Lauren studied abroad at UCL in London, England in the Fall of 2017.
IF NOTHING ELSE, DON’T FORGET TO PACK:
A portable battery. I was constantly using my phone to take photos/navigate while traveling and a portable charger saved me so many times!
ON SECOND THOUGHT, LEAVE AT HOME:
Any clothes that are obviously American (i.e. U of I tee shirts, Greek life, etc). You don’t want to single yourself out as a foreigner and the extra space in your suitcase will leave you plenty of room for souvenirs.
WHERE TO LIVE:
Live as central and close to UCL as possible. The tube can get expensive if you have to take it to class every day. I lived at Schafer house and was in walking distance of school, cool neighborhoods, and all the major sites!
BEST PLACE TO EAT:
Everyday there is free Hare Krishna food for students in front of the SOAS building. There can be a long line but it’s worth it because the food is super tasty, FREE, and the gentlemen handing it out are really kind.
FAVORITE CULTURAL ACTIVITY:
Afternoon tea is an obvious one. A proper spread can be very expensive in London so look for groupon deals to make it really worth it. A cheaper outing would be Sunday markets. Every neighborhood has their own and I highly suggest going to all of them and picking your favorites.
BEST PERSONAL HIDEOUT?:
London has amazing parks. Regents park is full of sports fields, cafes, and even a zoo. Primrose hill offers a great view of the sky line. Richmond is full of wild life. St James is smack dab in the middle of London and beautiful for a walk. They were all a great escape to relax and get some fresh air.
FAVORITE PLACE TO STUDY:
UCL is scattered with student cafes with cheap coffee. My favorites were the George Farha Café or the Print Room Café.
BEST PHOTO OP:
London has a lot of great photo opportunities, but the Sky Garden has a view over the entire city and is free to go up!
UCL’s website wasn’t totally up to date when I chose my classes which made it a bit stressful when the semester started, and I immediately had to rearrange my schedule. Be proactive and flexible with your coursework for any program you choose.
A UK sim card for my phone. London is a massive city and I didn’t want to always be relying on wifi to get around. It was also great to have a UK phone number to exchange with kids in class.
MOST INTERESTING CLASS:
I took an international development class within the civil engineering department. The entire term was spent working with a team of students and our professor to design a road system in a slum in India. It was extremely hands on, and rewarding. My professor was actually working in developing the slum and had amazing insights and feedback. She is currently implementing the road system we had a hand in designing which is very cool to think about!
BEST PART OF THE PROGRAM:
London is the most international city in the world. I now have friends from almost every continent and feel I could talk to anyone and find some common ground.
MOST MEMORABLE TRIP?:
For fall break my roommates and I spent a week in Switzerland. We hiked, mountain biked, and went paragliding. The leaves were beginning to change so it was absolutely gorgeous to be outside. We ate nothing but cheese and chocolate for every meal. It was very different from being in the middle of one of the world’s largest cities so we felt recharged to finish our semester.
BEST LOCAL EVENT/HOLIDAY:
Guy Fawkes night or bonfire night. It celebrates Guy Fawkes failure to blow up the House of Lords and kill the king on November 5th. To celebrate the entire country sets off fireworks, holds parades, and has massive bonfires.
FAVORITE LOCAL WORD/SLANG:
Everyone says “cheers” at the end of every conversation. British English has a lot of fun words different than American English.
IF I COULD DO IT OVER AGAIN:
I would extend my stay for a year or a lifetime!