My name is Jessica Zimmer, I am a sophomore at Rider who has been eager to study abroad since my senior year in high school. Rider has an amazing study abroad program, with various places to go and programs for American students. Specifically, I chose to go to England so that I could study and interact with people in English. Little did I realize how different America and England are! They are two countries divided by a common language.
My fall term in England, I had learned so many words that meant something completely different than they did back home. For example: the term ‘chips’ in England means ‘fries’, and a bag of potato chips is referred to as ‘crisps’. I have also noticed that here people tend to say ‘You alright?’ instead of ‘How are you?’ when greeting others. The first time I heard that I was caught off-guard because I thought a girl I lived with was asking me if I was okay; meaning hurt or upset. The little things I have noticed about the way Americans interact compared to English people are very funny. Many people in America use the word ‘pissed,’ meaning mad or annoyed, where as if you say ‘I am pissed’ in England it means you are drunk. I have learned to choose my words carefully!
Anyway, apart from the slang differences, my experience at the university is so different as well. My first term in England I was so overwhelmed by the reading assignments, and shocked at how much time I spend working out of the classroom then I actually do in it! The English style of teaching at universities is very independent compared to the American system. Students read a lot of material outside the class and discuss what they read or learned inside the classroom usually twice a week. This is compared to Rider; last year I learned inside the classroom and did work for my classes separately. The grading system is the opposite too; students’ start off with 0% and each grade determines where they are in the class. A 75% in England is considered an A+ in America. Different right? I started to panic when I got a paper back with the number 63 on it, I soon realized that in England that is a ‘good’ grade. At the University of Essex where I am a studying, students usually have two assignments per ‘module’ or class, usually one or two essays per term, and one exam at the very end of the entire course. Can you imagine?! Although most students at Rider might think that would be amazing, it actually makes the work more stressful. I actually prefer the American style of teaching where work is consistent because it helps keep the lessons in class fresh and easier to remember.
Outside of the classroom I have met so many people from around the world. I live in a single bedroom, with a shared kitchen and bathrooms. Living with people with different backgrounds is so cool. I live with people from England, China, Poland, Pakistan, Holland, Norway, and Bulgaria and there is always something to talk about. The friends that I have met have showed me traditional meals from their home, and funny phrases or words; it is so much fun! And the best part about it all is that they are away from home too, so whenever you are homesick there is always someone there who understands. The friends you make and people you meet studying abroad are friends that will always stay in touch.
Everyone should do it! So far I have seen London, Brighton, Norwich, and Colchester, which is where I live. Living in the United Kingdom is amazing, I am only a few hours away from places I have been dying to see, and in the spring I get to do it! Being in England has helped me become a more independent student and experience another culture’s way of living. It is truly a life changing experience that I highly recommend to everyone, but with it comes a lot of work and preparation.