Before I came to UK, I set up a few goals to accomplish during my study away semester. First, I should travel as much as possible, both within and out of UK. Second, I should get the most out of my foreign internship experience. Third, I should establish some worthwhile connections and relationships and stay in contact after my departure.
Concerning my first goal, I am sad to admit that I did not travel as much as I had hoped. Within UK, I have tried to explore new places at least once a week. However, I found it impossible to do for some weekends given that I am taking five classes this semester plus internship. Out of UK, I have only visited France and Italy. I didn’t have the chance to explore Europe more because, again, of my busy schedule.
Moving on to the second goal, I am happy to say that I had a very good internship experience here in London. Although it took 20 hours every week, it was a really nice to be able to work with people here, in a foreign environment and in a different culture.
Now to the third goal, I am excited that I have met some of the most amazing people here and have established good relationships with them. Some of them are co-workers, some of them are NYU London students, and others are people I met outside. I have no doubt that I will stay in contact with them after I go back to the U.S. Personally, as a business student, I believe that making foreign connection is one of the major reason why study abroad is very beneficial to my personal and career growth. As a result, I am quite satisfied with this past semester.
It is a special time for UK and for the rest of Europe. Because of the recent bad economy, you can expect to see some unusual things going on if you plan to come in the next few years.
If you plan to study abroad, you will probably plan several weekends to travel to Europe, be it France, Greece, Italy, or Spain. That’s totally fine, but one thing to pay attention to is that Europe is currently in a very sensitive and challenging time. Strikes can happen unexpectedly during your stays and delay or ruin your travel plans. Serious protests can happen on the streets and can be dangerous.
One of my friends planned a trip to Belgium a few weeks ago. She does not have class on Tuesday and Wednesday, so she decided to leave on Monday night, have fun until Wednesday morning, and then come back on Wednesday night. Good plan, plenty of time to catch Thursday’s class, right? It turned out that she couldn’t come back until Friday morning because of a strike in Belgium.
Now back to UK, a slightly less serious protest took place near our campus the other day. It was an action organized to protest the raise of tuition for college students in London. I don’t know the exact number, but apparently the tuition is going to double. Now, even if the tuition doubled, I am very sure they are still paying like 1/10 of what we are paying for NYU. So personally…I have no sympathy for them whatsoever. But you get the idea. Economy is bad and protests like these are likely to happen everywhere in Europe, including UK. This is just something you should keep at the back of your head while abroad.
Now that there’s less than 3 weeks until the semester ends, I feel it is the right moment to go over the tips that might be very helpful to future students who are thinking of coming to London.
Tip #1: Always Have a Plan
I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. Having a plan will not only make your journeys more enjoyable but also cut down a significant amount of unnecessary cost. You will also be able to see more of the city as you spend less time wandering on the street frustratingly.
Tip#2: Take Few Classes/Walk Around More
You might think a semester is a long time for you to explore Europe, but trust me, it is not enough. There are just so many places to visit and so many things to see. If you overload yourself with classes, you will definitely regret it.
Tip#3: Carry an Umbrella at all Time
This might sound silly, but it is a very helpful tip as London is a rainy city.
Tip#4: Pack Lightly
You should pack lightly and limit your belongs to only the absolute necessaries. During the fall break and after the semester, you will definitely want to travel to many countries in Europe. Bring big suitcases on and off the buses, underground, and trains can be very inconvenient and frustrating. Furthermore, you will definitely have a lot of shopping to do. It will be a shame if you can’t fit what you buy into suitcases.
Tip#5: Don’t Procrastinate
An opportunity to spend a semester abroad is very rare, and it might be tempting to self-talk yourself that it is all about foreign experience and not about college works. Wrong. After all, this is a study-away program. Studying is still an essential part of the semester, so you will be better-off if you plan ahead and don’t procrastinate.
Since I have the opportunity to intern in a local business firm this semester, I would like to talk about my working experience in London and point out some similarities and differences with my working experience in the United States.
To start, I think British office operates in a more lay-back manner. People are a lot more casual and conversational than I expected. For example, my boss likes to start up conversation, about anything, all the time. There is no strict hierarchy in the office. My boss manages projects, holds meetings, and talks to clients, but he also makes copies and serves coffees. There are no hard lines drawn between positions, and people basically just do everything that needs to be done. People also look after each others in the office. They are proactive and offer me a lot of helps when they see me confused. They also take turns serving coffee/teas for everyone in the office, which I think is just incredible.
On the other hand, my working experience in American office is quite different. The office operates in a more formal way and lines are drawn between different positions. People focus on getting their parts of the job done and wander less into their colleagues’ lives. Coffee is always self-served.
Of course, I am sure there are offices in the United States that are very interactive and offices in Britain that are more self-focused. I am by no mean strictly categorizing the two working environments based on my experiences. I am just sharing my experiences with anyone who might be interested in working abroad during his/her stay.
NYU programs offer a wide range of activities for students to participate. So far, as part of the NYU Programs, I have gone to London Eye, Greenwich, and Piccadilly Institute.
London Eye is just this giant Ferris Wheel that everyone must go to in London. It is 443 feet tall and 394 feet in diameter. The whole trip is around 30 minutes. On the London Eye, you can just at the most incredible view of the city in many angles. Of course, it is best to go there at night.
I have mentioned Greenwich in my previous blog. You can learn much about Britain’s royal history in this famous tourist site. Although art and history are not something that get teenagers excited, the cruise on Thames and the beautiful scenery in Greenwich certainly make up for it.
Piccadilly Institute is a bar located at one of the busiest place in London—Piccadilly Circus. A night in London bar is not that different from a night in New York bar, so I won’t dwell on this.
So far, that’s it, but I will be going to a vintage ice skating event at Somerset House at the end of the month. I will reveal the event in my later post.
Overall, I hoped that I could have gone to a lot more events than I did, but I could not go to a lot of the events (Mozart’s Magic Flu, Phantom of Opera, Swan Lake…etc.) because of class conflicts. So please, don’t overload yourself with classes on your study abroad semester. You will regret it!
As I have said before, having a plan is extremely important in studying abroad because a sudden travel plan is always very expensive. Not only that, it is sometimes impossible to book train tickets or hotels during tourist seasons. Therefore, I highly recommend visiting this website months before your vacation to construct your travel plans:
This website provides almost all the travel information you possibly need to complete your plan. After you tell the website what your destinations are, it will shows you various travel options that you can consider, including different travel methods and travel route. It also analyzes the pros and cons of each travel methods for you. For example, if you want to enjoy the foreign scenery during the trip, then it is best to book “The Scenic Brenner Pass”. Although it is much more expensive, it really allows you to have a much better look at the foreign country. If budge is an issue, then you should book “TGV high-speed daytime train”. If time is an issue and you do not want to waste day time traveling, you should book “Thello Overnight Sleeper Train”. The website also provides the links that allow you to book the tickets you want.
Personally, I recommend taking the Thello Overnight Sleeper Train. The train departs from Paris and arrives at your destination in the morning. It is very cost effective because it saves you unnecessary hotel bills. Also, it is time effective since you do not waste precious day time traveling.
Reading local newspaper is a very good way to get to know a new city. In the past few months, I have really developed a habit of reading newspaper on a daily basis. In the morning, there will be someone handing out City A.M. outside of the underground station. In the evening, Evening Standard will be handing out.
Both newspapers are great sources of information. They not only contribute to my learning of the city but they also keep me updated on what is going on in the United States. For example, during the previous election period, I followed the presidential election not on website, nor on TV, but on these two newspapers.
They are also great sources in that I get to learn the U.S news from a foreigner’s perspective. Believe it or not, people here care a great deal about what’s going on in the United States, whether it be economics or politics. In fact, many of them know the U.S politics better than I do. As a result, they not only have detailed reports but also interesting comments. It is very interesting to watch the United States from a global perspective.
The most exciting pages from those newspapers, however, come from the last two pages. In the last two pages, I can learn about any recent sport news, such as previous day’s football or tennis results. By the time I meet my colleague at intern or my roommates at home, I will be ready to air my thoughts and discuss the games with them.