Vienna Vance ’21 – London, England

Life as a Queen Mary Student

When I was applying to colleges, I was confident that I wanted a small college experience. I didn't even consider colleges with more than a few thousand students, and I ended up at a school (that I love) of 1,600 students. Fast forward almost exactly three years, and there I was, one of 25,000 students at Queen Mary, University of London. Now that I've experienced both, I've seen the value in both the small college and large university experience.

Queen Mary is the only university in London with a residential campus, so there were lots of societies (the British term for clubs) and on-campus events, no matter the day or time. After spending Fall 2019 abroad unaffiliated with a university, it was wonderful to have campus groups like the Queen Mary Orchestra to join, fulfilling my creative side and satiating my eagerness to hang out with real live Brits!

The dorm life at Queen Mary was a bit different from typical dorm life in America. In London, it's unheard of to share a room with a roommate. I spoke to some Brits about my positive experiences with roommates, and they couldn't believe that sharing a room could possibly be enjoyable. Anyway, at Queen Mary, all students have single rooms with private bathrooms! That was a first for me. My five flatmates (basically hallmates) shared our kitchen at the end of the hallway, which made for a nice space for conversation. Queen Mary's diversity was quite apparent within my flat: we had a student from Italy, a student from China, two British students and one American "associate student" aka study abroad student.

Overall, life in my flat felt quite private and peaceful. It was quite a contrast to the chaos and constant conversation I was used to in residential spaces back home. I was excited to get back to communal living for senior year of college, but enjoyed the quiet while it lasted.

When I envisioned classes at a large research university, I imagined massive lecture halls with hundreds of half-awake students. Instead, I'm happy to report that class sizes were still small and participation was common, even though there wasn't a participation grade. It impressed me how willing people were to share, just because they had some insight to share and not because they were rewarded for speaking. I think this improved the quality of people's contributions because they were coming from a place of interest, rather than pressure. 

Hopefully, this fills in some of the details about life at Queen Mary, and more broadly, about life at a British university. Because of my choice to study abroad, I have begun to understand a different part of the world, and I've experienced the university lifestyle that I never thought I'd get to participate in.