Meet Vanessa Marquez, a Sociology major studying at Queen Mary University of London!
Student Spotlight: Vanessa Marquez, ‘18
US university: Saint Mary’s College of California
Study abroad program: Queen Mary University of London, London, 2018 fall semester
Why did you choose the UK?
Prior to studying abroad, I had never travelled outside of the U.S. When considering my options, I wanted to choose a country with a similar culture that would allow for easier adjustment and transition. With the added benefit of English as the official language, the U.K. seemed like the perfect option for me. Its proximity to the rest of Europe also meant I could still easily travel, but always come back to a place that felt like home.
Why did you choose this program?
Queen Mary University of London has an established partnership with my home university, so when I was exploring my options, it was the first on my list. I knew I wanted to study in London, not only because of its rich, cultural diversity, but also because of its metropolitan juxtaposition of history and innovation. Where I grew up in California, a majority of the historical monuments still standing only date back to the early twentieth century. I wanted to be able to immerse myself in a continually evolving art and culture, while also learning about the historical significance of every relic and statue scattered throughout the city. QMUL offered my field of study, and its centralized campus location was a perfect fit for me.
What was your favourite class?
My favourite course was ESH382: Reading Childhood/Writing Children. The course focused on applying a theoretical framework to children’s literature in order to understand various thematic elements which encompass ideas of childhood. Beyond the intriguing nature of the course content, Professor Peggy Reynolds was an incredible facilitator who led thoughtful discussions. I wish I could take it again.
What’s your best memory from your time abroad?
It’s really difficult to choose just one, but every Sunday my friends and I would take the bus to Spitalfields Market in Shoreditch for brunch. We would ask for take-away and then eat at these benches outside and just talk about our plan for the week. Each Sunday we would choose a new cuisine to try, and after we finished eating we would walk around the Shoreditch. It was a great way to explore the area nearby campus, and the diversity of the area always provided for a new adventure.
What was the greatest challenge you encountered during your time abroad?
It was really difficult for me to adjust to the different currency! The U.K. uses eight different coins, whereas the U.S. only uses four. So, every time I went to buy groceries or top up my Oyster card, I would hold up the lines behind me while I rummaged for correct change in my coin purse. In the greater scheme of things, it was not the worst thing to happen, but it definitely was a challenge.
Describe your housing situation:
I lived in the undergraduate residence halls located on the QMUL Mile End campus. I had a private room with a personal bathroom, and shared a communal kitchen with my six other flatmates. The room itself was nicely furnished and a cosy size. What I loved most about my room was that it faced central London, so every night I could see the sun setting over the city. The kitchen area had a lot of counter space and a large dining table which was great for inviting friends over to eat or hang out.
What advice would you give to other students who are thinking about studying abroad in the U.K.?
As cliché as it might sound: set goals, make plans, but be open to any and all possibilities for adventure. Prior to studying abroad, I spent hours researching London and all the things it had to offer. I had lists upon lists of activities I wanted to accomplish, many of which were helpful, but ultimately city living is unpredictable. Some of the best memories I have of my time abroad were brought about by complete coincidence and chance. Also, a quick pro tip: keep a journal; chances are the person you are at the start of your time abroad will not be the same as the person you are at the end. Change is inevitable as you grow through all you go through. Document the good, the bad, the ugly; all your small and large victories. Chances are you won’t remember the monotony of the day-to-day, so have notes to look back on.
Fact about the U.K. that you think people would be surprised to learn:
This fact is more specific to London, but when you come out of a Tube station, it is the unspoken rule that you stand on the right side of the escalator to make room for others who walk up the left side. If you disrupt this pattern, no one will verbally say anything but you will have a very angry silent mob behind you. Besides this rare instance, everyone is super friendly and willing to help you out in a bind. Never be afraid to ask for directions or recommendations, chances are the person you ask will propose something great.
What do you think you have gained from studying abroad?
Prior to studying abroad, I had never travelled alone or been away from home for longer than a few weeks at a time. When I arrived in London, I didn’t know anyone or have any experience living independently. Studying abroad challenged me to grow through any obstacles I encountered whether managing homesickness or figuring out how to eat a balanced diet on a budget. Through those experiences, I became independent and self-confident in my ability to problem solve and adapt to any situation I am put in.