These articles were created by the students participating in the UMD Study in England Programme for the 2013-2014 school year. The program is over, but the experience will never fade. If you have any questions or want to get in touch, send an email to the UMD International Education Office!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Shopping with Dietary Restrictions

When you have dietary restrictions you stick to those certain products in the one isle at that specific store. You become so accustomed to those items that the idea of not having them is scary; I mean, it was a nightmare to find them in the first place right? Well, if an allergy or life style choice has you on edge about going to England I’ll put your nerves at ease with my promise that there will be something for even the pickiest eater.


Has a large “Free From” section that clearly labels all product ingredients. This section is great for alternative breads and pastas and even has a few desserts thrown in there too for the sweet tooth.

Has a slightly smaller and more affordable Free From section then ASDA.
Has the largest Free From sections of the local grocery stores but is significantly more expensive. Positively it does offer a wide array of products to choose from.
Holland & Barrett
A health and wellness store that offers many supplements and alternatives. Overall the products cost about the same as any in a Co-Op or health and wellness shop and they offer a rewards card that takes 10% off your purchase.


The Boston Tea Party 
This coffee shop offers a wide array of cakes and sweets that are vegan and gluten free (tasty too!)
Karmic Café
This café is devoted to meat free and organic dishes. They are only open morning to early afternoon so rise and shine its well worth it.
This seems to be the equivalent of a fancy McDonalds, but is THE ONLY PLACE TO EAT in the eyes of the British student. Nando’s specializes in chicken at various levels of hotness but also offers many other alternatives.

-Nicole & Gwen

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Work & Volunteering in Worcester

School is expensive, and studying abroad can be really daunting especially when it comes to money. With classes once a week it gives me a bit more free time than expected (at least for me I was shocked by the amount of time I have available to stream Netflix, but lets be honest time can be spent better). While you are in Europe you have easy access to a lot more countries than when you are in the U.S. so travelling is a great experience and overall fantastic. Not only does travel cost money but food and everything else is money as well. So for the people who are little more worried about expenses, have the free time, or just would like the experience, getting a job is an option. But if you are someone who has a lot of free time and does not want the responsibility of a job, volunteering is also pretty awesome too.

When you first arrive in Worcester you will be here about a week ahead of incoming freshman, this gives you a good opportunity to go out and look for jobs. Most summer help will have left their positions, and freshman will not be moved in yet, this is the best time to see what shops are looking for help while you are exploring your new home. Being as it is your first week in a new country your instinct might be to wait, but don’t, send in applications and talk to employees, the chances are if you get a job you won’t be starting right away and it takes a few days for managers to go through applicants. But keep in mind that you will be needing a bank account and cell phone when you get a job – both of these things most of us managed to get in the first week so you shouldn’t have too much of an issue.
Things you will need in applying for jobs:
  • A CV (also known as a resumé)
  • Proof that you can work in the UK (your visa)
  • A National Insurance number (like a Social Security number in the US, there is help available at the University for international students to obtain this)
Volunteering is also a great option for people who want to get involved in the community but want fewer restrictions. Becoming involved within the Worcester community helps it feel much more like home, and going out and doing things helps with homesickness. There are a few places in Worcester that are run on volunteers, unlike jobs you do not need an experience, just a desire to help out. For volunteering, it is a bit like a job, you look for signs in the windows, talk to the shop manager, fill out an application, and then you will be asked to come back so you can be briefed on what you will be doing. Some shops such as; The Healthy Planet Free Bookstore, and Secondhand Charity shops will ask for a weekly commitment that you can decide when you can work. But there are other options that are not a weekly commitment, some students have volunteered at the Worcestershire animal rescue – now for someone who has a dog at home and misses her very much, this is an awesome idea. They were required to go through a training session, because they were working with animals, but once they completed that they were allowed to come when they were free and didn’t need to make a weekly commitment, although they did want to. There is also a website (as well as twitter) that is constantly updating on new volunteering opportunities (Worcester Volunteer Centre), which includes both one time, as well as longer termed commitments. And if you are not able to find something listed on the site, you can always go to the trusty backup, and Google it.

Both working abroad and volunteering abroad is a great experience, it shows future employers that you weren’t just visiting a place for the year but you actively became involved and made it your second home. As someone who is involved in volunteering while abroad, I think it is really fun and worthwhile. It is a great opportunity to meet people who grew up here and talk to them about their culture. I volunteer in a free bookstore, and I get to spend four hours every week talking to people about my culture and comparing it to theirs, which is something I never thought I would get to say.

-Bekcy & Hannah

Monday, 2 December 2013

Start Planning Now: Budgeting

In my belief, having a successful budget doesn’t mean that you are a super saver; it means you are capable of living comfortably with the funds that you have. The key to budgeting is having good spending habits. As a student living on their own in a separate country, I want you to realize that you are completely responsible for yourself. There will be nobody around to call you up and say “Hey! Don’t waste your money!” so my recommendation is, start learning to support your lifestyle on your own now. Your first steps to make sure you won’t be high and dry halfway through the semester should consist of a few things:
  1. Plan the places you want to visit. Everybody does the last minute trip to London, but trips that take you off of the island should be thought out before you leave. Look into travel options and find the cheapest way you can get there and then look into housing and accommodations. Don’t worry about food yet. Having a rough estimate of travel and accommodation costs for a few trips you want to take can help judge about how much money you’ll need for traveling.
  2. Start shopping at grocery stores for all your food. I cannot stress enough how much money you’ll save shopping for fresh groceries, as opposed to visiting the Cornish bakery for a sausage roll. Start to become familiar with the prices of foods you buy often in the States. When you shop at local stores you can compare food prices between England and the States so you know roughly how much you are spending.
  3. When you come over to England, there will be a conversion rate between the pound and dollar. Last year for every 1 dollar, it converted to .56 pounds. Keeping the conversion rate in mind will help you understand price comparisons. For example, a box of cereal in here in England might be 2.49. However after the conversion rate that’s roughly 3.75, a dollar and 25 cents more expensive.
    (the rough current dollar-to-pound exchange rate can be found on Google)
  4. The program recommends that you save between 3,000 and 6,000 dollars for living over here. If you plan on taking a couple large trips, then yes, I agree, that is an accurate estimate of what you’ll need. I would say a good middle ground is 3,500-4,000 because I know 6,000 is a lot of money to save. Also, whatever you spend money on over here and decide to take back with you, you will need to pay taxes on, so don’t fill your suitcase with things that you could find back in the states. Only bring back with you the things that are important moments of your journey abroad.
I handle my money on my own; it’s up to me to know how much I have in my accounts. I would recommend that you too learn how to handle your own bank account. This way you’ll understand how much of an impact buying an extra latte or sausage roll has on your funds. However, bear in mind that you will be over here for a year, and it is very important that you feel at home and relaxed. Don’t feel like you have to scrounge every pence you have to keep yourself alive. You are in England, which is a precious and wonderful opportunity, so enjoy it.


Sunday, 24 November 2013

Train Travel in Pictures

If you're wondering how to get around for cheap, make sure to get a 16-25 Discount Railcard when you get here! The train is a super easy way to get around for a cheap price. At first, it may seem intimidating, but after you do it once, you realize how easy and efficient it actually is! The rail employees and station staff are more than willing to answer questions and point you in the right direction. It is an extremely popular way to travel here in the UK, as it saves you from more expensive flights. Once you get the hang of the system, it is the simplest way to travel.

If you take the train to London, an extremely easy way to get around London is by using the London Underground Subway. All day passes cost about 8 pounds. They are very efficient, easy, and FAST! There are loads of signs to point you in the right direction if you are having any issues. The underground trains run about every 5 minutes or less, so it is an extremely reliable way to get around London as well!

In October and November, make sure to watch for the "Great Escape" deal, where you can go anywhere that the London Midland Service trains go for only 10 pounds!

-Rose, Cassidy & Rachel

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Worcester: Your Temporary Home

When one hears “Worcester”, the thought of Worcestershire Sauce might come to mind. Even though the original Lea & Perrins factory still operates here, this is far from the only thing that the City of Worcester has to offer for your time living here. The River Severn runs through this city of about 100,000 residents, splitting it into the main city and St. Johns. There are two rail stations that serve Worcester: Foregate Street and Shrub Hill.
Foregate Street Station

The Worcester skyline is dominated by two structures. First and foremost is the majestic Worcester Cathedral, which was built between 1220 and 1345 AD. It is open to the public most days and is only a short and beautiful walk down the river. The other outstanding feature in the skyline is The Hive Library.
The Hive

The Hive is quite unique, in that it serves as the city library, city hub, and University library. It is located right next to city campus, and only a short walk from St. John’s campus. 

Academics and architecture are nice and all, but you will be here to have some fun as well. A straight shot down from Foregate Street Station, you will find High Street, which is the main retail hub of the city, along with The Shambles, and the Angel Marketplace. If you find yourself a bit peckish after shopping, Worcester has no end to café’s, restaurants, and delis, not to mention a great selection of grocery stores if you prefer to cook at home. There is a great club scene as well, if you please. 

In many ways, Worcester is like most towns. It has nice people, good amenities, and many opportunities. I can tell you all about the history of the city, the railways, the restaurants, even the best chip shop in the county. But that’s my Worcester. These are my observations and recommendations. Your Worcester is what you will make it. So, come on over and experience this great city.

For more information, visit other articles in this handy blog, and these links:

Wikipedia: Worcester

A few things to do: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attractions-g186424-Activities-Worcester_Worcestershire_England.html

The Hive: http://www.thehiveworcester.org/