Skip to content

By Jess Yacovelle

I'm currently sitting on a plane from London Heathrow to San Diego's Lindbergh Field. I waited until I was on the plane to write this last post for two reasons: 1) packing woes previously overwhelmed me, and 2) it felt silly to write about my overall London experience whilst still in London.

The past three and a half months were more than I ever thought I'd experience in regards to Europe. When I entered my freshman year at GW, I had no plans to study abroad. My parents were against it because of the cost, my then-boyfriend didn't like the idea of me leaving the country, and my own personal goals as a student and a writer meant that I didn't want to be away from GW. In the second semester of my junior year, I chose to study abroad on a whim - literally two weeks before the application deadline for King's - and I barely submitted my materials in time. In truth, I can't remember what made me decide to study abroad - the promise of adventure, fear of the future, a desire to get away - but to any GW students still on the fence about study abroad, I can tell you this: it was the best decision I've ever made.

Studying in London allowed me to start over in a new city but with the safety net of GW ready to provide help if I needed it. I had to find my way (literally and metaphorically), make new friends, and create a life for myself in the King's community in a very different way from when I started as a freshman at GW over three years ago. It forced me to stand on my own two feet. I'm still terrified for the future and apprehensive for life after GW, but I'm now confident in myself and my ability to build a life and identity for myself, no matter what.

More importantly, study abroad opened my eyes to the different cultures of the world. I grew up fairly sheltered - I've traveled heavily in the US and Canada, but I never left North America as a child - and it's only through participating in study abroad that I've realized just how much there is to see, and how easy it is to see it.

There's a famous post on Tumblr, in which a blogger states: "My bro just came prancing into my room with a Burger King crown. We don't have Burger King in Belgium. He drove all the way to the Netherlands." That sort of cultural-merging is absolutely true about my experience with living in London. I remember back in October I spent the morning in Prague and the evening in London. I took a train from London to Paris in 2 hours. A flight to Ireland lasted barely an hour. All of these different countries and cultures are so close together, there's no reason not to see it. As Americans, we're at a disadvantage because these things aren't at our fingertips.

Study abroad changed my life, because I'm now determined to return to Europe and spend a month or two backpacking. Public transportation passes like the Eurail Pass make it affordable to travel for a couple of months without breaking the bank, and hostels are decent enough accommodations. In fact, I've done the math and - as a west coast girl - the most expensive part of my trip would be the plane tickets there and back; the plane tickets are almost equal to what hostels and train tickets would cost for one month.

I now have a strong desire to see the rest of the world, to experience the differences between as many cultures as possible, and I didn't before. It's a cliché (perhaps it's a cliché for a reason), but study abroad opened my eyes to the rest of the world, and I would highly recommend it to any and all GW students.

By Jess Yacovelle

For the majority of my blog posts, I've written about the United Kingdom social culture or the schooling system. This time, I'm going to wax on and on about arguably my favorite part of the UK: the fan culture. Living in the United Kingdom is like living in Hollywood: chances are, someone has filmed something on every major street in London, so if you're a big nerd like me, you can experience some major geek-out moments no matter where you go in the UK. Here are my personal top give fandom tidbits about the London and the United Kingdom.

1) Soccer, aka football. I'm not one of those people who insist sports aren't fandoms; anyone willing to spend hundreds of dollars a year on stadium tickets belongs in a fandom, and the UK is therefore a great place to visit. In London, there are (at least) four different football teams and games are shown at almost every pub. You can essentially watch a soccer game anytime you want. Many stadiums also offer tours, and all stadiums have a gift shop! If you're a soccer fan, the UK is the place to feed your addiction.

2) Olympics. In the same vein as soccer, some people are massive fans of the Olympics. The 2012 Olympics were held in Stratford, just outside of London, and you can go tour the area! Some of the stadium is closed for renovations until 2016, but the rest is currently open to the public and visitable. Furthermore, you can see some of the medals and the Olympic torch, which is kept in London's City Hall, by Tower Bridge on the Southbank.

3) Doctor Who. It's the show all generations of people love. Doctor Who recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. In Cardiff, Wales a Doctor Who Museum and set tour has been assembled for fans of the long-standing series to peruse. Fans of the Doctor Who spin-off series Torchwood should also go see the Roald Dahl Plass, where the Torchwood hub is marked and Ianto's Door, a memorial to a fictional character. You can also check out sites that appeared in the show, such as Cardiff Castle, Canary Wharf, and Trafalgar Square. Want more Doctor Who goodness? Check out fan forums for tips.

4) Literary love. If you're a fan of any English literature - Shakespeare, Victorian, Irish - there are tons of places you can visit in London. A replica of Shakespeare's Globe theatre stands on the edge of the Thames. The Fitzroy Tavern in Holburn offers literary pub crawls. Plaques all over London and Dublin detail the places favorited by writers and poets, or where they used to live and write. A certain cafe in Edinburgh boasts being the writing home of JK Rowling. For Victorian writers like Dickens, you can still see the same streets and landmarks that are mentioned in their stories! Do some research and check out the best sites!

5) Harry Potter! Remember how I mentioned JK Rowling earlier? The after effects of her works are visible all over London and the UK! In addition to visiting the famous Rowling cafe, you can head over to Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station. Then, visit Leavesdon Studios (off of the Watford Junction train stop outside of London), where they filmed the movies. You can take guided walking tours of places either mentioned in the series or used in filming, including Borough Market in London and the Millennium Bridge. Get your wizarding nerd on with some Harry Potter love!

These are just my nerdy Brit-joys; research yours and enjoy the experience!

By Jess Yacovelle

London as a city is obsessed with Christmas as a holiday. From the day after Halloween up until Boxing Day, London is decked out in Christmas spirit and cheer, even more so than in the United States. There is no question of political correctness and whether London is allowed to celebrate Christmas when not everyone does, and as a result, the city has transformed into a holiday wonderland. Here are the top five pre-December 25th London Christmas facts!

1) Everyone wishes you a Happy Christmas. Yes, London acknowledges that other religions and holidays exist, but Christmas has sort of become so separated from actual religion in England that it's perfectly normal to wish everyone a Happy Christmas regardless of their beliefs.

2) Decorations. Decorations are everywhere. Christmas trees pop up in shops and lobbies, tinsel and lights are hung across streets, and fairy lights decorate trees and bushes. For nearly two straight months, you can walk down Oxford Street or Chancery Lane and see near-constant decorations, and it is absolutely beautiful, especially at night.

3) Hyde Park. Northwest of Buckingham Palace is Hyde Park, a lovely large patch of grass and trees that stretches into Kensington Gardens. During Christmas, the southwest corner of Hyde Park is transformed into a Winter Wonderland carnival. There is a ferris wheel, carnival rides, ice skating, games, shops, and every type of fair food imaginable. It's free to get into, and absolutely worth attending, especially since Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are gorgeous tourist destinations in and of themselves.

4) Winter markets. There are Christmas-themed markets hidden all over London, especially along the Thames. I've accidentally stumbled upon three thus far, and there are more I haven't been to yet. Some of these markets - like the one in front of the Tate Modern or by the London Eye - are temporary and not there for eleven months out of the year, so these holiday markets are truly a unique aspect of Christmas in London.

5) Everything is set to shut down Christmas Day. All of those markets and the Hyde Park fair that I mentioned earlier are completely dead on Christmas day. Theatre shows don't have performances, shops close, and public transit is much more limited. In fact, only nice restaurants offer Christmas dinners on December 25th, but you have to make reservations months in advance.

Bonus: Christmas TV specials. Yes, we do this in the states as well, but England as a whole has a tradition of creating new Christmas specials every year. From scripted shows like Doctor Who to comedy panel shows like 8 Out of 10 Cats, England produces new Christmas specials every single year. One of the better known panel shows that is released only at Christmas is The Big Fat Quiz of the Year, a show that is released once a year around Boxing Day, and one that I luckily got to see recorded live.

By Jess Yacovelle

I'm closing in on my last month studying abroad, so I have a pretty good grasp on both London and King's College. Therefore, I thought I'd share the five weirdest things that I've seen in Europe, as told from the point of view of an American.

1) There are plaques everywhere. And I do mean everywhere: on the side of buildings, on benches, even in the middle of the sidewalk. These plaques proclaim certain areas to have historical significance. King's College, for example, has a few located around campus in honor of Virgina Woolf. Various plaques exist in the Green Park area in regards to past monarchs. Where this gets a little weird, however, is when these plaques start to get really, really specific. I understand, for example having a plaque at the home of where the queen used to live, but do we really need one at the hotel in Canterbury where she used to put up her guests for the night? Yes, plaques honoring famous writers are great (especially for me, the English major), but must we put up plaques telling us where these writers used to eat breakfast? London is an incredibly historical city, but sometimes it can be a little too historical.

2) Elevators. Elevators are so weird in the United Kingdom. In the US, you hit either the up or the down bottom, and an elevator going in that direction stops at your floor and picks you up. Simple, right? In London, there is one button for you to press, and the elevator comes to get you in the order that people have called for it. Which means, that if someone in the basement pushes the button before someone on the ground floor, the elevator will bypass the ground floor, go down to the basement, and then come back up to the ground floor. Now, this is simply irritating and only a little strange... Until class lets out and everyone hits the button at the exact same time. I've literally stood on the ground floor for five straight minutes, watching as the elevator passes me down to the basement, up to the third floor, down to the second basement, back up to the fifth floor... How much more inconvenient can you be?

3) Trains. I'm not going to lie, I've lived in London for over two months now, and I still can't figure out the train ticketing system. For trains in London, you can pay with your Oyster card (aka the underground card)... sometimes. It's supposedly cheaper to do so than to buy a physical ticket, but it's never very clear when you're allowed to and when you're not. Obviously, if you're leaving London you can't pay with a London underground card, but what if you're taking a train to the London Gatwick airport? Nope, you need a ticket. But why? No one knows.

4) Cheerleaders at a hockey game. No, I'm not making this up; how could I? It's so bizarre and unheard of from an American standpoint. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I went to a hockey game whilst on a long-weekend in Prague, and I was absolutely stunned to find a platform in the corner of the stands where home-team cheerleaders performed. What were they doing there? Cheerleaders don't belong at a hockey game! Hockey is a sport characterized by speed, skill, and intensity, not pom-poms and frowny faces when the opposing team scores. And oh yes, I didn't make that up; the cheerleaders literally crossed their arms over their chest and frowned when the away team scored. I can think of literally nothing less characteristic of ice hockey as a sport than that display.

5) Abandoned underground stations. I know these exist in the United States too, but it's even stranger to pass by them in London because of the aforementioned history of the city. These stations haven't all been demolished or bricked over. For example, the Strand underground station - which is right next to King's College - is abandoned, but the building that leads down into the station still exists. A sign proclaiming the existence of the Strand Station hangs above the entrance, and only a metal gate separates the brick interior from the rest of the world. These stations don't appear on any maps, but they are everywhere. It almost makes you wonder how many abandoned tunnels are beneath London's surface.

It's a bit of an understatement that the United States is big on sports. Be it baseball, basketball, or football, almost every American student has been on some sort of athletic team or taken lessons at some point during their childhood. Even more so, in the states, "sports" as a concept has taken on a life of its own: it's a billion dollar industry with multiple TV channels and a slew of weekends over the course of a year dedicated to various sporting endeavors.

So how do sports fit into Europe? More specifically, how do sports fit into the United Kingdom?

The biggest sport - in both Europe and the United Kingdom - is clearly football, or soccer as Americans call it. Each country has a national team, and various cities have their own teams as well. London, for example, has four teams that I know of, and near the end of October I went to one of the games.

I saw the Tottenham Hot Spurs play (and defeat) a Greek team at their home stadium. A friend of mine, who loves European football and actually understood what he was doing, organized the trip and booked field-level seats near the center of the pitch. The stadium - being outdoors - was quite cold, and it even started to rain at one point. However the atmosphere was lively - fans jumping out of their seat and screaming at goals or fouls - and the home team dominated play. Though I didn't know the official rules, it was easy enough to follow the action. My friend ended up explaining the rules to a group of us, but I mostly ignored him and focused on watching the game; I chose to apply NHL rules to the football game instead of struggling to digest my friend's diatribe, and for the most part, it served me well.

Hockey is one sport that England does not have, but the rest of Europe - especially the Slavic countries - loves. For me personally, one of the worst aspects of studying in London was the lack of hockey. Though I'm a Californian, my father instilled in me a love for the Philadelphia Flyers and ice hockey, and it kills me that I'm missing the first half of their season.

So when I traveled to Prague immediately following the football game in October, I made sure to catch a hockey match. The team names were all in Czech, so I have no idea who played who, but I do know that the home team won and it was a fantastic game. Since I'm so much more knowledgeable about hockey than I am about football, I can actually detail some differences between NHL hockey and European hockey.

To begin with, European rinks are slightly larger, their goalies are allowed to play the puck from anywhere behind the net, not just within the trapezoid, and offensive players are not allowed to enter the goalie's crease. Moreso, European hockey includes harsher penalties for players who break the rules.

And what do these rules include? No fighting. That's right, hockey lovers, in European hockey, you aren't allowed to fight or even be too physical. Check too hard? You're ejected from the game. Throw a single punch? You may be suspended for several games. As I witnessed in Prague, this creates a completely altered style of hockey. Instead of being physical, players emphasize their finesse and puck-handling skills. They use more fancy, fast passes and less of a forecheck to take the lead. How do I feel about these changes? Well for one thing, it makes it a little more understandable for me to watch players in the NHL - such as Finish Kimmo Timonen or Jaromir Jagr from the Czech Republic - play games so much less physical than American or Canadian born players. In general, however? I think I prefer American hockey. Though the skill with which these Slavic players handle the puck is awe-inspiring, there is a certain level of physicality I’ve come to expect in hockey, and it doesn’t feel right to watch the game without it.

Overall, Europe lacks some of the American sports - such as basketball and football - and it has some sports that we don’t have, like cricket and rugby. To anyone interested in studying abroad, I highly recommend watching some sort of athletic game in your foreign country; it can be really telling in regards to the culture.

I've been writing for GW Blog Abroad for nearly three months now, and I think it's about time I confess something: I am physically limited.

Well, kind of. I'm in the grey area of disability: it's not bad enough that I need to declare it on any forms, but it is severe enough that I require surgery and physical therapy. I have scoliosis - a curvature of the spine - and it prevents me from doing certain things (like run or wear corsets) without my lungs being ironically impinged by my rib cage. I can't stand for more than an hour at a time without incurring nerve pain, and my limbs will occasionally go numb for no apparent reason. It's unfortunate, but I don't let my issues impinge upon my ability to participate in life, pain or no pain. 

Essentially, my plight isn't bad enough to require a handicapped sticker on my license plate, but if the US army ever returned to a draft system, I'd be declared unfit for duty.

So how is it that I've been backpacking around Europe for the past three weekends when simply wearing a backpack makes me limp? How have I been staying in hostels, hurrying to catch trains, hiking in Prague? For that matter, how can any student with consistent physical pain partake in the GW study abroad student-rite-of-passage of traveling cheaply? For that matter, how can anyone other than the strongest athlete manage to carry around their belongings from city to city?

Simple. You pay attention. Stepping on mismatched cobblestone and the mile-wide gap of grout in-between causes my vertebrae to grind together, so I actively seek out the smoothest sections of the street. A six hour train ride into Nantes makes my muscles ache and spasm, so I get up and wander the train every hour or so. Carrying my backpack through a crowded airport for the two hours before my flight takes off makes my head light and my sciatic shudder, so I set my bag down (my leg looped though the strap to protect against theft) whenever I can. Most importantly, I always do these things before I have pain, not after or during.

The number one tip I can give is to be preventative by paying attention to both your body and the world around you.

It does you no good to tough it out - keep your pack on your back - until your legs are shaking and you're ready to cry. Any moment you have the chance, set your bag down. Lean against the wall, stretch your body, and pay attention. By giving your body breaks whenever you can, you'll last longer and be able to keep up with more able-bodied people.

My other favorite thing is to spread out my belongings. Obviously, if I'm traveling anywhere long-term I bathe in the luxury of a rolling suitcase. However, for older cities like Prague (in which a paved road is essentially a tourist attraction in and of itself), a rolling suitcase is not a possibility. My trick? I place anything fragile or heavy in my backpack, and then carry a lightweight tote filled with toiletries or clothing. Having a second, easy-to-maneuver bag let's me rearrange how I carry things if my back starts to hurt or things get too heavy for me.

The old adage is "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." It's a cliché, but it's a cliché for a reason, as people like me know. Recovering from a day of intense pain is a harrowing experience, and it can easily kill an entire vacation day. It's better to not put yourself in that position at all. So watch the world around you - pay attention to your body - and cheat. Find the ways of standing, sitting, and backpacking that don't bother your body, and work them into your travel as often as you can. If you stretch and pay attention, there's no reason you can't travel like everyone else.

By Jess Yacovelle

One of the benefits of studying in the United Kingdom is that nearly everyone speaks English in London. Because of the shared language, being in a new city, in a new country, in a new culture doesn't feel quite so scary. Everything is tinted with a shade of home and familiarity that most foreign countries lack. Yet not everything about London is the same as the United States. In fact, there are some stark cultural differences - both good and bad - between the two areas.

For one thing, as I've previously mentioned, there are no trashcans anywhere in the UK! If you finish a cup of coffee, you could literally be carrying that empty cup for miles. There's probably one "rubbish bin" per five block radius, yet the streets are nearly spotless. They have a fraction of the cigarette butts and gum stains as most American cities do, and the nice areas of London have virtually no bits of trash anywhere. I don't know how they do it, but somehow they keep the streets clean without any trashcans.

Trashcans may not be on every block, but you know what is? Pret a Manger. Literally, it's on every block. It's a European staple that sells coffee, pre-made sandwiches, and baked goods. King's College, where I'm currently studying for the semester, is located directly between two different Pret a Mangers. You can't escape them; it's best to just give in.

The Brits also have no idea where to go. For no apparent reason, they became one of the only European countries to drive on the left. So, logically, you'd think that means they're a lefty country, right? They should walk on the left, stand on the left, move to the left... no. In fact, England can't make up its mind. On all of the escalators, you stand on the right. In some of the tube stations, you walk on the right... unless arbitrary signs tell you to walk on the left. You exit stations on the left, but you walk down the streets on the right. There are no hard and fast rules in regards to which side of the street pedestrians should stick to, and as a result, there are frequent human traffic jams.

Speaking of humans, British people are known to be cold and unfriendly, but this is not true. They have very specific social customs, and they do not like these customs to be broken. For example, they do not talk on the tube, and they glare at anyone who tries to strike up a conversation. The tube is a place of commute, not a place to socialize. Making conversation with strangers on the tube isn't proper.

Speaking of properness, it is considered improper to wear a skirt or dress without a pair of tights. On the first day of classes - back when the sun was shinning and it was 80 degrees outside - I could easily differentiate between the tourists and the natives by who wore tights with their skirts and who was bare-legged. No matter how hot it gets, no one in England has bare legs (unless they're gong to a club); it just isn't done.

Another thing different in regards to apparel is that at bars - pure bars, not sports bars - you must wear heels. I've had friends rejected and told to leave a bar because they were not wearing heels. I think it's because heels show respect for the establishment that you made an effort to dress in a classy manner. Regardless of why you do it, the reality is you need to do it.

These are just some of the differences between the culture of the United States and the culture of the United Kingdom, and as I continue to study abroad in London, I'm sure I'll find more.

By Jess Yacovelle

I've been living in London now for nearly seven weeks, and by this point I've experienced numerous things to do each and every day. I've compiled my five favorites into the below list; check them out!

1) Find "a place." To me, the number one thing that's helping me get to know and experience London is a restaurant a few friends and I have found: Belushi's. We hang out there a couple nights a week and we interact with other regulars. By relaxing and chatting with locals in a familiar setting, it's easy to learn more about London life.

2) Trafalgar Square. There's always something going on in Trafalgar Square. Whether it's a street dance performance, a food fair, or a special exhibit, Trafalgar Square is a beautiful place to see. The architecture of the statues is also gorgeous and well worth a look.

3) See a theatre show. Comedians and theatre shows are huge in London. There are upwards of twenty shows occurring on any given night. The downside to this cool cultural tidbit is that it's a pretty expensive habit; tickets range in £30-£100! But it's worth it to try and see a show or two a month because London theatre is amazing. As of now, I've seen Shakespeare in LoveEvita, and The Lion King, and I've also seen comedian Jon Richardson live. My wallet is a little annoyed, but they were incredible shows and well worth it.

4) Try every café in sight. I'll be honest, I'm a sucker for coffee. I'm infamous in my family for visiting Stonehenge and taking pictures with a cup of coffee in my hand. So one of my favorite ways to pass the time in London is to experiment and explore various cafés. If I happen to be with a friend, I'll sometimes check out hotel cafés; the coffee is usually more expensive, but it's always delicious!

5) Drink coffee and sit along the Thames. Have I mentioned that I'm a sucker for coffee? Even though the temperature has dropped significantly since I've arrived, the Thames is still a beautiful place to visit, especially if you're on the South Bank. This side of the Thames faces St Paul's Cathedral, the Tower of London, and Big Ben. My favorite spot? About a five minute walk up from the famous Globe theatre. It's far enough away from the tourist trap to be peaceful, yet still close to the picturesque view.

6) Camden Market. Camden Market is perhaps the greatest place to visit in all of London; they set up stalls and stalls of fashion, gifts, and ethnic food for you to purchase. Some of the best meals I've consumed in London were from Camden Market; definitely arrange for a visit if you can.

By Jess Yacovelle

One of the biggest struggles in my preparation for my study abroad experience was that there isn't a comprehensive list of all of the things that a GW student needs to accomplish before leaving the country. To help future study abroad students, I've therefore created such a list myself!

1) Update your personal American documents and information. Check your driver's license, credit/debit cards, and passport to make sure they aren't about to expire. You need to renew these before you go abroad.

2) Call your bank before you leave. You need to notify your credit card companies and your personal bank that you'll be out of the country from dates x to y, or else any foreign charges you make will be marked as fraudulent and your accounts will be suspended. Also, try to order some foreign currency from your bank before you leave. The exchange rate will be smaller at your bank than at the airport. In addition, check to see if your bank has a partnership with any overseas banks; if they do, the partner bank will allow you to withdraw cash without charging you a fee.

3) Pick up items you need beforehand! Any special coats, shoes, or umbrellas you should buy in the states. Also buy plug adapters so you can charge your phone, etc during your abroad stay.

4) Let's talk visas! Now each country has different requirements for a visa (and each type of visa has different requirements), so check with the online consult. However generally, you'll need:

-Official bank statements with a minimum balance of x. A reference letter from your bank can also be helpful.

-A round-trip ticket back home at the end of your stay.

-Your passport. Also, it doesn't hurt to bring extra passport photos, as some countries may desire them.

-Your acceptance letter from your host university.

5) Speaking of consults, register at your foreign consulate. Also, don't forget to print out your health insurance card. Make copies of all of your important documents and leave a copy at home with your parents. If you're mugged or you loose your passport you still have the information safe.

6) Phones! Everyone does something different, so how do you know what to do? Here's my advice: if you have a smart phone, bring it with you and keep it on the WiFi setting. Turn off cellular data so you don't accidentally use it, and only use your smart phone when you're connected to WiFi. Then, buy a cheap, pay as you go phone for local calls. If you're a little neurotic, like me, spring for the international data plan just in case of an emergency where you need to call home without WiFi.

7) Handle your business at GW. Make sure you're in good academic standing and you have no outstanding bills. Fill out their emergency forms on Passport, and register for study abroad status.

8) At your host university, register for housing and your classes by the assigned date. Do not be late! You could be penalized for tardiness and miss out on opportunities. Many universities also provide study abroad students with orientation, so make sure to register for that as well.

9) Medications! Talk with your health insurance provider and ask if you can pick up your medication for the duration of your trip. If not, look into alternative solutions.

10) Research where you'll be living. Not just the building, either; research the city and find on a map any place you may need. Do you work out a lot? Find a local or school gym. Are you really into cooking? Find the nearest grocery store. Figure out what you'll need and find it before you arrive.

11) Book your flight to and from your host country!

By Jess Yacovelle

Before leaving to study abroad for a semester, one of the biggest things that GW drills into our heads is that the United Kingdom school system is incredibly different from the United States system. In the UK, students only attend university for three years instead of four. They only take classes from one department, and they only learn about things that pertain directly to their major. Most students only attend classes for ten hours a week or less, and a lot of the assigned readings are optional, not mandatory. Furthermore, a score of 70 or higher is considered to be an A. These differences between the two schooling systems make it a little difficult to adjust at first, but by far the most difficult thing to adapt to are the midterm exams.

As an English and Creative Writing major, I'm rather lucky; I don't have to take any actual exams or quizzes. I don't need to study and cram two months worth of information into my head, or hunt down expensive exam booklets the morning of the test. Instead, I have to write about 15,000 words (or the equivalent of 40ish pages, double-spaced) in various essays.

This is, unfortunately, the biggest difference between the UK and US school systems: the UK has a designated midterm time, during which all of the classes will assign a midterm exam or paper. In the US, professors are allowed to test their students with exams or essays whenever they desire: once a month, once a week, or even twice a semester. Because the American professors have a little more freedom in choosing when they test their students, American students don't have 15,000 words worth of papers due all on the same day.

Yeah, you read that write. I have 15,000 words total due on November 11th in my four different classes.

The fact that there's one designated due date for all of King's college midterms wrecks havoc on the students here. As the date gets closer and closer, you see more students huddled around their computers, franticly studying or writing papers. Because the sad fact about the UK schooling system - what it really comes down to - is that it's impossible to do everything. I can only exert my full attention on my most important classes because there simply aren't enough hours in the day. With two weeks to go until the November 11th deadline, I have hours upon hours of research and writing ahead of me. I mean, I'm a Creative Writing major, for crying out loud! I can write 1,000 words of fiction in an hour, and even think 15,000 words of academic writing and research in less than two weeks is incredibly excessive.

The bottom line: midterms in the UK are nothing to joke about. While at GW, many students have what we playfully refer to as "midterm month," in London you have one day. That's it; nothing more than one long, endless day and the hellish two weeks that lead up to it.