Travel Log 5 “Conversations” by Doug Beebe; London, England

I still find it truly incredible how I have an opportunity to live in a new city for an entire semester. I wake up every morning and am amazed that when I look out my window I am still looking out into the wonderful city of London and not waking up from a really long dream. One of the most interesting things that happened to me this week was coming back from Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest was definitely and experience but towards the end of that weekend I kept saying to myself, ‘I can’t wait to go home’ (to London). I still find it to be so crazy that only after 3-4 weeks I can call this new city home and that I feel so comfortable here!

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to meet that many people that are from London or the UK itself because in all of my classes and my building are secluded just for study aboard students. My school also is very diverse with people from all over the world rather than primarily English people so finding someone to interview who was close to my age instead of the people who run my program or one of my professors was definitely a challenge. So this week my flat mate Sam and I walked around our hall knocking on random doors introducing ourselves and we found a guy who grew up in a town in northern England so naturally I asked to interview him immediately and he gladly accepted after giving me one of the ‘you stupid American’ looks. After sitting down with him and getting to know each other he actually turned out to be a pretty cool guy with a lot of insight about the culture and educational system of the UK.

Chris and I talked for about an hour about a bunch of random stuff, primarily focusing on the differences that he has noticed between the generic American culture and that of the of the main topics that we talked about the most was the school system and how completely different it is in the US than over here. In the UK the educational system, which I am still trying to figure out, is very focused on individual work. Classes are run in a manor where the professor just talks about the topic of the day without really explaining things in a logical manor and then it is the student’s job to then go home and read/research topics to actually learn the material. One of the largest differences though is the fact that there is no assessment throughout the semester. In the US we are so used to having mandatory homework to help learn material, pop quizzes, and test on a regular basis. Over here they do not have any of that. Your grade at the end of the semester is completely based on you final exam and maybe a piece of coursework (usually a few short essays). Most of the exams here are essays that are from one-sentence prompts. In the US usually essay prompts give you a direction in what the professor wants you to touch upon in your essay, but here it is just a simple prompt that you then have to interpret into what you feel the professor is looking for,

Along with the completely different educational system, a bunch of generic differences are the language, driving, walking, and social life. It is really interesting to listen to British people speak sometimes, not only for their accents, but how they say completely different phrases than we would in the same language in the US. There are so many things that mean something completely different in British English than American English, like Chris was explaining how when someone says “you alright?” that is actually means “how are you, ” or obvious ones like ‘queue,’ ‘top-up,’ ‘knock-up’ and so many more.

The last thing that we disgusted that I found interesting was that in the UK religion essentially doesn’t exist. There are many old churches and places to pray and practice for many different religions but Chris was saying that people arent really spiritual here. He said that people would rather spend their time shopping than in church or praying, which I found really interesting because I feel that religion is a pretty large part of the US culture for IMG_6272many people. This isn’t really an example, but many government officials in the US will finish their speeches with ‘God Bless America’ and Chris said that British people find that to be extremely weird because they don’t even say god bless you to each other when they sneeze, no less to an entire country.

So after our conversation Chris and my flat mates have hung out a lot, which is pretty cool to think that I know have a good British friend now! It was also really interesting to think about how similar the UK and the US seem on pen and paper, but once you get here and actually discuss with someone who has lived here their entire life that it is actually completely different!


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