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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience in London

London FYE Courses and Credits

London FYE students will take a total of 17 credits in London. All students are required to enroll in a Scribner Seminar taught by a Skidmore Faculty Coordinators and the 1-credit Understanding Britain course. Students will enroll in 3 additional IES courses based on preference and availability. All courses will include cultural activities that tie directly to course content and make use of London’s valuable resources. All courses have been developed specifically for our students and will be offered at the IES London Center. 

Skidmore’s Scribner Seminar forms an important foundation for success at Skidmore and introduces first-year students to a number of the College’s intellectual expectations and learning approaches.

Each student will enroll in one of two Scribner Seminars offered in London.

Fall 2022 Scribner Seminars

Fall 2023 Scribner Seminars

IES Courses

In addition to the Scribner Seminar, students will enroll in the 1-credit Understanding Britain course and 3 additional IES courses, each taught by an IES London faculty member. The "Understanding Britain" course is required for all students. All other courses are worth 4 credits. Please note this list of IES courses is subject to change. 

What is the difference between ‘England’, ‘Britain’ and the ‘United Kingdom’? How can a democracy work with a Queen as unelected Head of State for life? Why are there no advertisements on the BBC? Is healthcare really free in Britain? Why are there large numbers of people of Indian, Afro-Caribbean and Eastern European descent living in London?

These are some of the questions students frequently ask on arrival in London. This one-credit required course helps students to answer these questions and more. In doing so, the course will introduce students to important elements of British culture and will provide students with the building blocks for developing a deeper understanding of contemporary Britain. We will look at the development of the United Kingdom - tracing the connections between England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland – before looking at the UK political system with its famously ‘unwritten’ constitution. In subsequent sessions students will explore the media in Britain; and the ethnic composition of Britain and especially London. Seminars will be supplemented by relevant field visits in London.

(1 credit; required for all students.) 

This introductory course will concentrate upon the painting and architecture of Britain during the ‘long’ nineteenth century. This was a century of imperial might, when Britain was among the World’s foremost military and economic powers. It was also a time of great social change, as ancient aristocratic institutions faced the often harsh scrutiny of a developing democracy, large-scale industrialisation transformed the nation’s landscape, and science challenged long-held tenets of religious faith. Art accordingly underwent enormous developments during this period.

Improvements in image reproduction and circulation meant that the foremost living painters were more famous than at any other point in history. Painting became established as a fully-fledged profession in an advanced capitalist marketplace, with great financial rewards for the successful. The art itself served both as a means of confronting the complexities of the age, and retreating from them, offering an escape into a realm of increasingly abstracted beauty.

Students will learn about the basics of art history and a brief overview of art from the eighteenth century in order to help them discern between the movements and styles of nineteenth-century British painting and architecture; they will also be familiarised with its major figures and learn about how art continued into the early twentieth century. Student will develop analytical skills which will enable them to interpret individual works, and relate them both to wider artistic movements, and to the historical context in which they were produced. A wide selection of the works studied will be seen in the original, on a series of visits to the galleries and museums of London.

(4 credits; fulfills Humanistic Inquiry through Practice requirement.)

The premise of the course is based upon a traditional Fine Art education comprising both Practical and Art Historical elements of eight different artistic movements, from the Italian Renaissance to the Bloomsbury Group. The first half of the semester focuses on the art historical side of the course, and the second half of the semester is composed of practical drawing classes. For example, in studying the Italian Renaissance, students will draw ‘about’ the concepts of linear perspective (an artistic innovation of that time & place) in front of the appropriate paintings.

The artistic movements taught encompass styles from all over the world: the Renaissance looks at Italy’s greatest contribution to art, Rococo, the Romantics & Impressionists bring in some of northern Europe’s most famous artists, and, of course, British art is well covered during most lessons, looking especially at Hogarth, the Pre-Raphaelites, Aestheticism and Bloomsbury. As a major European Art Capital, London provides a rich and varied source of research and opportunity. Both the art history and practical classes involve visits to world-class art galleries – some of these are household names, while others are ‘hidden gems’ of London.

(4 credits; fulfills Artistic Inquiry through Practice requirement.)

This course will focus on literature inspired by London - one of the most beautiful cities on earth. London is a place both real and imagined. London has always been, and continues to be, a home and a haven for writers and thinkers from all over the world. The list of readers in the magnificent Reading Room of the British Museum is testament to the fact, a fact we will verify on our walking tour since we are in the same street as this august institution. Moreover, The IES Abroad Center is located in Bloomsbury, the neighborhood in London that gave its name to an early-twentieth century movement in Art and Literature, the Bloomsbury Group, of whom Virginia Woolf is the most notable member.

London is, most importantly, a state of mind - open to experience, ideas, to inspiration. This course examines the relationship between literature and its varied settings in conjunction with field trips and visits from guest writers. The distinctions between real and imagined places, and the ways in which these places are depicted in literature, are rigorously analysed. We will also be looking at the way in which particular environments are evoked in literature: war zones, the ‘natural’ and the urban environment. The examples of literature studied include novels, short stories, essays and poetry. 

(4 credits; fulfills Humanistic Inquiry through Practice requirement.)

When Elizabeth (1558-1603) I came to throne of England, London was a relatively insignificant walled city, surrounded by villages, on Europe’s periphery. During her reign, London opened a new chapter in its history. In 1570, Sir Thomas Gresham’s Royal Exchange opened and, in Roy Porter’s words, ‘through that arcaded and four-storeyed Renaissance bourse the City told the world it was now a great commercial and financial mart.’ At that time, corporations (e.g. the Levant, East India and Virginia companies) were established to monopolise overseas trade and by 1607 England’s first overseas colony had been founded in Virginia.

These developments transformed London and over the course of four subsequent centuries, London became a voracious metropolis, an engine and artefact of economic growth, as well as a site of social transformation, political power, and cultural production. These developments proceeded in tandem with other changes: London’s consolidation of its position within England as administrative and commercial centre; England’s unification with its neighbours to form the United Kingdom and its subsequent acquisition of more colonial possessions; Britain’s rivalry with and final victory over its European rivals in 1815; British industry and empire as the centre of the nineteenth-century world; and postcolonial immigration and globalisation in twentieth. Now, under the reign of the second Elizabeth (1952 – date), London is one of the world’s preeminent global cities. When we study the history of London and its neighbourhoods, then, we study the modern history of nation, region, empire, and world.

The aim of the course is to make you at home in the city, by discovering how it got to be the way it is. We will use London as a laboratory for thinking historically. In concrete terms, you will develop and demonstrate your ability to analyse primary sources, situating them in their appropriate historical context and evaluating their potential as research resources. You will also summarise, critique, and synthesise secondary sources in order to craft your own accounts of London’s past. In addition, you will learn to exploit the potential and identify the limits of different kinds of urban theory for understanding the development of London and the experience of its inhabitants. More generally, like any course, you will develop your skills at problem solving; planning, organization, and time management; and verbal and written communication.

(4 credits: fulfills Humanistic Inquiry through Practice requirement.)

Pre-requisite:  High school preparation including trigonometry; Appropriate scores on Skidmore's Quantitative Reasoning Diagnostic Placement and Skidmore's Calculus Placement Exam. Students may be exempt from the QR Diagnostic based on SAT and ACT test scores.

The topics included will be (but not limited to): functions, more on functions, limits, derivatives, a review of differentiation, the second derivative, advanced techniques in differentiation, related rates of change, calculating extrema, integration, Introduction to Riemann sums, methods of integration by parts and by substitution and the Mean Value theorem. 

The sessions draw on various learning formats - seminar, workshop, “chalk and talk”, guided research task (set tutorial tasks) – whose forms and purposes will be clearly explained, further encouraging students to become active and reflective learners who fully understand why these skills are both necessary and valuable in their chosen subject specialism.

(4 credits)

This course aims to give full account of the complex realities of Britain’s multicultural and multiethnic identity. Using a multidisciplinary approach – fusing national history, sociology, media studies and cultural studies – we will map the experiences and contributions of Britain’s ethnic minorities to the evolving and contested story of British national identity.

Throughout, the rich ethnic tapestry of contemporary Britain will be placed in its full historical, economic and cultural context. We will examine how the heritage of empire and post-empire shaped patterns of migration to Britain; we trace the often-hostile and racist responses to migration starting in the 1950s and 1960s; the development of distinct Black and Asian cultures in the 1960 and 1970s; the gradual adoption of multicultural thinking and practice through the 1980s; and the impact of Globalisation on Britain’s national  and ethnic identities  from the 1990s.

Within this framework we then explore Black and Minority Ethnic histories, experiences and perspectives in depth. We will examine migrants’ motivations for living and settling in the UK and attitudes towards life in the UK. We examine Black and Asian, as well as Irish, Polish and Jewish, experiences of, and contributions to, everyday life in Britain, in term of education, work, religious belief, family life and relations to the broader community. We will explore how the developments of Black and Asian minority experiences and perspectives in the UK have worked to totally reshape British life and culture. We will examine distinct cultural areas, such as literature, music, fashion, language, cuisine, sport, even the revival of urban living in formerly derelict city centres; and explore how all these aspects of British life have been enriched and developed by contributions from migrant and ethnic groups.

We assess how the British national story has been profoundly influenced by black and minority ethnic experience and contributions. We will discover how diasporic and migrant groups have ensured Britons’ rethink their imperial history, their deep involvement in the Atlantic slave trade, the ‘National Story’ of proud independence and isolationism, and its marginalization of counter-histories and hidden voices, racism and xenophobia.

Above all, we explore how one of the key legacies of Britain’s ever-evolving ethnic tapestry has been the fierce struggle to broaden and develop a meaningful and inclusive British national identity. The course fundamentally asks what it really means to be British in one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world today.  In addition, the British and American national experience will be compared throughout, providing an opportunity for US students to share their existing knowledge and experiences with the rest of the class.

(4 credits; fulfills Global Cultural Perspectives requirement)

This introductory course offers the opportunity to experience and learn about the theatre.

The course is woven around nine* theatre productions on offer in London during the fall semester. The exact productions are subject to change each year; however the selection will include a variety of productions and play type. The course will also enable students to experience different types of theatre buildings and spaces, and work produced under different financial conditions: some of it is subsidised (though not only by the state), while some of it is commercially produced.

As well as experiencing a series of productions, we will also learn something about the historical development of theatre, particularly those periods relevant to the productions seen, and examine several topics of general relevance to the theatre, such as the nature of acting or the significance of the theatre director, or the relation of theatre and politics.

At the core of the class is the development of responsiveness to what is distinctive about live performance, and the ability to communicate one's response in discussion and in writing, and then to test and develop it in debate. Students will be asked to share and debate their impressions about the plays they read and see. 

(4 credits; fulfills Humanistic Inquiry through Practice requirement.)

Click here for a printable version (pdf) of the London FYE course descriptions and the fall 2022 advising guide.

Academic Resources

Academic Resources is a service provided to London FYE students to aid them in the academic transition from high school to college, providing the kinds of assistance that are typically available through various offices and support structures on Skidmore's campus.  Students can make an appointment or drop in to get help with a variety of academic topics: organization, time management, critical reading, academic research, essay writing, and assessment. This service will be available to students at the IES London Center throughout the semester for 4 hours each week during lunchtime when students are not in class. 


Credits and grades from the First-Year Experience in London will be Skidmore credits and grades: students will receive Skidmore credits, and grades received will count toward their Skidmore GPA.