An international city with an at-home feel
Some students worry that studying abroad in London won't be a "cultural enough experience" because the Brits speak English and the city, at first glance, is similar to New York City. While these things may feel familiar, it's important for students to know there are actually many cultural differences between Londoners and Americans. For starters, British English is slightly different than American English. An apartment is called a flat, organisation is spelled with an "s" instead of a "z" and the first Harry Potter book is titled Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
Okay so maybe those are just subtle differences. Here are a few cultural aspects of London that will make your study abroad experience unique:
- London is known for its great Indian and Thai food. In fact, a lot of Londoners prefer Indian dinners over fish n' chips! Brick Lane is like a "Little India" filled with vendors and restaurants - definitely worth checking out if you want to add some new flavors to your palate.
- The British take their tea very seriously. For the full cultural experience, attend high tea at a restaurant during the afternoon. Places like Harrods put on all the airs with scones and tea sandwiches and a classic pianist. Nothing else will feel so "English!"
- Speakers Corner is a historical cultural phenomenon that takes place in Hyde Park every Sunday morning, rain or shine. Londoners (and tourists) are free to come express their beliefs to the surrounding public. On any given morning, five or ten passionate speakers will be up on stools shouting over each other about religion, politics and philosophy while the audience debates and shouts right back. This is freedom of speech at a whole new level in a whole new culture.
- The architecture in London rivals that of the rest of Europe with its gothic cathedrals like Westminster Abbey. For a particularly inspiring visit, consider going to a church service or an open organ recital. The resonance in Westminster Abbey is magical as you enjoy the space with the likes of Jane Austen, Sir Winston Churchill and Charles Darwin who were laid in eternal rest beneath your feet.
Perhaps more important than the food and the unique destinations are the people you will meet while studying abroad in London. It truly is one of the world's most international cities. You can study there and make friends from as close as Paris or as far as Malaysia. It is a great experience to see how similar people from around the globe truly are and how much everyone loves the city.
Don't just take it from me, here's what students from around the world had to say about studying abroad in London:
- "London was great! Everything had history to it. The city was safe. There was so much to do. And there were lots of different cultures. It kind of felt like a gateway to the world. Believe it or not, I had never had Indian food until going there!" - Kyle, United States
- "I got homesick the first week. I think it's normal in the beginning because you come into a different country with a different language, far away from home, family and friends. But I got used to London and I made friends. After a couple of weeks, I became a Londoner and almost forgot that I was a Parisian." - Sophie, France
- "I had a great time learning from international students, playing football with them, cooking together and so on. Studying abroad in London couldn't be any better. I studied finance and London is known as a Finance City, so it was very interesting." - Sherif, The Gambia
London really is the perfect place for students from around the world to come and study together. The tube is clean and easy to navigate, the museums are free and the educational system is prestigious in its own right. Plus, there are so many fun things to do you might not even be able to see everything in one semester which is arguably the best part about London. You will never get bored!
So what are you waiting for?! London is calling!
Learn more about studying abroad in London.
Rachael has a B.S. in Geography from the University of Maryland and studied abroad in London during the Spring of 2009.