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!

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Things We Wish We'd Known

Things we wish we'd known before coming to England:
  • Laundry costs money. £1.80-£2.00 to wash, and £1 to dry.
  • If you go left out of the front gate at St. John's campus, or right out of the side gate, after a short walk you'll reach a convenience store.
  • You will be living with freshmen.
  • The Gym closes at 7 M-F (and is virtually not open on the weekends 11-4) so if you want a workout get it done early
  • Automatic doors are often not automatic in the American sense. You need to press a button to open them. (Not always, but most of them)
  • You will be docked on an assignment if a word was not spelt the British way (colour, honour, fulfil, etc.) Be careful!
  • There is a Staples located behind Asda - if you need specific school/office supplies this is a good place to go!
Just Remember That...
  • Classes are once a week in England, so they're 2-4 hours straight.  
  • They drive on the opposite side of the road. Just be careful. 
  • You may speak English, but you don't speak English; be prepared for some confusion and some possibly awkward situations.
Monthly Bills? Not so many...
  • My cell phone bill (that would be a "mobile" in the UK) is a fraction of what it was in the U.S. 
  • No car = no car insurance, no parking fee, and no gas (that would be "petrol" here, but I may have to reheel a few of my boots with all the walking ;)
  • No rent or utilities...they're rolled into the program fee :)
Tips and such
  • If you're nervous about purchasing products that aren't brand names you recognize, before you knock it, take a look at the logo and how it's presented, even if it has a different name, it might be the same product. (Lay's potato chips are called Walkers here. Cottenelle toilet paper is called Andrex. Axe is called Lynx.) Also, there's plenty of brands you'll recognize, so don't freak out. But, be adventurous and try new things, of course!
  • If you're looking for ginger ale, Schweppes Canada Dry Ginger Ale is what you want. The Co-op brand for sure is VERY gingery, and burned my throat when I drank it too fast. (Almost more like ginger beer, but not as rich.)
  • For cell phones, if you can, unlock yours. It makes life so much easier. This can be done by calling your cell phone carrier, but if they are unwilling to do it for you and you're willing to mess with your phone yourself, you can find guides online.
  • If you choose to go with Orange as your provider here, the Dolphin plan is AMAZING, especially if you have a smartphone you can use. If you top up for £20 a month, you get unlimited texting inside the UK and 3gb of data, as well as the £20 credit, which can be used for calling any time or texting when outside the UK.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Packing ProTips™

As departure time draws nearer, here are some tips on how to pack for your year abroad:
  1. You get a carry-on, a second smaller carry-on (such as a purse or backpack), and a checked bag that must weigh under 50 pounds. Make sure to double check these requirements as it may change between now and September.
  2. Bring a towel. It seems like a silly and simple idea, but you will get to Worcester and feel gross and want to shower and most stores in Worcester close by 5 PM and you won't know where to find them.
  3. If you're attached to your regular stick deodorant-pack it! Spray deodorant is all the rage here.
  4. Pack lots of socks and underwear. Laundry costs money and while you can rewear pants and shirts, most would prefer you do not do this with your undergarments. Besides, socks and underwear are small and easy to fit in a suitcase.
  5. Put heavier things in your carry on. There is a weight limit, but they are much less likely to double check.
  6. Wear as many clothes as you can on your flight. This means tank tops, shirts, sweaters, jackets, whatever you can fit. Also wear your heaviest shoes, even if they aren't fun to take on and off. Trust us.
  7. Bring something small that will remind you of home. Whether that be a stuffed animal, pictures, or a smaller blanket. It will spruce up your room and remind you of America.
  8. Start off with just travel sizes of toiletries. Shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste are all fairly cheap here.
  9. How many clothes you bring depends on the person. We would recommend, though, bringing simple things you can mix and match. And never underestimate comfortable clothes. Yes, you will want to look nice most of the time, but there will be days when all you want is sweatpants.
  10. Bring multiple converters, or one converter with multiple plugins. You will probably want to charge more than one thing at a time (for most things you need something like this, but double check before you buy anything).
  11. Bring an Ethernet cable for your computer, as not all rooms have wireless access.
  12. We will be leaving behind a bunch of random stuff for a lottery. We have been a lovely and fairly clean group who will be leaving behind many things in good condition. Take advantage of the opportunity of free bedding and blankets.
  13. Pack snacks in your carry on to eat on the plane. Nine hours with nothing to do and you will want to kill the stranger next to you for their Snickers.
  14. Think about packing things you can leave behind---old clothes and towels can be thrown out at the end of the year, and you probably won't be bringing toiletries back. This just makes packing to go home that much easier.
  15. Bring your pharmaceuticals! Even things such as ibuprofen and cold medicines are expensive (and Americans are used to higher doses of medicines, so they won't always work as well). And don't forget your prescriptions! You need a written prescription if you are going to be renewing it in England.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Meet Worcester

Featuring the students of Study in England 2013-2014.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Hostels, Hotels, and HomeAway: Where to Stay When Traveling Abroad

During your nine months in England you will probably be off on your own adventures, and no matter where your travels take you will need a place to stay. Here is our breakdown of some your options:

Hostels are a solid option if you are looking for something super cheap. You may have to share a room with a lot of other travelers, but they are generally pretty safe and clean. If you are traveling with a group many have private rooms to rent. They are easily accessible, will help you get where you are going, and many have options for activities around their particular town. Keep in mind during the weekend it can get a bit rowdy. A good site for these is hostels.com, or hihostels.com to find hostels affiliated with Hostelling International, a reputable intentional hosteling organization.

Hotels are nice because they are clean, private, and comfortable. However, they can end up being pretty spendy (especially in bigger cities). When you book a room, do not lie about the number of people staying, they take this very seriously. Still, if you can afford it, staying in a hotel can make you feel like you are on a real vacation. You can find hotels on sites such as expedia.com or hotels.com.

Our third and final option is HomeAway. Using this option, you rent someone's property for a short period of time. Unlike couchsurfing, where you stay with the owner, you have the flat to yourself. There are a variety of options for this in terms of how many people, where you are trying to stay, what sort of place you want, and the season. We were able to stay affordably in several different countries for various amounts of time in nice places, by paying close attention to the neighborhoods and reviews that accompanied the posting. HomeAway usually works best for multiple people planning to stay for longer trips (many require a minimum of a three to four night stay).

There are other options for accommodations whilst traveling, such as couchsurfing.com, where you stay at someone's house with them, and airbnb.com, to find bed and breakfasts.
In order to maximize the amount you save, we would also suggest using skyscanner.net for plane tickets. It is amazing the deals you can find out there with this site!

Safe travels,

Jill, Jasmine, and Miranda

Monday, 20 January 2014

Staying Engaged in England

One of the most grueling decisions I had to make after committing to studying abroad was what classes I was going to take. Unlike some of the people accompanying me on the trip, I had most of my generals complete and there were not many classes that fit into my major or minor. So, I thought to myself, “why not just take classes that seem easy?” And honestly, I believe this thought has led to my slight academic downfall.

I am told that the module system is changing a bit for next year, but as it stands now, modules last between three and four hours and are held once a week. Most of them are taught by either one or two instructors that alternate weeks, and each module has a small number of assessments that make up your final grade (most of my modules have two or three assessments). There are not any extra credit options or participation points, but attendance is required with a no more than three absences policy.

The lack of monitoring on reading and small number, if any tests, that you are required to take, along with the length of classes and the fact that you are in a beautiful country with many amazing places to see, means that it is quite hard to keep yourself motivated academically. I have witnessed this struggle to commit to school and homework in just about every member of the 2013-14 SIE group. School is not as high of a priority for us, as it was back at UMD, and I for one wish that I had done a few things differently to make it easier on myself to do better in my classes.

Before we left, everyone was telling me how much harder school was over here, and they were right, but none of them explained to me why it was harder. And that is what I want to talk to you about. It is harder because classes last three times longer than you are used to and it is hard to pay attention for that long. It is harder because you have very little material to base your grade off of. Three assignments is not very many and if you mess up one, you have little opportunity for redemption. It is harder, because while you speak English you are in a foreign country that has different academic expectations and ways of grading. It is harder because the distractions offered to you are so different from the ones you are used to back home. And in all reality, it is harder because you care less.

None of this however is meant to deter you or make you nervous. Everyone I know is doing relatively well in their modules. I simply want you to be prepared for what is to come and hope that you will listen to me when I tell you not to pick “easy” seeming classes. Take modules that sound interesting to you, genuinely, academically, interesting to you, so that when you have to sit there for three hours you are engaged. Don’t just take History in Film, because it seems like a breeze. Trust me it isn’t, if you are not prepared to take on the role of a historian and really engross yourself in the subject. Take classes you think will matter to you, that count towards your major if possible, and that you are invested in, so you can and are motivated to do well in them. I also recommend that you take the least number of credits that you can get by taking, while staying on track for graduation, so that you have time to sate your desire for distraction outside of class and homework.

This may all seem like pretty obvious advice, but me and many people who came before me have made the mistake of trying to take the easy way out, and we paid for it by spending three or more hours every week sitting through mind-numbingly boring classes and working on assignments that became ten times harder because we could not care less about them and the subject that they were on. Do not underestimate the weight of your assignments. The classes you take here do transfer back to UMD and affect your GPA, so do whatever possible to make sure that you won’t put school on the backburner and forget about it.