Alex Wilking: Navigating the city of fog, ‘Tardiness does not even exist’

Photo contributed by Alex Wilking
Photo contributed by Alex Wilking

When I decided to spend a semester in London, my decision was hardly influenced by the educational quality of the campus. I chose my location solely based off the area around the school, like most study abroad students do. But quickly the hard truth hit me that I did come here to attend school. My campus would only become exciting and alive if I let it.

Regent’s American College London (RACL) is located inside a massive park, appropriately titled Regent’s Park. Besides a small courtyard, the campus does not have many hangout areas, so exploring this park has been its own reward. There are areas and trails in the park just begging to be traversed.

RACL’s exterior and surroundings are so entrancing, but the school itself is cramped and overcrowded. The school also acts as a hub for local business students, which creates far too much traffic during the middle of the day. Yet somehow, hardly any of these students are in my classes. My classes are filled primarily with other study abroad students, with a single British native here-and-there. If there’s time in between classes and homework, students are usually out or in the park.

Most abroad classes stray away from Friday teaching, giving students a three-day weekend. Use this as an advantage when traveling. Three consecutive days are plenty to take that trip to Paris with little stress, or, in my case, a small expedition to Wales this coming weekend. This leaves the rest of the week for homework or studying — an organized schedule to accomplish whatever is needed.

When registering for classes here, I noticed very few courses were available in line with my major. Advisers recommend you use time abroad to knock out

Photo contributed by Alex Wilking A courtyard of Regent’s American College London (RACL), where Wilking said he is “receiving a genuine British education.”
Photo contributed by Alex Wilking
A courtyard of Regent’s American College London (RACL), where Wilking said he is “receiving a genuine British education.”

general education classes. I took this to heart and am taking all classes outside of my major. I think this is the best thing for students abroad. Let’s face it, education is the last thing on the minds of young American adults in Europe. My advice is to try something new, something unique to the location you’ve chosen. Use your time abroad to take a break and really enjoy the fact that a brand new city is right at your doorstep.

Travel is made easy by classes that contain field trips in the curriculum. Art, theater and music classes here integrate trips to museums or plays to replace a day of class — you get to travel without skipping class. I’m enrolled in a current art class that travels to different art galleries every Thursday and talks about the exhibits there. I’m also taking a British music class that took us to a music exhibit this past week, granting free entrance just for being in the class. Classes such as these will often pay your way for outings, which means free plays and free museums all semester.

I found this helpful since I don’t recommend skipping class, especially in London. Most teachers are British, so their methods of teaching offer the perspective of a genuine British education — attendance is crucial and tardiness does not even exist. Teachers will mark attendance at the start of class, and they can’t go back into the system to change anything once entered. Students automatically fail if too many classes are missed.

I have five months to really capture and take in the new area I’m in. When I get back, the grind of important required courses and post-college job searching begins. So I intend to enjoy every moment alongside the education — take weekend trips, explore classes outside my comfort zone and come home with a fulfilling experience under my belt.

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