One of the aspects of my life I value is being able to stay active and participating in sports whenever I can.
When I was choosing my student accommodation, I did not consider how important it would be to me to find a gym where I could work out that was close to my room, but when faced with the challenge of finding one, I was reminded how important it was to me.
The one I ended up choosing belongs to the university, and is frequented by students and staff. It has all of the necessary equipment, and many classes. In London, basketball (which is my main sport) is not very popular, but I was able to pick up other activities such as boxing and soccer, which allowed me to maintain my active lifestyle. At the gym, there are competitions and many students who have similar interest, which ensures that you’ll have people to socialize with.
When you get on the ground in your new country, it’s important to find aspects of these that feel like home to you. It can make the six months go by faster, and help as a form of reflection and comfort as you maneuver your way through your new environment.
For everyone, I think that there is an aspect of their life at home that they attribute major comfort to. Athletics just happens to be mine, but for other people, this can come in the shape of music, or a library, or a comfortable little coffee shop.
Whatever it is, I cannot stress how important it is that you incorporate these aspects into your life abroad, as they will help you feel more centered and balanced, and allow you to interact with people who have similar interests.
By Raman Mama
One of the many reasons I’ve heard that prevents people from studying abroad during the second semester is that they want to be able to find an internship for the summer.
Though this is an extremely stressful thing to have to consider while you’re abroad, it was actually easier in my experience.
There are many companies that are seeking international students for the summer and also pay well. It’s just a matter of being able to seek out the opportunities and making something out of them.
Staying abroad to intern can make you a much more attractive candidate for work, and though it’s daunting to many, it can have great payoffs. Not many people have international work experience, so being a candidate with such can make you more qualified and attractive.
In Europe, there is a growing community of startups, think tanks and small businesses that need people like us to work for them.
I was fortunate enough to find an internship in Amsterdam at a marketing startup. Additionally, there are several grants that our university offers that can help if your internship is unpaid.
Be sure to take a look at visa requirements, as there are many places that don’t require a visa, or can help you attain one fairly easily.
By Raman Mama
Let me paraphrase this by saying I’ve loved my time at King’s College. I’ve met amazing people and I’ve learned things that I never would have been able to in other places. The community is great, and the social life is amazing.
There’s one thing that they don’t tell you when you come to study at King’s which is that during April, EVERYONE leaves for Easter break, and they don’t usually come back until May.
This means that you’ll be left with nothing to do, as all of your friends from earlier in the semester have gone home or are traveling.
The best way to deal with this is to make sure you have plans during April to stay busy. The tedium of being alone for a month abroad can be fairly frustrating.
Some things I suggest are traveling to another country, as trips on Ryanair are exceedingly cheap.
Or, you could use that time to study for your exams in May, which are faster approaching than you would expect.
I filled this time with lots of bike rides, studying, time at the comedy club, and the gym. Though I missed my friends, I learned a lot about myself.
Though people are starting to trickle back into the accommodations, make sure that you have something to do during April
By Raman Mama
When being abroad, one of the biggest challenges is that you’re expected to be much more social than you would typically be.
The challenge of this is that if you are someone who typically treasures quiet and isolation or exploring alone, you may find it difficult to maintain these conditions abroad.
When you’re abroad, people love to ask you questions about where you’re from and what it’s like over there, so that they might hear the stories of your culture and be entranced by things that they did not know existed.
This is tough for some people and may be overwhelming. If you’re someone who likes to be on the outskirts and not the center of attention, there will be constant external stimuli begging you to engage with the world. This can be a challenge for many. However, the benefit in this is that it teaches you important diplomatic skills such as reaching across cultural lines to get to know people, and teach them about your culture.
The piece of advice I can give is that people should look to establish a social circle where they feel comfortable and understood, and can interact at a comfortable pace. Having this type of group will allow you to feellike you’re meeting people at a more comfortable pace and not interacting with the culture so rapidly and with no guidelines.
This is especially important with countries where the culture is not specifically western or English speaking. I experienced this in China. If you can’t find a person or group of friends from that country, then meet people who are from your own country or a similar one that understand it well and are willing to be your second set of eyes in a sense.
By Raman Mama
As I've traveled all over the world, one of the things I've learned is that the best way to learn about the culture where you live is to examine the art, whether it's theatre, comedy, or music.
One of the most interesting and exciting aspects of the UK scene I've learned about has been the grime culture, which is a form of rap.
It's cool to see that grime is so big, because rap is a form of art that emerged in the United States, but has spread rapidly. Individuals in the UK have embraced it, and they even are beginning to sound a bit American, but clearly have shifted the genre in their own way, which I find fascinating.
Rap is mainly a way that black individuals were able to cope with the struggles of violence and poverty which have suffocating effects in inner cities. In the UK, rap has served a nearly identical purpose, and the rappers here are rapping about nearly the same things that Americans do.
...continue reading "The UK’s emerging rap scene"
By Raman Mama
One of the best places I’ve had a chance to see so far has without a doubt been Amsterdam. I was lucky enough to travel to the city with my girlfriend who came to visit, and stay for 4 days and check out the rare culture and creativity that fills the city.
When we first got to Amsterdam, we flew into Eidhoven airport, which is a business district about two hours away from Amsterdam by train. Something to keep in mind when traveling to cities in Europe is that the airports are pretty far from the center more often than not, and it might take a bit more time than you expected to reach your destination.
After we finally got into the city, we had a chance to explore the legendary canals around which the city was built. This was incredible to me because though many notable cities such as New York, DC and Boston have been based around rivers like the Hudson, the Potomac and the Charles, Amsterdam is different because the canals weave in and out of every part of the city. There is not a single four-block radius where you don’t find a canal. As a result of this, there were many individuals who lived on the water in houseboats. The canals also affected the weather in Amsterdam – it was very windy and pretty cold in the mornings.
...continue reading "Travelling in Amsterdam"
By Raman Mama
I'm a little more than halfway through my semester in London, and one of the things I have to admit has had a large impact on my time in the city has been the weather.
I'm not an individual who pays particularly close attention to the weather. I've always been under the impression that it's something I can't control, so why pay close attention to it? If it snows it snows, if it rains, it rains.
However, upon spending a couple months in London, I've come to understand how big of an impact the weather can have on your ability to get out and do stuff. London is notoriously rainy and grey. The people are warm, but the forecast usually means you're stuck inside. I love being able to get outside and see the world, which is something I've been used to in every single place I've gone to.
London is much further North than the US, so it gets extremely cold at times, additionally, it has just as long (if not longer) than some winters in the US.
Though being in London with such temperamental weather has been difficult at times, it's taught me to find other things to do to make use of time when I can't get outside, and enjoy the warm days. Who knew that being cold would make me more adaptable.
By Raman Mama
One of the most important parts of my abroad experience has been my growth with the art form of comedy. When I went to Shanghai last year, I began to perform. I took it with me to New York, and spent time on stages there, and even did some time in Washington.
However, the most interesting scene for me in comedy has been the London one. Here, I’ve done around 15 shows, each of which has taught me about the form, and made me a better comedian. I’ve performed in some pretty big clubs such as the Rising Star Comedy night in Holborn, and the Cavendish arms, which hosts a very popular evening. Before I leave, I’ll be taking the stage at the Top Secret Comedy Club in central London.
I’ve loved performing here, and it’s taught me a lot about how people view certain material. Whenever I tried to tell a joke about a more serious American topic like police brutality or gun violence, the crowd would listen, but it wouldn’t be something that they found funny because the topic is foreign as well as sensitive. However, here, I’ve done well talking about my experiences growing up as an African American, as well as reflections on other less tragic parts of American culture.
People here love learning about cultures that they don't interact with everyday, which is a large reason I feel like I've done okay here.
The comedy circuit here is interconnected. People love to help each other out, and will give a hand as often as they can. This has taught me about helping your fellow creative, and how the global community of artists is a very unique one.
Some of the best performers I know in London have been all over the world, but still have close ties to the city which they love so dearly. I’m glad to have been able to play a small part in this cities comedy circuit.
By Raman Mama
One of the best parts of being in a European location during your study abroad is that you have the opportunity to see other primary cities in Europe.
My first stop in London was to Berlin - Germany's Capitol.
Getting to Berlin was relatively easy. I booked my flights through a website called Ryan Air, which is a premier option for students looking to travel on the cheap. The flights were about 50 pounds of 60 dollars all together. Then, I booked my hostel for about 15 dollars a night. Altogether, I was able to book flights and accommodations for less than 100 dollars, which is a pretty great deal.
When I was in Berlin, the weather was not great, but that didn't stop me from seeing all that I could..
I went to the Berlin Wall, Berlinische Galeria, and a very popular bookstore called "Another Country" where they host film clubs and dinners. I loved the bookstore because it was founded by a woman from London who one day, decided to open a store so she could share her collection with other people. I grabbed two new reads for myself.
...continue reading "Travelling in Europe – Berlin Edition"
By Raman Mama
Studying abroad in London has been quite a different academic experience. In the United States, courses have assignments that are due within two classes, and require your attendance. However, in London, there are rarely any assignments apart from a midterm and a final exam, or a paper rather than a midterm. As a result, classes in London require less attendance, and it’s not rare to see that students don’t usually attend. My experience has been that as a result, students focus more on studying the material outside of lecture sessions rather than attending them and taking notes.
This is similar to what I experienced in China as well. It seems that American schools are the only institutions that require such frequent attendance.
In my opinion, this suggests that European student are expected to be more independent learners. Rather than having constant gauge of what their grades are, and memorizing material, Europeans actually have to work to maintain a working knowledge of their academics, since they have fewer opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge.
Another major difference is that college in the UK lasts three years, rather than four. As a result, students here must have a very good idea of what it is they want to study. If a student here decides that they want to change their discipline, then they must start over, and do three more years. In America, school is four years, and costs much more. Most universities in the UK are about 7K, and loan repayment is very lax.
...continue reading "Academic Culture in London"