

-Regular assessed home works (weekly or fortnightly)


-Participation in class

Coursework and examinations are all in French and there is no consideration in the marking process of whether or not it is your mother tongue. There is also a heavy emphasis in the marking rubric on the quality of communication in written work.

Academic help

Similarly to at King’s, all professors have regular office hours if you have any queries about the class and are very helpful. Alternatively you can always arrange to go and see teachers at another time convenient to you both via email. 

Weekend Activities

Weekend trips

Montreal is a great location for discovering some other cities in North America. Quebec City is only two and half hours away by bus. You can also take a trip to Niagara Falls and check out Toronto, Canada's New York City, only five hours away and as cheap as $11 by bus. On that note, New York City is only eight hours away on the bus. The Greyhound buses cost about $140 for a return journey (Montreal-NYC) so is a great idea for a long weekend away.


Montreal comes alive at night and there is something for everyone to enjoy. Rue St Laurent (which is also great for vintage shopping) is packed full of all sorts of bars and clubs. Rue Crescent and Rue St Catherine in Downtown is also super lively and full of bars for after work/class or on the weekend! Old Montreal is a really pretty part of town (that is also worth seeing in the day) and has lots of nice restaurants and bars in the area.  


If you're around in Montreal from October to April, you should definitely go and check out an ice hockey game. The cheapest tickets are around $50 and you can get to see some really good teams play!  

During the cold

The sub zero temperatures don't have to be an excuse not to let your hair down on the weekend. In the Autumn, you can go up to Mont Tremblant for the weekend, about an hour outside of Montreal, to enjoy the maple syrup, hot chocolate and beautiful views from the mountain. Once the snow sets, you can get your skis out and try them out of the slopes. And even if skiing isn't your thing, there are load of hotels and chalets out there that you could rent out for a weekend, another nice option.


Montreal is full of activities during the warmer months. All throughout the summer, from June to September there are a whole host of festivals, from the Just For Laughs comedy festival, to the Jazz festival, to a bunch of international dance and music concerts. There are loads of parks that are beautiful during the summer; try Parque Jean-Drapeau or Mont Royal, where they also have a weekly gathering of drummers, dancers and vendors. There's something for everyone and a lot of the events are free!!

Jessica Atkinson, 2014-2015


You will find looking for accommodation in Montreal quite different to your experience in London, and if like me you decide that another year spent in halls is not for you then looking for accommodation in Montreal is both easy and stressful all at the same time. I say this because there is a whole wealth of rooms on offer for you online, on sites such as Craigslist BUT only a fraction of landlords/advertisers will respond to your emails. Secondly the rooms are often not to the standard of London flats and in Montreal most tenants are welcome to re-decorate to their heart’s content BUT for year abroad students, who are only looking for a room for 9 months, this really isn’t something you are wanting to do so be ready for sometimes dirty and old fashioned flats. All this aside the great thing about Montreal accommodation is the cheap rental prices which will probably be half the price of your London rent!

Here are my top tips for looking for accommodation in Montreal:

1- Look at a map and decide what location you want to be in. Although there are many rooms available very close to UDEM campus, these are also a bit further out from all the activities, restaurants and bars of The Plateau and Downtown Montreal. You need to choose which your priority is and which you’d rather travel for.

- Once locations are decided on look on www.craigslist.ca and www.kijiji.ca for rooms available in your favoured locations. Email as many advertisers as you can as many will not reply and being able to see several rooms in one day means you are more likely to find one you like.

- Do not exchange ANY money before you see the room! There has been known to be scammers renting out non-existent flats to exchange students in Montreal.

- Subletting rooms is very big in Montreal and leases often end in April, so be sure to come to Montreal as early as you can during summer, not only will you get the first pick of the flats available but you will also make the most of Montreal’s wealth of summer activities.

- Be sure to take careful note of the public transport in proximity to the flat, when the temperature falls below -25 degrees C you will not want to traipse through the snow for 20 minutes to the nearest bus or metro!

Weekend Activities

Fun things to do in Montreal!

There are always lots of things to do in Montreal despite the cold of winter, people in Montreal seem to have more fun in order to get over the winter blues. Here is my personal list of the best things to do in Montreal:

1) POP Montreal!

In September Montreal hosts an indie, rock, electronic, rap, art and fashion festival over several venues and many days. Event tickets can be bought for separate events or festival passes can be purchased for a whole wealth of fun during the day and throughout the night. Although if like me, you are looking to save your money, they are loads of free events or you can become a festival volunteer and receive a free festival pass. Becoming a volunteer was a great way to meet people in my first month of living in Montreal!

2) Sundays at Mont Royal Park

During the summer months people of Montreal flock to Mont Royal Park on a Sunday to drink, eat, lay in the sun and have a generally relaxed time. This is a great opportunity to make the most of Montreal’s beautiful weather before the cold sets in.

3) Igloo Fest

Happening in the deepest, darkest depths of Montreal winter, Igloo Fest is a four week long electronic festival happening in Montreal’s old port. This is great fun, and not only is there great music and ambience but there is also free marshmallow roasting all night!

4) Mont Royal Observatory by night

Possibly one of the best spots in the city, Mont Royal Observatory offers breath taking views of Montreal downtown, but this pleasure should be enjoyed most of all at night when the lights of the city are quite dazzling.

5) Interstude Trips

Interstude is an international student community who offer affordable trips for exchange students all year round. This is a great chance to travel to places on reduced travel and accommodation rates and meet lots of other international students. Trips this year have included Chicago, Boston, New York, Philadelphia and DC. 

University of Laval

Oscar Davies, 2014-2015

Describe the academic experience

At Laval, you may have the fear of understanding nothing because of the Quebecois accent! However, fear not, this was not much of an issue when I was there, as many of the literature lecturers in particular are European francophone (Swiss, French, Belgian etc.) If you do have a Quebecois lecturer, though, in my experience they were very understanding and annunciate clearly since they are used to having international students. I really enjoyed my modules too. For example, in one class we learnt about the linguistic insecurity between mainland French and Quebecois French and the tensions underlying both countries. In another whilst researching for an essay on Annie Ernaux, I found a book written by one of my King’s tutors (Siobhán McIlvanney) which I actually cited in my final essay. So there really are familiarities all around you even though you may feel along way from home!Oscar Q 1


I applied for student accommodation around October/November before going in January, which I strongly recommend for anyone wanting to make friends easily and without having to face the infamous cold to socialise! I was in Pavillon Parent, the biggest and most international residence, and I loved it there because everyone was up for a good time and we always went to the Pub on Thursdays – which is (perhaps misleadingly) a club. Ironically, because there are so many French (from France) speakers in halls, I probably spoke more French in Quebec than I did than when I was in Paris for the first semester. Also, because of this, I doubt very much that you will adopt a Quebecois accent so do not worry (and even if you did, no one will be able to imitate you).Oscar Q 5

Weekend Activities

As I have mentioned there is the student night at the Pub (misleadingly, this is actually a club), which is on campus and always a good laugh. I made the most of the winter sports when I was there, since the winter lasts until about May, taking up ice skating and skiing. Lots of days/nights out are organized by the Bureau de la vie étudiante (BDA) and the FSA (Management department), so definitely follow their Facebook pages if you want to know more!Oscar Q 3

Top Ten Things

  1. Val Cartier in Quebec –– in the summer this is a water park, but in the winter this is a snow park – imagine going down snow slides in donuts at 100mph. Scary but very fun! 
  2. Teaching children clarinet at a summer camp in Quebec
  3. The frozen waterfalls of Montmorency
  4. Going to Cuba. I flew from Canada and it was such a lovely respite from the freezing -30 degree temperatures in February! The beaches were incredible and the people were extremely welcoming and friendly.
  5. Niagara Falls 
  6. Toronto’s Aquarium - especially the jellyfish. They were lit up with a neon light that constantly changed and, because of their transparency, so did the jellyfish!
  7. Living in residences: I met so many people that I consider friends for life and without living in the residences I may not have done so!
  8. The snow. Love it or hate it, the snow makes Quebec; I will probably never again have such a scenic/freezing/beautiful winter (unless I move there)!
  9. Ice-skating. Bar the occasional painful (but hilarious) fall, this was by far the funnest exercise I did in Quebec!
  10. Cidre de glace – a Quebecois delicacy which is distilled cider best had when nearly frozen!  Oscar Q 6


My study abroad experience definitely made me a more confident person in speaking with people in French and I feel like I definitely get the humour now, which is a notoriously evasive thing to grasp. Knowing that fourth year is going to be intense, it is important to allow yourself to chill out and enjoy the country you’re in on your year abroad, as that way you can really get down to work in final year when you’re back at King’s. In a professional world increasingly valuing globalisation, your year abroad will give you the cultural intelligence that is key to making contacts on an international scale, and friends that will no doubt stay with you for the rest of your life.

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