Rebecca Packer is a sophomore in International Studies at the U of U. She is currently studying on exchange in Keele University in the United Kingdom.
It was quite literally a dream come true when I was accepted into the study abroad program at Keele University in The United Kingdom. It has been a down right change being in England instead of Utah but I have loved every minute of it. I will admit I was a little disappointed to not being able to study for a year in London. London is my favorite city in the world and I would have given anything to live there. That being said I am grateful that I did not end up in London this year. Keele is located in the West midlands of England right below Manchester and more or less right in the middle of the country. Which of course means that the whole entire country is all around me. If I had been in London, it is safe to say, I would have never left the city but being in an unfamiliar city in the middle of it all has given me the chance to go places I would have never thought of going.
I have been in England a little over 2 months and I have learned and seen so many things that it is amazing my mind has not exploded. First of all a little bit about Keele.
The schooling system is totally different here than it is in Utah, which is a given but I am still adjusting to it 8 weeks into the semester. I only have 8-9 hours of lectures a week and the divide their lectures into lectures and tutorials. So instead of having 2 hours of being talked at and taking notes like a mad person. You go to an hour of lecturing and then later that week or the next hour you meet with the subject tutor (professor) in smaller groups to discuss further the material for the week. Then you are expected to do readings and assignments like normal. Sometimes I feel the structure of lectures and of the university in general are a little questionable but I have learned a lot in my time being here and it is fascinating to get the British opinion on historical events.
Keele campus is simply gorgeous and nothing like the campus at the U. I see squirrels every time I walk out the door. There are more squirrels on campus then there are BYU students working at McDonalds. It is so incredible green and really tiny. I can walk across campus in 10 minutes and see every building there is to see. There is the original school building Keele Hall standing off by itself close to the woods. It is a gorgeous building with Italian gardens, a view of the seven lakes and the woods that surround the campus. Whenever I walk passed Keele Hall I feel like I have stepped back in time and right into Pride and Prejudice. The Student’s Union is a lot different from the SU at the U. There are parties there almost every night and the book store is about half the size of the book store at the U. At the parties you meet a lot of awesome people and you end up with a lot of crazy stories in the morning. There is a massive Halloween Ball and a Christmas fair the weekend before Winter Break; with reindeer, an ice skating rink, fair rides and mulled wine. Yumm!
I did not live in dorms while at the U so I don’t know how the housing there compares with the housing here but it is quite the experience. I live with 8 other girls (there was another one but we somehow managed to scare her off) I am the only American, which makes life so interesting. I am going to be honest and say I totally lucked out when it came to room mates. We are all equal parts insane and loud and 8 of us out of the 9 get along like we are best friends. I have come to call my dorm home and we are all family, which sounds so dumb but it is true. We do everything together- cook in our tiny to small for a table kitchen, go out to the SU for pub quiz night (we either lose or get disqualified, funny but not cool), complete our list of totally random things to do together or just hang out in the corridor while waking up our sick flat mates. There is never a dull moment in Lindsay O block. We have managed to set off the fire alarm twice now, once with a broom and the other with an umbrella. We decorated our flat with post it notes and we had a pet onion that was brutally murdered, by knife wound, 11 days after we adopted him. Like I said we are all a little weird but it makes for quite the entertainment.
I also lucked out with my travel buddy. There are a ton of international students here at Keele and all the International students arrive 2-3 days before the British students so that we get a chance to know one another. I met Morgan who is getting her masters and is from D.C She has never been to England so, like myself, was/anxious to travel all around England and see all it has to offer. We have already seen Stonehenge, Salisbury Cathedral (Magna Carta baby!), Old Sarum Castle, Shakespeare’s Birthplace and where he is buried, Anne Hathaway’s cottage, London, Notting Hill, Birmingham and on to Manchester tomorrow and Lincoln on December 3. I also had the totally awesome experience of going to the premier of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 on November 11. Being a Harry Potter crazed fan that was the best experience of my life even if I had to stand in the pouring rain in Leicester Square for 13 hours. I also had the privilege to participate in the protest in parliament square on Nov 10. I did leave before things got crazy but it is such an awesome feeling being in something bigger than yourself. I’m not a British student but hopefully the protests will make a difference to the government’s plan for the future of education. Keele plans 2-3 trips a month for international students to go on. They go to places like Manchester, Chester, Lincoln and London (just to name the ones they have had so far this year). They want you to be able to see this gorgeous country and it is worth the journey.
I am still loving every moment that I am here in England. Their phrases have taken some getting used to and I still refer to chips as French fries but that is mostly because it drives the British insane. I am so glad I still have 5 more months to be here and I hope that other people get the chance to come here one day because it is truly amazing. And yes just in case you were wondering the British do love the American accent.