In my first blog post I want to take you through my journey of arriving in London, settling in and my first study experiences in London.
Arrival + settling in:
There are many ways to go to London from Germany: Flight, train, car or by bus. I decided to take the long bus ride -24 hours in total- to get to London. There were many reasons why I chose the bus, including environment, baggage limits and costs. I took the Bus via Antwerp, where I had six hours of transition. And it was absolutely worth it because it is such a beautiful city and in six hours, I had enough time to explore the city and check out a cute little Café. Another advantage of taking the bus is the ferry. The view, especially during sunset, of the coast of England is incredibly beautiful.
When I finally arrived at my accommodation it was almost midnight. I chose living in a student accommodation because UCL guarantees every student a place in a student accommodation in their first year of studying there. Also, it is the easiest way to meet new people and connect with humans from all over the world. In my accommodation >>New Hall<< six people share a kitchen, but everyone has their own bathroom. I was the first one of my flatmates to arrive. The next morning, I immediately went shopping to get the necessary kitchen equipment. After coming back, I met my first flatmate and we decided to go together to the Welcome Event organized by our student accommodation to socialize. The Welcome Event consisted of free food – which as a student you always appreciate -, music, creating your own picture frame and more. It was the prefect start in my year abroad and I met many amazing people.
First study experiences:
My first days studying in London were absolutely overwhelming. Thankfully, I met one of my fellow students at the Welcome Event of New Hall and we decided to go together to the introduction events of our course. Once you know one person, it gets so much easier to connect with other fellow students, too. I met so many interesting and inspiring people from so many different backgrounds and nationalities. At UCL more than 50% of the students are international students, meaning that, for example, in my programme the nationalities range from Singapore over India to Portugal and the US or Canada. Literally people from all over the world. But also, the academic background could not be more diverse including biochemistry, neurophysiology, or psychology (which obviously is the best background). To be frankly honest, I was incredibly intimidated by the knowledge and lab experiences of my fellow students. I remember we were standing there talking about the topics of our Bachelor dissertations and they all asked specific content related question, and I wasn’t even sure whether I knew what even the topic was. Imposter syndrome was definitely kicking in at that moment. I talked about this situation with them weeks later and we started laughing because we were all so intimated by each other and thought that the other persons knew so much more. So, I guess everybody is a little bit insecure in the beginning.
The main aspect that was different for me, was the level of closeness to the lecturers and professors. In Germany, I would have never called my professors by their first name let alone using their nickname. Also, I have never had a personal tutor before to whom I could go with questions. My personal tutor even offered me to help me out with genetics and told me that I could always contact her if I got homesick or had troubles becoming acclimatized.
Another aspect that highly differed from my previous experiences in Germany, was the application process for my Master´s dissertation. In my Bachelor´s degree you had to simply email a person and tell them that you were interested in undertaking your research project in their department. At UCL, however, the process is way more complicated. In order to secure a research-project you have to send emails including cover letter and CV. Then, you get invited to an interview and if you are lucky, you get the project. This process is definitely way more challenging and before my first interview my knees were shaking. But this process also allows you to choose a project and a supervisor with whom you feel comfortable working with. Because not only have you present yourself to them, but they must present themselves, too. I guess it has advantages and disadvantages and it sounds way scarier than it actually is.
November 2022 | Lioba Berndt