Rachel Trotter ’22 is an Integrated Educational Studies major and Leadership Studies and Psychology minors. Rachel is studying abroad at University of Roehampton in London for the fall 2022 semester and shares her insight on navigating a new culture and academic system. Rachel is also a Gilman Scholarship recipient.
Studying abroad in London has been made possible for me through the assistance and aid from the Gilman Scholarship. Any Chapman University students who receive the Pell Grant are able to apply for the Gilman Scholarship for financial assistance in studying abroad. Studying abroad in London has allowed me to step out of my comfort zone, grow as an individual, and better understand what I want to do post-grad. Though in London, everyone speaks English, there has still been a massive culture shock and many learning curves. Although it has taken me time to adapt to the different way of life and being surrounded by new people and landscapes, I have finally fallen into my place and met my people while studying abroad.
My biggest stressors while coming abroad were meeting new people and making new friends. I had no idea what to expect or what kind of people I would meet. Upon arrival, I chose to look at this as a positive thing; I get to meet so many new people and make so many new connections, including connections with Gilman Alumni! Straight away, everyone was so nice and welcoming to one another. Study abroad students clung to one another and eventually found new friends, study buddies, and travel partners. It comforted me that everyone was in the same boat and feeling the same nerves. Because of this, making new friends, meeting new people, and making new connections came easily and felt effortless.
Outside of study abroad students, the British full-time students welcomed us with open arms, and both British and study abroad student groups meshed rather quickly. I knew that the British students would be kind, but making friends with them came naturally. The British students were quick to show us around and give us insider tips and tricks about the University of Roehampton and London as a whole.
Studying abroad has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me thus far, and it is only halfway over. My study abroad experience has been made possible through the assistance of the Gilman Scholarship and their financial aid going toward my books, travel, and tuition during my semester abroad. During studying abroad, you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone in order to make the most of your experience while abroad, but once you lean into the discomfort, the unfamiliar soon becomes familiar and comfortable. I am forever grateful for the Gilman Scholarship, and their assistance in making my study abroad dreams come true.
In London, schools here have a week-long break known as a ‘reading week.’ Though most UK students spend this time studying, I got ahead with my school work and chose to travel instead and take advantage of my close proximity to Europe! A few of my new friends and I chose to pack a bag and head to Paris and Italy for the week! Through the Gilman Scholarship’s assistance, I could put some of their scholarship aid toward my travels and see the world with their help and financial assistance!
Before reading week, I had never been to either France or Italy. Though I was nervous about the different languages and navigating a new city, I was also very excited to see the sights and experience a new culture. Unexpectedly, I found international travel and travel to countries that do not speak English very simple and straightforward. Most everyone we ran into while traveling throughout France and Italy spoke English, which made travel easy for us, but also made me realize how limited I am in my language abilities.
Language is at the root of different cultures, and understanding different cultures start with knowing how to communicate with the individuals in that certain culture. Being surrounded by individuals who could not understand me, and I, in return, not being able to understand them, made me realize how secluded we are in America and how little we actually know about other countries and their unique cultures. Though I felt very grateful and loved playing tourist and traveling around France and Italy, it made me want to broaden my worldly horizons, learn more about other cultures, and continue learning new languages.
Though I have studied Spanish for a while and have kept up with my Spanish skills well enough, I am definitely not fluent anymore. Traveling throughout Europe during the reading week has inspired me to travel, explore more, learn about different cultures, and become bilingual and multilingual. This new goal will allow me to better myself and learn more about cultures around the world, thus becoming a better and more educated Global Citizen.
Before coming abroad, I had heard how different schooling was abroad, specifically in the UK. I was also nervous about the schooling and the way that classes, homework, and assessments are structured. Here, at the University of Roehampton, I take three classes for four hours daily. Here, it is common only to take three classes rather than the five classes that are typically taken at Chapman University. Designing my schedule was easy, and I was given many class options while studying abroad.
The classes here are more seminar and discussion based rather than lecture-based and allow students to engage in the curriculum and the material being taught. There are fewer assessments, but they count as a much larger part of your grade. For example, I have two long essays in one of my classes that account for my whole grade. Textbooks are available to purchase in the library and in school stores. I used funds from the Gilman Scholarship to purchase my school textbook and aid in my academic learning while abroad.
I have found that I like the UK’s approach to schooling more when compared to the US, as it places less emphasis on busy work and more importance on actually understanding what is being taught. I like how I can engage in the curriculum and dive deeper into a few topics I am passionate about rather than scraping the surface of many topics I am partially interested in in the US.
Though schooling here is different, I like the new approach to learning that I have been exposed to and find it interesting, especially as an IES major, to compare the two schooling styles side by side and identify similarities and differences. So far, I have loved classes and experiencing learning in a new and unique way compared to what I have been used to in the past few years. My undergraduate schooling has been full of different learning styles, such as in person, Zoom, and now international. I feel very fortunate to have been able to experience so many different modes of education and learning.
Coming from a small town surrounded by mountains, I have had little to no practice using and navigating public transportation; I am used to getting in my car whenever I need to go anywhere and coming and going as I please without having to wait on anyone else. Having to use, wait on, and rely on public transportation and the schedule of others has been a considerable culture shock for me but has also taught me patience and the art of time management. If you want to catch The Tube, a train, or even the bus, you must check the schedule and make sure that you are on time, or else you will have to wait for the next Tube, train, or bus!
Compared to America, I have noticed that many more people are willing and like to use public transportation in the UK. I am not sure why this is, but I am guessing that people in America like the privacy of their own car more than those in the UK.
On a daily basis, I see young students coming and going from school in their school uniforms, professionals coming and going from work in their business attire and suits, as well as those who are not in a rush to get anywhere and are simply exploring. I have found this to be one of my new favorite things to do: Get on The Tube and ride it until I feel like getting off so that I am able to practice my Tube navigation skill and explore new parts of London. Public transportation is also very good for the environment since everyone is taking one large bus or train rather than all traveling individually.
In order to ride The Tube, you need an Oyster Card. This is the same thing as a Charlie Card in Boston. Essentially, this is your ticket to ride. This is a contact-less card that you are able to load money onto and tap in and out of Tube Stations. The Oyster Card has many purposes and can also be used on buses and trains. Through the financial assistance that I received from the Gilman Scholarship, I am able to continue adding money to my Oyster Card and have been able to travel all over the UK and explore London!
Though I am not a pro at The Tube public transportation yet, I am excited to acquire and learn new skills regarding public transportation while I am studying abroad in the UK and hopefully return to America as a professional in public transportation.