Claire in London

Claire is a junior majoring in history and anthropology, with a minor in political science, in Dedman College. In fall 2011 she is studying at King’s College London with IFSA-Butler, in partnership with SMU Abroad.


Today was the first day of KCL orientation, which was very exciting since no one has any idea what the HECK is going on. We have been allocated “modules” (classes) but we don’t know our “tutors” (professors/lecturers) or our “timetables” (schedules).

In the UK, most students only take classes from one department at university. By your first year, you are expected to have chosen your academic path. If you are going to be a history student, you take only classes in the history department. Unlike the United States, where even if you do not attend a liberal arts school like SMU, you are most likely expected to have a well-rounded foundation when you finish your degree – no matter your major. I have not met a single U.K. student who is taking classes outside of their department, nor has anyone ever heard of such a thing as a double major or minor.

So, schedules are not given out on an individual basis. They are given out by the departments. If you are a U.K. student, you should not have any issues since the departmental timetables do not overlap internally. However, if you are an international student from the States, you’re in trouble.

You must register for your classes first (I register for mine this afternoon). Then tomorrow I have to visit the orientation meetings for the two departments I will be enrolled in (History and Classics). There, I will be given the two departmental timetables and my classes may or may not overlap. If they do, I will have to re-register in a different class(es).

If someone can explain to me why this makes any sense – that is, to require enrollment before receiving a schedule (which may or may not then have to be rectified to said schedule) – please be my guest. It seems to me that it is much more logical and efficient to provide students with schedules and then have them register! It saves time for both the student and registrar!

Enrollment here seems difficult and elusive (even for the U.K. kids), while in the U.S. everything is online, personalized and organized in, usually, a very clear way.  You can see your class sections and professors and reading lists long before you have to enroll. All of you back at home – be thankful that Access is such a breeze.

I also found out today I may not even start classes until October 3rd. I will know for sure whether this is true by this afternoon. In which case, I will probably be saying Cheerio! to London and  Bonjour á Paris for a week or so.


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Freshers Week


The first week or orientation here at King’s College is referred to as “Freshers Week.” Everyone moves in, and there are events every night designed to get students out of their flats and meeting new people.

In just my first day of being on campus, I learned a lot of things. For example, don’t be surprised to walk into an on-campus freshman meet and greet  and see everyone holding a beer in their hands that they picked up from a vending machine. Don’t tell your flat mates you are going to change into “pants” because they will assume you are not wearing underwear. Differentiating between crisps, chips, and cookies will give you a violent headache. People don’t say “different strokes for different folks” and “al-loo-min-nium” is what you wrap your “jacket potatoes” in.

It’s funny to find out the perceptions that other people have of Americans. People genuinely believe we Texans each have at least 2 semi-automatic weapons that we whip out when we get into a desert gunfight at the local saloon. Of course, I have assumptions about the British that are equally laughable.

So far, everything is going wonderfully. I am sharing a flat with four other girls and find them to be quite charming and friendly. We spent the day wandering the neighborhood, laughing at slight miscommunications and discussing what ‘brisket’ was.  I will try to post some pictures of my room and flat soon.



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