Finding Institutional Support Systems Abroad

Within these past few weeks, I have gotten some emails from my Amherst peers about QMUL and study abroad generally. For this post, I wanted to depart from looking at educational equality explicitly and provide some perspective on what studying abroad at QMUL has been like for me in terms of institutional support.

Within the first week of my arrival on QMUL’s campus, I was tired and in a constant state of stress. Everything felt unfamiliar from not being able to find all the food I know and love (fun fact: you can find Hot Cheetos in Central London, but the cheapest I saw were about $15!) to having difficulty navigating the paper dependent registration process at QMUL. When I ran into some issues with registration, I headed to the Global Opportunities Office for help. 

All the answers to the problems I brought to the office were quickly resolved, but then Rachel Davies, Global Opportunities Administrative Officer, asked the dreaded “how are you doing?” question. Without fail, whenever someone asks how I’m doing when I’m not doing particularly well, I crack just as I did with Rachel.

I, of course, immediately started crying and talking about all the negative feelings I had been having since arriving in London. Rachel was incredibly kind to me and listened to all that I had to say and, after all my tears and some tissues, I left the office feeling less scared and unsure. 

The Global Opportunities Office has continued to be an amazing resource and source of support for me as my study abroad experience has continued. For this post, I wanted to showcase the Global Opportunities Office and two of its team in the hopes of humanizing some of the support I have found at QMUL.

 


Name: Rachel Davies

Pronouns: She, her, hers

Position: Global Opportunities Administrative Officer

 

  1. Where are you from?

I’m from the very small town of Grafton in upstate New York. It’s on top of a mountain, 45 minutes from the capital Albany. We could also be in Vermont and Massachusetts in 20 minutes. There was a general store, library, state park, three churches and a Buddhist temple. It was a really beautiful place to grow up, but was a bit too far removed for me once I was a teenager. I would take classes on Saturday mornings at a nearby university (for middle schoolers and high schoolers) so I met a diverse group of students and would usually hang out in Albany on weekends once my friends and I were old enough to drive.

  1. What makes your identities important to you?

My identity has been formed by my experiences. My parents were first generation university graduates. They instilled the importance of an education.  My grandparents on both sides worked incredibly hard and long hours and their work ethic was passed down to my parents and on to me. I was supported by my parents to pursue different hobbies and we’d also go to different types of concerts, plays, and museums.  I may have grown up in a small town, but my parents provided me with opportunities to be exposed to various cultures, including studying abroad. Studying abroad really was life changing and contributed to the adult that I’ve become. I have travelled to 30 countries, worked on three continents, and am now a UK citizen. Travelling, studying, and working abroad has broadened my horizons and I’m more globally and culturally aware.

  1. In what ways do you feel affirmed in your identities through the work you do at QMUL?

I love education, travel, and learning about new cultures. Studying abroad was one of the best life decisions I made and I love working with students who are on their study abroad journey.

  1. What is your favorite thing about QMUL? 

Its diversity. There are over 160 nationalities represented in its students and staff. People from all over the world call London their home and our campus reflects this. There are many first generation British and first generation university students at QMUL and I think it’s a wonderful place to work.

  1. What is your advice for someone considering studying abroad? 

Do it! There are lots of options out there from short term, to semester and year long opportunities which suit students with different needs. Speak to study abroad staff at your university and alumni for their advice so you make the best choice for your circumstances. Consider multiple locations and push yourself out of your comfort zone. You’ll grow so much from the experience.

  1. What is your top recommendation for someone visiting London? 

Walk around London as much as you can. Many top tourist destinations are a stone’s throw from each other and it such a great way to see the city.


Name: Jess Tan

Pronouns: She, her, hers

Position: Study Abroad Manager (Marketing & Recruitment)  

 

  1. Where are you from?

I’m from Liverpool which is a city in the northwest of England, home to the Beatles, two beautiful cathedrals, and two football clubs (though you only need to know about one of them…Liverpool Football Club forever!) My Dad is from Singapore and my Mum is half Chinese, half English.

  1. What makes your identities important to you? 

I feel extremely connected to my Scouse (Liverpudlian) roots as it is the city that raised me and made me who I am today. We are a fiercely proud people! In terms of my Chinese identity, this feels important to me as it connects me to my past and to better understanding where my parents and grandparents are from who I greatly admire and respect.  

  1. In what ways do you feel affirmed in your identities through the work you do at QMUL? As a first generation student from an ethnic minority background, raised in a part of Liverpool where university was not considered an option, I feel great pride in working for a university where 91% of its student body is from state schools (non-private), 42% is first generation, and 27% come from a household where the annual income is under £10,000, as I truly believe we are trying to create accessible opportunities for all through the work that we do.
  2. What is your favorite thing about QMUL?

I have only been working here at QMUL for five weeks, but what drew me to working here is the real ‘give-it-a-go’ attitude of the university and its innovation and creativity, alongside its fearlessness to try out new things. Five weeks in, I have not been disappointed – staff at QMUL, particularly the Global Opportunities team, go above and beyond to ensure our students have the best possible experiences when studying abroad with us and I feel very proud to be part of that.

  1. What is your advice for someone considering studying abroad? 

As somebody who was fortunate enough to study abroad twice myself, my advice comes from both a personal and professional perspective. My advice is to say ‘yes’ as often as possible…saying ‘yes’ will open you up to so many opportunities that could otherwise be easily missed and these opportunities could provide you with new friends, new experiences, new opinions & mind-sets, and a lifetime of amusing anecdotes!

  1. What is your top recommendation for someone visiting London? 

My top recommendation is to visit Columbia Road Flower Market on an early Sunday morning, walk through the chaos and get yourself a bargain bunch of beautiful flowers, wrapped in brown paper which you’ll buy from an authentic, Cockney east end ‘geezer’, then stroll through the local independent stores, get some cake from Lily Vanilli Bakery and walk through Brick Lane, checking out the vintage stores and international food market.

 

A sunny day on the QMUL campus
A sunny day on the QMUL campus, a rare and welcome sight. 

 

Though I have included a promotional video for study abroad at QMUL and hopefully emphasized how wonderful the Global Opportunities Office is, I am not at all trying to convince people to study abroad here. Instead, I am trying to emphasis that resources and support throughout my study abroad experience are everywhere from dear friends at Amherst to offices here at QMUL. 

One of the many things that made me nervous about leaving Amherst was not having access to the multitudes of resources readily available on campus. Once at QMUL, I was relieved to find that support is everywhere even though it may be a little more difficult to find. Part of my decreasing stress at QMUL has been largely due to learning how to navigate the institution which gives me more confidence when navigating London or any other new experience I encounter. 

In short, I want to emphasize that helping hands are going to be everywhere throughout your study abroad experience. Just as your experience will be what you make it, your support networks will be what you make them. So, if you’re a FLI student with general questions about study abroad or you’re interested in studying abroad at QMUL specifically, please don’t hesitate to email me at lmorin21@amherst.edu and I can be a part of your support network!

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