Lucas Brenner » Articles » My Semester Abroad at UCL

From September to December 2023, I spent a semester abroad at University College London (UCL). I gained a lot of experience that not only helped me academically, but also personally. I described in another article why a stay abroad helps you to develop further. In this article, I would like to reflect on my experiences from London, similar to my report on my Kyrgyzstan excursion.

Main building of UCL
The main building of UCL at the beginning of my semester abroad

Travel & Accommodation

I took the Eurostar from Cologne to London St. Pancras and changed trains in Brussels. It was very easy and there is no weight limit for luggage. You arrive in the middle of London and only need a few minutes to get to the student residences and the main UCL building.

I lived in student accommodation just a few minutes away from the university on the tube. The rent was of course very high, but that's normal in London. Nevertheless, it was exciting to live so centrally in a metropolis.

As only UCL students lived in my accommodation, I was able to get to know lots of new people and meet them at the events in the accommodation.

My room in UCL student accommodation
My room in the student residence

Study & Everyday Life

As expected, the quality of teaching at UCL is high. Although I was rejected from some modules because they were already full, the choice of courses was so large that I found four exciting modules. From political geography to Global Events and human ecology, I covered a broad academic spectrum during my semester abroad.

As you can imagine, there are tons of things to do in London during the day or at night besides studying. The choice of clubs, pubs etc. is huge and there are often parties organized by UCL societies.

However, the prices in London are also very high. Not only public transport, but also going out and food are comparatively more expensive than in Germany. I actually cooked for myself every day and bought food via the “TooGoodToGo” app. At least you can pay by card everywhere – even at the donations for street musicians.

There are several hundred societies at UCL on all kinds of topics, from rowing to dance to space. Societies are student clubs or associations. There was so much on offer that you couldn't possibly take part in everything – so there was definitely enough to do to fill your free time alongside your studies!

Street in London with Christmas lights
London is festively decorated at Christmastime

My Experiences

The semester abroad helped me both academically and personally. Living abroad alone is a challenge that makes you grow and learn a lot about yourself. When I arrived in London, I only knew one other student from Germany – by the time I left, I had made many new friends.

Experiences abroad contribute to personal development because they present you with problems and challenges that you would not have encountered in your home country. A different language, culture, new people and dealing with homesickness in its many forms mean that you are forced to surpass yourself.

Moreover, life in a metropolis like London is of course very different to life in a German city. There's a lot more going on, public transport is more extensive but also more confusing, and there's always something going on somewhere.

Even though the physical separation from my family and my girlfriend was sometimes difficult, I'm still glad I studied abroad for one semester. I think I'm more relaxed and at ease about a lot of things now than I was before my semester abroad. If I had worried a lot about problems before, I'm now more relaxed about them. Of course, a semester abroad is no guarantee for personal development, but the likelihood of it happening is relatively high.

You only realize the true impact of the semester abroad when you come back. For you, the transition is so smooth that you don't even consciously notice it, but for friends and family back home, the change is obvious. That's why you feel a little strange at home in the beginning, because you first have to get used to your old surroundings and settle in. For the first few days at home, I felt like I was just visiting. However, this feeling wore off after a few days.

Overall, my semester abroad was a wonderful and influential experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.