SOAS University of London

Natalie Chaney, Washington University in St. Louis, Year Abroad

In my opinion, I think London is such an interesting city because of the unique composition of its population. It is the most internationally focused place I have ever lived. It is the meeting and merging point of people and cultures from around the world who are eager to share their experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives with you.

Study Abroad January - June 2014

Which courses did you study at SOAS?

  • Special Course in Chinese 3
  • Comparative and International Politics
  • International Relations of East Asia
  • States, People, and Power in Asia and Africa

What did you enjoy most about your academic studies?

I enjoyed the opportunity to take courses from Professors who were really passionate about the same subjects that I was passionate about and were willing and able to share their interest with me. The professors at SOAS are uniquely qualified and educated in specific subjects that have always interested me, and therefore have been excellent resources to me that I would have had access to at any other university. Further, the tutors for all of my courses are equally passionate and engaging and are always able to stimulate debate and thoughtful conversation between students in tutorial. I really love how genuinely interested and passionate every student is and how eager they are to hear new ideas and perspectives and offer their own.

How did you spend your free time?

I am especially interested in Chinese language, culture, and foreign policy. At SOAS, it was very easy for me to meet people who share the same interests as me and helped me to get involved as much as possible. My classmates encouraged me to get involved in the Chinese New Year celebration that SOAS students organize every year and to attend club meetings for language exchange and practice with Chinese students. Outside of SOAS, I have had the opportunity to do a significant amount of travel. Because London is so centrally located, it is easy to access many European cities. Besides travelling within Europe I have also had the opportunity to travel to Africa—Morocco is just a short 3 hour flight from London.

Any advice?

I would advise students thinking about studying in the UK to try to make the most of their experience as possible. It is easy for study abroad students to form social groups within their own study abroad group and not reach out to full-time students. However, in my opinion I think that this defeats the purpose of study abroad. I would advise new students to try their best to reach out to full-time students and try to incorporate themselves into their school community as much as possible. People are generally very receptive to making new friends and your experience will be enriched by branching out.
Further, I would suggest that students talk to full-time students about how to study most efficiently before beginning their coursework because the transition can be difficult. The UK school system requires a great deal of independence from students. Students must be prepared to work diligently throughout the term even though assignments are not due until the end of term. This is a huge difference between the US and UK systems which is difficult to assimilate to.