Catja the camel abroad | The voice of the college

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Photo courtesy of Catja Christensen ’23


Major (s) and course: English and double major dance; Media, rhetoric and communication journey

What program are you enrolled in? King’s College London

What made you choose this program? KCL is known for its English Literature Department, which is one of the oldest and largest in the UK. They offered such specific and fascinating courses. I am interested in the study of postcolonial and multicultural literature, and I thought, where better to talk about imperialism and colonialism than in England?

How did you adapt to life in England? This is my first time traveling abroad, and flying alone during Covid was a bit nerve-racking. Still, after getting over the jet lag and motion sickness pretty quickly, I absolutely love it here. I really didn’t expect to like it that much! It’s easier because it’s an English speaking country, but since a lot of people speak different languages ​​here, I was inspired to pick up French again so as not to be this American monolingual. The tube and public transport are wonderful, and I spent my first two weeks before class started traveling through central London with my new international friends. It is also the first time that I live in such a big city. I am from the DC area, but London is just on another level in every way. There is always something to do or somewhere to go, and we’ve created a huge KCL discussion group overseas where anyone can write where and when they’re going somewhere, and people will follow. It was a great way to make friends and be a tourist between classes.

Were there any clichés that turned out to be true or false? People actually drink a ton of tea here. And I like it. The Twinings flagship store, which at 300 years is the oldest in London, is on the Strand Campus, so I stocked up on tea. It’s also funny how nobody really knows which way to look for the cars since they are driving on the other side of the road. Some sidewalks have “Look Right” or “Look Both Ways” painted near the sidewalk, but my friends and I all look very quickly in all directions and then sprint hoping for the best. It also didn’t rain as much as I expected. Rainstorms usually come in short gusts, so I learned the hard way to always keep an umbrella with me, but we rarely have constant rainy days. Let’s touch wood.

What is your housing situation? How is? I live in the Waterloo district of central London in an apartment with six other Americans (total coincidence —- the other apartments are much more mixed in nationality). My room is like a standard dormitory, but a big plus is having a small powder room-bathroom in my room! No need to go down the hall to take a shower. I also don’t have a meal plan here, so my roommates and I share the common kitchen in our apartment. It was nice to cook, and I even made soup for everyone when we all had a bad case of Fresher’s flu (a persistent bad cold – we all tested negative for Covid multiple times). ). The downside is that we had to buy so many kitchen items like pots, pans, knives, utensils, spatulas, plates, glasses, etc. My building is the cheapest and most basic of all of King’s accommodations, but honestly you can’t beat the location. We are a 20 minute walk from the Strand and Guy campuses (2 of 4 King’s campuses) and Waterloo station is right across the street so we have easy access to all of London. My absolute favorite part of my room is that I have a view of the Shard, an iconic skyscraper, from my window, and waking up to see it every day is just surreal.

What does a typical day look like? My typical day is very different from Conn’s. My classes are all held on the Strand Campus, which is a general area of ​​the city that includes buildings that are located far apart. In Conn, nothing is more than a 10 minute walk away, but here my closest class is 15-20 minutes away. Luckily I don’t have to depend on public transport so I save money and don’t worry about delays, but it was a bit difficult at first to figure out how to find all the buildings and navigate through the labyrinth of rooms inside. Google Maps has been a lifeline.

I have four pre-recorded or online lectures and four in-person seminars each week, each one hour long. It’s weird to have so little synchronous classroom time, but it’s amazing to be in a classroom again. My seminars run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., so my days seem oddly spaced out. I have tried studying at the castle-like Maughan Library and some nearby cafes, but my favorite study space is the rooftop terrace and cafe at the top of the Bush House university building, which was once the headquarters of the BBC for over 70 years. . I usually meet up with friends to study and chat during the strangely long stretches of my day, but other times we go on little adventures to Covent Garden or explore a new part of the city.

How has the pandemic affected your program? Did this affect your choices when you applied? The pandemic has made everything so uncertain for the entire application process starting in January. I kept telling my friends that I wouldn’t believe I was really studying abroad until I got off the plane at Heathrow. Shirley Parson, Director of Study Away, has been so patient with me as I panicked with each new travel advice or Covid-19 regulations. It was difficult to balance the news from the US versus the UK as things changed so quickly this summer. Shirley warned us before postulating that countries in the southern hemisphere were unlikely to open up, especially countries like New Zealand which were known for their intense lockdowns, so I focused on European programs. . Once I heard about King’s, I didn’t even make a back-up plan because it was already so complicated to navigate these changing regulations, and I loved the program. Fortunately, since being vaccinated in May, I haven’t had to quarantine when I arrived, and Covid testing was readily available in the US and UK, though expensive. However, in the four weeks I live here, life has been the most ‘normal’ since 2019. We still wear masks indoors for the most part, and King’s provides free Covid testing so we can be tested. twice a week, so we had the chance to live and go out in town often. The KCL Student Union also has events at the Campus Bar almost every night, where we can relax, have fun and dance the night away to questionable music from the DJ. I have found that open mic jazz nights are top notch; they’re like a mix between a mosh pit and a karaoke night, and it’s exhilarating and hilarious. It has been liberating, even though Covid-19 is still in our heads, to be able to truly relive in such an incredible city.

Are you involved in anything outside of class? I decided this semester not to focus on strict extracurricular activities for the first time in my life. I am very active in the dance department and the dance club in Conn and still am that person who rehearses all hours of the day, but I decided to take classes in London so that I could explore as much as possible. . That being said, I joined the Dance Society at King’s and was able to take ballet, salsa and jazz lessons every week which is wonderful! It’s such a positive and exciting environment, and these are great breaks to study. I decided not to audition for their competitive team so that my free time during the week could be spent traveling. Since dance is my other major at Conn which is not available at King’s, it has been fun to supplement my dance education with these classes, and I hope to take classes at other renowned dance studios in the city now that most are completely reopened again.

What advice would you give to people preparing to leave? Definitely do as much research as possible in advance, especially on the logistics of practical life. In the weeks leading up to my flight here, I was going to Google Maps every day and planning the area my apartment is in, where the nearest grocery stores were, how much the metro or buses cost, where to go. located post offices, where to go Covid Tests and how far away are the campuses. When I arrived in London at 7 a.m., with 20 minutes of sleep and lots of caffeine and adrenaline, I knew exactly how to take the tube from Heathrow to Waterloo, and I recognized all the landmarks and streets of Google Street View. The area was already visually familiar to me, and that made settling into life here much less intimidating. I became a little obsessed with research as a way to cope with travel anxiety, but it definitely made the whole adjustment period much smoother.

What do you think you would have liked to know that you know now? Studying outside the home has truly been the best decision of my life. Here every day feels like a dream and every day is a new adventure. I learn so much not only in the classroom, but also by living my life more independently than ever before. I would also like to know that I would settle down easily. Settling in is unpredictable, and so many things could have made this schedule harder to adjust, but I was so anxious and scared of how I would adjust that I had no confidence in myself. So I guess I wish I had more confidence in myself from the start. I realized that I am more capable and more confident in myself than I thought I was.

Also, I talk more about my time in London so far in Episode 2 of The Traveling Camel podcast, so if people want to hear me say how much I love it here so far and other things i learned, check it out. outside.

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