UCL Earth Sciences


From Canada to London - Rocky Road by Zoë Kang

11 December 2023

The last few months have taught me the duality of studying abroad. But after trials and tribulations, the experience has become one of the most formative moments of my life, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way!

Zoe Kang

Image: Paleoceanography practical

Hi! My name is Zoë, and I am an affiliate student from the University of Toronto, doing a dual degree in Evolutionary Biology and Earth Sciences. My time at UCL has been a whirlwind of excitement - but no new adventure comes without difficulty.

After completing two years of my BSc at the University of Toronto, I thought I had gotten the formula for university success right – but coming to UCL turned my academic world upside down. I underestimated the difficulty of navigating a new campus, a new grading system, and meeting a completely new set of faculty and students. Despite these challenges, the department, and my classmates, have been nothing but welcoming to the new Canadian affiliate.

I was so excited to be a part of the UCL community when I received my acceptance letter in May, after months of yearning for my London dream. Who could’ve guessed how the course of my academics would change over the next year? I realized quickly that my original plan to study at UCL for a single, three-month term, was not going to be enough for me, and I immediately began the process of extending my stay in London for the full year.

I wish I could say this process had been easy. But as with everything in life, it came with many tribulations. From scrambling for permissions from both Universities to negotiating the logistics of visas and accommodation, I hit dead ends every step of the way. However, I needed to stay, so I made it happen.

The extension would not have been possible without the overwhelming support from the Earth Sciences Department, and the amazing Affiliate Tutors, Penelope Wilson, and Danuta Kaminski. I am so grateful that I was granted the opportunity to spend the next two terms at UCL, continuing to develop my skills and connect with all of the lovely people in the Earth Sciences Department.

I used this opportunity to enroll in modules that were not offered at home and challenged myself with topics I wouldn’t usually indulge in. My biggest challenge yet, GEOL0022: Ocean Physics and Climate Change, has pushed me to use the maths skills I often try to avoid, while GEOL0059: Exobiology and the Origin of Life, has perfectly bridged my two disciplines into one module. The small, intimate, nature of my modules has made it a great opportunity to collaborate with my peers, as well as the professors and teaching assistants.

My modules have ignited flames that I know will burn bright into the future - a passion for evolution and the origin of life, as well as isotopic geology and geochemistry. My interests have not confined me to London, and I have been lucky enough to travel to some geologically fascinating locations in the last few months. The white chalk cliffs on the coast of East Sussex were one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. In contrast, the volcanic red sand beach in Santorini was incredibly unique and geologically captivating.

The last few months have taught me the duality of studying abroad. But after trials and tribulations, the experience has become one of the most formative moments of my life, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I look forward to what the next six months at UCL have in store for me!