Studying abroad was honestly the best decision I made throughout my college career. I knew ever since my freshman year at Niagara University that I wanted to study abroad during the spring semester of my junior year.
I started doing my research my sophomore year and by the end of it, I had my heart set on London. Bernadette Brennan and Rhonda Shiah, the lead ladies in the Study Abroad Office, were extremely helpful and made applying easy. Bernadette educated me on the different programs in London, and helped me make my final decision on Kingston University. Rhonda helped me get organized and make sure my application was ready to meet the deadline. I choose K.U. because it is very different than Niagara University; over 20,000 students attend, and I was really intrigued by the urban setting.
Education in the U.K. was quite different then what I was used to in the United States. There was a high emphasis on testing and my final exams were worth 60-70 percent of my overall grade in my classes. As someone who is not the world’s best test-taker, I had to work hard to maintain decent grades. I spent a lot of time in the library and had to learn to not procrastinate.
Professors at K.U. were extremely approachable and helpful. Each class had a lecture of more than 100 students and then there was an accompanying “module” where the class was broken down into smaller groups with the professors, which was great to get questions answered.
Overall, my academic experience at K.U. was wonderful. I learned a new educational system and, more importantly, I was immersed in a much more culturally diverse group of students. I made friends with students from all over the U.K., China, Turkey, Finland, Sweden, and throughout the United States. Also, in my business courses, I learned about companies from the U.K. and all over the world that I had not known before.
This exposure has opened my eyes and expanded my job search to a more global perspective. I also gained a more global perspective by traveling to other parts of Europe while abroad. Traveling from London was easy; there were two major airports and the Eurostar (train through the Channel Tunnel) allowed me to travel to Paris and Brussels for a relatively cheap price. My advice with that would be to book tickets as soon as possible. The times I dragged my feet on booking flights/trips with Eurostar, I definitely paid for.
Kingston is the “marketplace” of London, and an easy 20-minute train ride to Central London. I was able to learn so much about such a fascinating city in my four months of living there. Through a course I took at Kingston University, “British Life and Culture,” we were able to tour other parts of England, such as Brighton and Bath. We also took a tour of London’s Parliament, and saw shows at the National Theatre.
On my own, I was able to go see some fascinating museums such as the Imperial War Museum, the London Museum and the National Art Gallery. One of the most beautiful things I saw while in London was a painting created on a part of the Berlin Wall, displayed at the Imperial War Museum. It read, "Change your Life." It was very inspirational to me, and I shared the photo with all my closest friends back home. I shared this with my friends because to me, it means to keep our dreams alive and to keep fighting for our beliefs no matter what obstacles we face.
While in London, I was also able to witness the procession of the royal wedding, discover the fun British pub nightlife, and make a lifelong connection with the British host family that I lived with there. Its been six months since I have been home and I still exchange notes with them regularly. They said when I return to London, I will stay with them as a friend, rather than a tenant.
Studying abroad, no matter what program you go with, is a life-changing decision. You will learn and grow so much in your time away. This experience taught me time management, how to better budget my money and, above all, I gained a better sense of independence.