Postcard from England: New friendships & education systems
- Name: Hannah Fisher ’20
- Hometown: Wheaton, IL
- Major: Anthropology Minor: Education and Youth Studies
- Study Abroad Location: Goldsmiths, University of London, UK
Q. How is study abroad benefiting your Beloit College education?
Academically, my courses expand on what I learned at Beloit, bringing that knowledge into the broader context of Britain. Since I want to enter international education after graduation, experiencing a different education system has opened my mind to alternative structures and is helping me better understand how to help other students adjusting to a different educational system. The Goldsmiths Global Opportunities Team has also helped prepare me for a career in international education by meeting with me and extending opportunities to work with them during the term.
Since London is a more accessible city with public transport, I have also widened my perspective more by learning about history not mentioned in my own education at museums and landmarks and by being exposed to different norms in a variety of public spaces. This will help me better understand others at Beloit and bring a new critical eye to my academics. I have also learned a lot about language acquisition here through my courses and being surrounded by a different version of English than what I speak at home. Learning about this aids in learning new languages myself and understanding others acquiring new ones. It also is influencing my academic and career interests, which are now leaning toward literacy development and TESOL.
Q. How are you engaging with people and place when you’re not in the classroom?
My flatmates and I share stories about our home lives and our adjustment whenever we are in the kitchen together. A few times this has turned into conversations that last hours. I have similar conversations outside of class with other study abroad students and classmates. It may be difficult to bring up a topic or feel comfortable talking to others you do not know well, but everyone I have met has been excited to exchange cultural knowledge with me. I have learned a lot about British, Japanese, Russian, and German education systems and cultures while abroad. I have also discussed similar topics with the Global Opportunities Team, which is similar to OIE at Beloit College.
My friends and I—or sometimes on my own—visit museums, landmarks, restaurants, and markets in the area to learn more about our environment. London has a lot of free museums that can teach you about the art, science, and history of Britain. Restaurants help you understand the tastes of Londoners and norms around eating. There are also a lot of clubs at Goldsmiths where you can meet and learn from more Goldsmiths students.
A rainy day on the Royal Mile in one of Hannah’s favorite UK cities, Edinburgh.
Q. What are the three most important things you packed in your suitcase? Why?
1) A set of sheets and towels since the school does not provide any. 2) Rain boots (or just waterproof shoes in general) because it rains almost everyday. 3) The stuffed animal my sister gave me before leaving since I didn’t have room to bring many sentimental items.
Q. What was the most unexpected thing you encountered during your off-campus study experience?
Some returnee students said that I would have a lot of free time and I didn’t believe them. Now, I do. Students at Goldsmiths spend roughly half the amount of time in class as students at Beloit, and are required to complete fewer assignments and readings depending on their department. I didn’t know what to do with myself at the beginning of the term. Now,I fill my time exploring and getting to know the culture. This schedule works well for study abroad students who need extra time to adjust and observe, but I do like learning content quicker and more intensely at home.
Q. Describe some daily rituals/routines that you’ve observed while abroad.
My dorm is right next to the primary school so I often see parents drop their children off at school on my way to class. The kids are dressed in their uniforms while their parents are often dressed for work. Their moms are yelling at their kids to slow down as their youngest are scootering away on the three-wheeled scooters that are all the rage. During the school day I can hear the kids playing during recess and physical education classes on the soccer court. Depending on the weather, the kids come out by 10:30am every day to play. They have about 25 minutes before the bell rings and another group of kids come out screaming and laughing. You can tell the physical education classes (not daily) from recess since you can hear an instructor yell something and then 20 basketballs are simultaneously bouncing off the ground in an uproar of sound before yelling is heard again. It is not the best place to live next to if you enjoy naps, but it is interesting to observe audibly. You can learn a lot about that environment and their routines solely based on their sounds.
Q. What is a common food there? What is the best meal you’ve had abroad?
London is a diverse area with a wide variety of restaurants. The variety depends on your borough. The 3 most common cuisines overall seem to be Middle Eastern, Indian, and British. New Cross, Lewisham, and Peckham have high Afro-Caribbean populations and, therefore, have more restaurants dedicated to that style of food. Most cafes will have an English breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, baked beans, hash browns, and tomatoes), paninis, fish and chips, and, interestingly, falafel, along with other foods and cafe drinks. But no matter which cafe you are at, it is roughly the same menu. Pubs aren’t too different except meat pies are added, breakfast is taken away, and coffee is replaced with alcohol. The best food I have eaten was on one of my first nights in London. My friends and I were looking for something to eat after sight-seeing and one of the few places open in New Cross was the Pita House. They had a 2 for £25 special that 5 of us split. There was tons of amazing meat, pitas, salad, and chips and only for £5 each. It’s one of our favorite places now.
Hannah in the iconic red phone booth.