During the fall 2015 semester I studied abroad in London, England. I went through the third party provider, The American Institute for Foreign Study, and studied at Richmond The American International University in London. I called London, specifically the Royal Borough of Kensington, home from September 1, 2015 thru December 19, 2015. While London was my home I had the opportunity to travel and made use of this time. In the few months I was there I traveled to 7 countries and saw 14 different cities. I was able to travel with people that I had just met as well as a long time friend. Having someone there who was my base was so nice and made me feel very comfortable, but I also loved having the opportunity to branch out and meet so many new people.
During my time abroad a lot of what I learned is about how to embrace new situations. So often in life we try to fit new experiences and new information into context of what we know. We try to think of how new information fits into the ideas we already have, or how the experiences are similar to experiences we have already had. While abroad I learned how to not take part in this mental grouping; I would treat every new experience, every new food, every new culture as its own entity. The United States is such a unique country different from every other, so how could I expect situations to be similar to situations here–the answer is I cannot. I made the effort and learned to embrace every culture and place for what it is; doing this caused me to not only appreciate these places and experiences more but also to appreciate the United States more as well.
My favorite part of the experience was being able to really feel like a local in London. I loved being able to go on the tube and easily get myself around the city (especially when crossing the road and finally looking in the proper direction). I liked that I was able to go to local restaurants and pubs and blend in because I was able to adapt to the culture rather than being stereotypically American. So overall my favorite part of studying abroad in London was that I felt like I belonged in London. I was there long enough that I became someone who lived in the city not just someone visiting it. Now I am proud to say that I have officially lived in 3 places: New Jersey, Ohio, and London.
My trip impacted me personally, because it afforded me the opportunity to grow as a person. I learned a lot about myself and am happy about the strengths that I was able to demonstrate. While abroad people looked to me to lead, whether we were in a country where English was not the first language or just trying to wrangle everyone together to go explore London. Also I learned that I am a person that people really trust, people felt confident in my decisions and knew that I was reliable and would ensure that everyone was safe and accounted for. I really grew in my leadership skills because of this and I am more confident using my voice in every day life. I also discovered that I enjoy throwing myself into new experiences and learning as I go. I am someone that usually plans a lot of their life out but being abroad it is difficult to have control when you are in new places and situations. That uncertainty was something I originally feared but by the end of the semester it became something I really enjoyed. I now personally look to throw myself into new situations that will force me to not have control over every detail so that I can enjoy the experience and take everything in.
Going forward I want to be able to prioritize traveling in my life. I think that traveling is a great way for me to connect not only more with myself and who I am traveling with but also with different places in this country or the world. I think it is so important to recognize that not everyone’s life is like yours and not all places are similar to the one you live in. I want to travel so that I can be reminded about this and expand my understanding of myself and myself in a global context. Another idea that I have, that I didn’t previously, is that I am a lot more interested in the idea of working abroad at some point while I am young. I think that it would be an amazing experience to work in another part of the world, it would help in my understanding of different work cultures, which is useful when you are part of a global business and will be working with people from other countries.
Studying abroad was one of the most amazing experiences of my entire life. I am very happy that I chose to take the risk and go for the entire semester, I feel this lead to a more rewarding experience. I may be gone for now but I’ll return because London’s Calling.