Learning in London

by Alyssa Reeves
As published in Fall 2008 issue of STATEments magazine.

Learning in London
The Chronicles of Susan Dolan

Written by Alyssa Reeves

Photos contributed


Just a month into her adventure, she writes: “I was walking alone the River Thames and I got kind of a reality slap, I’m in London. Sometimes I can’t believe I’m actually here. I’ve wanted to do this for so long and I actually did it. It’s funny that just a month or so ago I was driving in Wichita, and now I’m walking around central London. If things keep going this smoothly, I don’t think I’ll ever want to leave.”

As though attending a university such as Kansas State University with more than 20,000 students isn’t intimidating enough, imagine studying thousands of miles from home and spending the semester in a city of 7 million.


Susan Dolan did just that.


As an apparel and textile major from Wichita Dolan spent her semester studying in London. She dreamed of spending the latter half of her sophomore year studying abroad after visiting her cousin in London a couple of years ago.


Preparing for departure

“Studying abroad was something I always knew I wanted to do,” says Dolan.


She ultimately decided as a freshman in February 2007 to go and began working with the Office of International Programs at K-State to fill out required paperwork and research various programs.


With the vocal and financial support of her parents, Dolan also communicated with an advisor at American Intercontinental University (AIU), a study abroad program that encourages global understanding by providing an atmosphere of cultural diversity and opportunities for international education.  AIU is just one of the many programs offering study abroad trips in addition to K-State.  K-State’s faculty-led programs are short-term trips offering limited credit, but KSU also works to guide students through the application process of non-KSU programs. AIU offered Dolan a highly-structured program and its own faculty, director, and study center and an extended period abroad.


Dolan packed her bags for London and flew out of Wichita, meeting a connecting flight in Chicago. While there she lived in a flat in Camden with four other people.


“We are in a really artsy part of London, it is great,” she says. “It’s a hub for musicians, writers, playwrights … I saw Kelly Osbourne at the Hawley Arms pub one night.”


Crossing cultures
Of course there was some culture shock as life in London is far from the pace of life in the United States. One of the first differences Dolan noticed were the styles among women.


“I see probably a person in sweats once every two days. It just isn’t as accepted here to go scrubby as it is back home; and some days I wish I could wear a T-shirt and sweats to class like back at K-State,” says Dolan. “I figured all the walking I would do I would want to bring flats. Oddly enough, like every woman I see is in heels.”


In addition to fashion, London’s businesses have a different air than American operations. “Things close so early here. Most shops close anywhere between 6 and 8 p.m. You have to sack your own groceries at a lot of supermarkets. I just take for granted how great Dillons is,” she says.


Yet, one aspect of London culture that Dolan found especially appealing was the amiability. “I was very surprised at how helpful people are. I figured, being such a big and busy city, people
wouldn’t stop to help but it is been very opposite,” she says. “People are more than friendly and are glad to help us on our way.”


Studying abroad

This trip was not just a vacation for Dolan. She took classes including Marketing, Survey of British Museums and Fashion Styles. In her Fashion Styles class she was given the opportunity to style a female model.


“After that class period I think I’ve decided that’s what I would love to do with the rest of my life,” she says. By working with her academic advisor and the colleges of Human Ecology, Business and Arts & Sciences at K-State, Dolan was able to gain necessary credits toward her degree.


Even though the costs of studying abroad are slightly higher Dolan didn’t mind. “Tuition is about what it costs for an out-of-state student, so it was a pretty big purchase for me to take on,” she explains. “But when I look at it, this experience is amazing and so worth it.”


Since her experiences in London, Dolan feels there are a few pieces of advice every traveling student should know. First, stick to a budget. “I didn’t do so well my first month
here, and now I feel like I’m pinching pennies or pence in this case,” she says. Also, know that it’s okay to be nervous.


Finally she adds—have fun. “This is a once in a lifetime experience. Travel whenever you can. Explore whenever possible. Go out on a school night. Not many people get this experience so definitely make it count.”

Are you thinking about study abroad? K-State’s Office of International Programs has information about trips in the fall, spring, or summer semesters.  The Study Abroad Office is located on the third floor of Fairchild Hall.