As one of the world’s most iconic and energetic cities in the world, London is consistently a popular study abroad location for Wake Forest students.
From the wide range of programs to choose in the city, 17 students chose to study at Queen Mary University of London, a three year university located in East London, and immerse themselves deeply into British culture.
Many assume that because English is the primary language spoken in London, it is similar to life in America. However, Wake Forest students have noticed a variety of cultural and language gaps that prove London is not quite as easy to adjust to as one would think.
“The biggest thing I have noticed is that there is always something going on 24/7,” said junior Sophie Scheinman.
With a city as populous as London, it is to be expected that the pace of life is faster than that of Winston-Salem, and the diversity that lies within the population varies from the U.S., as well.
“I have never been surrounded by so many different cultures in such a small space,” said junior Blair Dunaway. “There are students from all over the world here, almost like there is a culture of diversity rather than just a British culture.”
In the area surrounding Queen Mary University, there is a strong Bangladeshi presence. However, when you step into one of the student flats, there are residents from all over the world. In Scheinman’s flat alone, there are residents from England, France, Venezuela and Japan.
On this program, students also have the opportunity to complete an internship at one of the businesses in the London area, giving them a unique perspective of the working world in the U.K.
“The workplace is much more casual,” Scheinman said. “Topics of conversation that are typically avoided in the U.S., like my political views, are everyday conversation and comedy.”
Not only are topics of conversation different, but the language itself can be quite confusing to understand. Many of the words in England have different meanings compared to how they are used in the U.S.
“The English language is spoken here, but it is so different that it might as well be a different language,” said junior Rachel Myers.
“One time I told a lady that I really liked her pants and she was very offended,” Scheinman said. “I was confused at the time but later found out that ‘pants’ is the word used for underwear and the word I should have used was trousers.”
Not only have students found distinctions between London and the U.S., but also differences in life at Wake Forest versus Queen Mary. Like many British universities, Queen Mary is a three-year university and expects students to choose their course of study immediately, with a focus on independent study more than class time.
“Wake Forest offers more to facilitate a ‘closeness’ for its students through the structure of social life and academic life,” Dunaway said. “Queen Mary is very hands off in both areas.”
Language can act as a uniting factor in the world, however it is not the only factor that should be considered when comparing one country to another. Lifestyles and cultures are different all globally, and students studying abroad in London are experiencing that fact firsthand.