Writers Abroad Spotlight: Kendall Ungerman in Reading, England

Where are you studying abroad and with what program? 

I am studying at University of Reading in Reading, England. My program is a part of International Studies Abroad (ISA).

When did your program begin, and what are your top three moments so far? 

I arrived in the UK on September 21st, so I have only been here a short time compared to some of the other study abroad students! However, I have already explored so much, even in just this short time. My favorites have been visiting the Dover Castle, toured Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare’s birthplace!!!), and my best friend coming to see me since she is also abroad and exploring London with her is a blast.

Are you enjoying the program? Any hard likes or dislikes? 

I am enjoying the program, although the town of Reading is nothing like I expected. It is more of a suburb of London (30 minutes by train), and although I do like the fact that it is not as busy and hectic as London, I didn’t realize how costly it is to just go back into London. Train tickets, if you add them all up, aren’t very cheap… plus, the time and effort it takes to get to London can take a toll. But never forget, life is a journey!!!

October 5, 2019: By far one of the best experiences thus far during my study abroad period was visiting Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace and hometown. I got to go inside his house and even visited his grave. The town itself was very lively and gorgeous! I could’ve explored it for days.

Being in Reading, England, what is the hardest cultural adjustment? 

I think the hardest cultural adjustment is having to solely rely on public transportation. Nearly everyone that lives in or near London does not own a car, as using public transportation is often cheaper and faster than driving places. Living in both Aurora and Denver my entire life, my family and I relied completely on driving ourselves to locations except for a few cases when we went downtown using the light rail. So, having to more carefully plan out going from bus to train to subway in order to get somewhere has been tricky and overwhelming. Nevertheless, I found that it is also very rewarding when I arrive at my destination!

Any favorite classes, professors, people or locations in Reading, England? 

I am currently taking only one Psychology course (my major) and decided to take one history course and one literature course. My history course, Women and Medieval History, has been interesting so far. I haven’t taken many history courses, so it is definitely a step out of my comfort zone; I am enjoying learning another country’s perspective and insight into history.

September 28, 2019: I visited Dover Castle and toured the underground bunker used during World War II. The castle was magnificent, and the tour itself was very insightful - I had goosebumps the entire time learning about England’s turmoil and the role the British played in World War II.

Would you recommend this program and why? 

I would definitely recommend this program (or any ISA program, for that matter), as International Studies Abroad gives you enough support to where you don’t feel like you are just simply stranded in another location, but you also have enough freedom and independence! I think going to a location that ISA offers would be especially beneficial to anyone else who had never been out of the country before.

Any advice to someone else going to this program in the future?

Take advantage of all of the excursions offered to you while you’re abroad. You are leaving the country to study, but also to gain insight into a new culture and experience wonderful places you wouldn’t otherwise be going to! It may be exhausting and you may feel “too tired” to do some of the extra excursions, but you definitely won’t regret it when you get to your destination and experience so many amazing things– like...uhmm... visit Shakespeare’s childhood home!!!!

October 2, 2019: While not a very big Harry Potter fanatic, I did enjoy taking a 2.5 hour walking tour traveling to the different locations that J.K. Rowling was inspired by when writing her series and where some of the actual scenes took place. At the end of the tour, we visited Platform Nine and Three Quarters, and got to take this cheesy photo!

*Bonus questions*

Favorite campus location: The Reading University Student Union, where a little bagel shop is located. Everyone calls the owner “Bagel Man” - anytime you go in to order a bagel, he always checks on you and attempts to learn your life story! Super lovely!

Favorite staple food: Not gonna lie, the food here in England isn’t too great. But, their “bacon” for breakfast, which is more like what we would call ham, is super delicious.

What do you miss from the US? Fooooood (specifically junk food)! And Target, my long lost lover!

What do you enjoy there that isn’t in the US? There are a lot of local restaurants and cafes that are simply fantastic. This country definitely takes more pride in these places than the big chains that the US tends to focus on.

Favorite country location: Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare’s hometown) was one of the cutest and magical places I have ever seen!

Least favorite place: Central London. While this may seem surprising to most, there is so much more to England than London itself. Before going to England, a lot of people have this staple idea that London is England, but this simply isn’t the case. I have enjoyed visiting places in London, but it is very dirty and crowded for me. The most fun I have had is going further away to explore some very beautiful and historic places.

Least favorite cultural difference: The reliance on public transportation can be a bit hectic and overwhelming for someone who hasn’t taken much public transportation growing up.

Favorite cultural difference: The emphasis on supporting local businesses and restaurants. You can try a different place every day and never be disappointed! 

Favorite candy? OOPS, I have yet to taste any British candy yet… shame on me.