You wake up to your cell-phone alarm and look around. To your left, a window, a small desk, and a wardrobe. Straight ahead you see a bathroom and a door leading out of the room. Still groggy from a night at the pub, you stumble into the bathroom and get yourself ready - shower, teeth, hair, and a spritz of the cologne your mother gave you as a going-away present. You toss on the first thing you find in your wardrobe, grab the paper you finished writing at 2 AM, toss it in your backpack, and head out.
You leave your room just in time to catch your suitemate leaving his. He asks if the milk in the fridge is still good. You say you don't know, you never have time for cereal, and grab an apple from the tiny, humid kitchen before running downstairs.
This is your home for the semester.
Your run slows to a jog, then a walk, when you realize you have a half-mile to school. As you stroll past the quaint, suburban houses, with their quaint suburban yards, you look at your watch, which is still set for your home time-zone, before checking the time on your cell-phone. You still have an hour before class. Plenty of time to hit the bakery! Halfway to campus, you see the orange sign that promises a hot meal good for on-the-go. You pop in and grab two sausage rolls for a pound each and continue your journey to campus, eating as you walk.
You get to class a few minutes early, with just enough time to hit the loo and try to wash out the grease stain from those sausage rolls. You sit down just as class starts. The professor takes attendance then gets right into the lecture. This part of class is pretty similar to back home, except that the Prof. has a dreamy accent. You daydream about British girls until the first break.
Time for lunch! Not wanting to walk very far, you join a few classmates on their way to the campus store, where you buy an energy drink, a pre-packaged egg-salad sandwich with bacon, and, as an afterthought, an orange, just to be healthy.
Class is resuming soon, and it's a field-trip day! So you and your mates head into Kingston proper to get to the train station. You manage to only get on one wrong train before finally arriving at Waterloo Station in London, where you're meeting the rest of your class. Today, you'll be doing a Dickens walk. You read "Oliver Twist" (er, well, skimmed), and now you're going to see some of the places mentioned in the book! Fagan's house, the bookstore where Oliver makes a delivery, etc. It's all there, coming to life in front of your eyes! Suddenly Dickens doesn't seem so boring - you can't wait to re-read "Oliver Twist."
And then "class" is over, and you're free to roam London to your heart's content. There's shopping in Piccadilly Circus, Broadway shows just down the street, a cafe if you're still hungry... and then a friend mentions a pub. It's only 4 PM, so there's plenty of time for a pint!
It's 1 AM, you just barely caught the last train home, and you fall onto your bed in a daze. It was a good day - you even think you learned something on that Dickens walk. Now it's time to pass out and do it all over.
I did a summer course at Kingston University - London, through GlobaLinks Study Abroad, and that's about what the whole semester was like. You're constantly going, going, going, because there's just so much to do!
Some practical advice:
- Get your schoolwork done ASAP. It's no good having to rush through Buckingham Palace, because you forgot about that paper due by midnight.
- Talk to your professors before doing any major projects. Paper requirements are different over there - for example, I'm a Creative Writing major who hasn't gotten anything lower than an A- on a paper in years, but I got a B+ and B- on two papers, because the professor simply had different expectations than the ones at my home school. It never hurts to ask!
- Try the food! Drink the beer! Have a sip of that funny looking soda in the convenient store! You've got a limited time to experience an entire culture, so go DO it!
- There's no shame in doing the touristy things. Remember, you ARE a tourist. Go to Buckingham Palace; take a picture with the Beefeaters; stop someone in the tube station to ask how to find your terminal; walk into a pub and ask exactly what a "pasty" is. It's okay! As long as you're friendly, the locals will be, too.
- Talk to the locals! Making friends is probably easier than you think, especially when you mention that you're a foreign student. Think of how YOU react to foreign students back home - probably with interest, asking questions, offering to show them around, right? Right.
- Talk to the other students. It's a lot less scary to explore when you have someone to watch your back. Also, strength in numbers! I didn't personally deal with crime in London, but you're much less likely to be targeted if you're in a group.
- I can't stress this one enough... GET OUT OF LONDON. That's right. London is huge, awesome, and only city out of dozens in England. Take a weekend, catch a train to Portsmouth, Brighton, or Newcastle. Check out Wales or take a ferry to Ireland. Your options are only limited by your time and imagination, so start planning side-trips!
- This is a super-tough one, I know, but try to keep a budget. It will make the whole trip a lot less stressful, and you don't want stress when you're supposed to be having fun.