Living and Studying in London: Is It a Culture Shock?

As I am here in London, I’m taking two classes. One is the Survey of International Business Issues and the City of London, and the other is Analyzing and Exploring the Global City: London. I’ve touched on these classes briefly in previous blogs, but I wanted to go more in-depth on what they are like.

The classes have long lectures and that’s because they only occur twice a week. My business issues class consists of a two-hour lecture on Mondays. My other class meets for three and a half hours on Tuesdays. Even though these are long classes, they are structured in a way that they move fast. A part of each class is more like an open conversation where it is discussion-based. This creates a comfortable environment since it takes away the stress of saying something wrong.  Whereas another part of the class is the lecture. Then it is divided again into a part of either student presentations or visitors who come to class to talk about their job or a certain topic. Having these divisions in class break it up to help keep students focused and interested.

The second portion of each class is a site visit. These happen on Wednesdays and Thursdays. This helps break up the class more because it feels like a fun field trip and not a class. However, we are learning at the same time. In my opinion, I like this structure because it feels like I’m done with school on Tuesdays, then the rest of the week is where I get to go to new places and explore, even if it is for a class.

As I continue to experience these classes, I’ve noticed how they are different from previous classes I’ve had. The main difference between my two classes here and at the University of Pittsburgh is that I’m in an environment with more hands-on learning. This has to do with the site visits and field studies. I haven’t had a class before where there was a field trip every week. However, the schoolwork seems similar as it consists of papers and presentations. In summary, I’m experiencing a new structure in classes while in London and they are very enjoyable.

On the other hand, I want to touch on my experience living in London. I’m living in a flat with four roommates in Islington. It was quite easy to adapt to my living situation because I had roommates before when I lived on campus at the University of Pittsburgh. Also, I have access to movie theaters, a mall, a market, and many places to go out to eat. This reminds me of the University of Pittsburgh because, in both places, there is something to do within walking distance. However, there were a couple of main challenges, relating to our apartment, that I had to get used to. First, laundry would take up to five hours to get done. The first cycle would wash and dry my clothes, taking three hours, but they wouldn’t be fully dry. Then I would have to dry them for another two hours. Next, I had to get used to housekeeping. They would come every Thursday to clean the apartment. I’m a person who likes to take care of my own space, so it was hard to get used to someone else coming to clean the apartment. Since these were two minor challenges I would say my living situation has been pretty great.

When I combine my classes and apartment life, I’ve noticed many things about London’s culture. The main thing I noticed was the diversity. In my class, we are learning about London being a global city. This is prevalent in my field studies and around my apartment. I can go for one walk and I will be surrounded by people with different accents, languages, religions, and cultures. Also, I’ve noticed that London has a big nightlife. There are many places open late and people are usually out at night seeing a musical or a concert. Going off of musicals and concerts, London is a very creative place. There are many areas with street art (as seen in the picture below), gardens, markets, and music. Anywhere you turn you could run into someone showcasing their talents. When you go on the tube, you will usually encounter someone singing or playing an instrument. That is one of the main reasons I like London. London is an open-minded city where it takes in a diverse group of people, and they benefit by being able to experience all of the creativity and art.

Street Art from Bricklane

Overall, the experience that I’m having in my classes and in my own time has been amazing and helpful in seeing London’s culture. I can’t wait to see what these last couple of weeks hold for me.