When selecting a locale for studying abroad, London was the obvious choice for Payton Anderson.
The junior business marketing major had visited the British capital before and couldn’t resist returning.
“I really fell in love with the city,” said Anderson. “I wanted to come back for a longer period of time.”
Anderson was one of 21 TCU students spending the semester in London rather than in Fort Worth. A total of 85 students took part in programs directly associated with TCU in London, Seville, and Florence. They are a part of the university’s plan to expose students to global culture.
The London program is tied to the University of Westminster.
University of Westminster is a large, urban university in the middle of London with different residence halls and academic dorms around the city, TCU Study Abroad Advisor Susan Layne said.
Unlike TCU, Westminster does not have a single campus, so students are constantly moving around the city.
TCU Study Abroad Associate Director Tracey Williams said that the aim of studying abroad is “not necessarily to become another person,” but to reassess your value systems and to experience a deeper thinking behind the differences between cultures.
One difference students notice at Westminster is the model of the classes. Rather than small class sizes that meet several times a week like at TCU, Westminster prefers a weekly large lecture followed by a weekly discussion section.
Students are also given reading lists rather than structured syllabi, Williams said.
Williams said she hopes students will “not make this an American experience,” but she does expect them to see some cultural differences.
Anderson said she found the weather to be the biggest shock about life in London, but she adapted to the excessive rain and cold temperatures.
“I’m here in London only for a short time, so that is helping me be like ‘you got to get out, you got to go do things’ and just trying to embrace the culture even with the different obstacles,” said Anderson.
In addition to the climate, she said she also had to adjust to the people.
“That Southern hospitality, it’s missing here,” said the Fort Worth native.
Her roommate and fellow TCU student Clay Eber likened the attitudes of Londoners to those of New Yorkers.
Eber, a junior finance major, said he initially wanted to study abroad in Spain.
“I wanted to go to Seville, but needed to take business classes in London,” Eber said, who said he wants to stay on track to graduate in four years.
He said he’s glad he chose London over Spain.
“It’s just nice, everyone speaking English, it’s just easier getting around day-to-day,” said Eber.
Layne, the study abroad advisor, said she often finds herself having more trouble communicating there than in a country that predominantly speaks a foreign language.
She said this is because in a city such as Florence, all of the accents on English words are spoken with similar Italian accents, but in London there are people from all over the world speaking English with many different accents.
“The culture in London is nothing like the U.S., the people are nothing like the U.S.,” said Layne. “The language they’re speaking is nothing like the U.S. and I think sometimes that is really surprising.”
Visiting the continent
In addition to their studies, Anderson and Eber said they travelled as much as possible.
Anderson went to Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris this semester. She said the Paris trip was memorable because she realized on the way to the airport that she had left her passport in her apartment.
“I missed my flight, but then I took a bus to Paris,” said Anderson, who opted out of buying another plane ticket.
Eber said his travels were the highlight of his trip. He said Dublin was his favorite city.
“The people were super nice and the culture was fantastic,” Eber said.
Anderson said seeing Beyoncé in concert at the 02 Arena was the peak of her trip.
She was excited to experience a different crowd with a “different way of expressing their love for Beyoncé.”
Layne said the simple physicality of living abroad helps one looks at their values differently.
“The truth is, if you really want to be a citizen of the world, you have to live for a while in different parts of the world, you can’t just pass through it with your luggage,” said Layne.
Anderson said she found herself “comparing a lot of things to how Neeley would do it.” Specifically, she was surprised about how much more casual class presentations are at Westminster.
She said students at Westminster often begin presentation preparation the day before the assignment.
“There is probably someone from every part of the world in every group. It’s just really interesting all the different cultures you get to interact with,” said Anderson about the groups in her classes at Westminster.
Spring semesters are always more popular than the fall across all locations, said Layne. She predicts some factors that contribute to this are the start of school, football season and sorority rush.
Although the spring is more popular than the fall, students do face challenges in leaving the TCU campus for an entire semester. Anderson said she was voted president of her sorority prior to going abroad, but she won’t take over the position until next fall.
Westminster guarantees the number of spots for spring TCU students based on the number of fall students. However, the spring semester was more popular than the fall semester this year.
Students were put into overflow housing, resulting in many TCU students living together, rather than the typical setting of students living among students from other universities.
Anderson was nervous about living with TCU students that she did not know. But now she describes her new friends as “a weird dysfunctional family.”
“Hanging out with them, getting to know them has been pretty cool,” said Anderson.
Anderson lived in the apartment-style housing, which had TCU students living together, while the academic dorms have TCU students living among students from other places.
In the beginning of her program, Anderson was disappointed that she was not meeting students from other places. However, she said it helped her to step out and meet more people in her classes.
Eber was also happy with his fellow TCU classmates as roommates.
“I’m glad I ended up staying with TCU people,” he said. “It’s nice coming home to like-minded individuals.”
While Layne said this spring’s housing situation is not ideal, Layne said they want students to experience a different culture.
“We want students to live among Brits and people from all over the world, and we want them sitting in class with people from all over the world,” Layne said.