Studying Abroad in Great Britain

During the month of May, I traveled to London to learn about the politics, history and culture of Great Britain. As part of Global May study abroad, I stayed in a suburb outside London with other fellow Buckeyes. We took the tube to class during the week like typical Londoners and lived in apartment-style accommodations. During our class time, we shared our experiences as well as learned about sites we visited during our daily afternoon excursions.

During my time in London, I learned a lot about myself as well as the world around me. Everyone has a common assumption of what a place will be like before they go there. For me, I had imagined it as being like every movie I had ever watched , book I had read, and picture I had ever seen. My stay in London led me to the realization that Great Britain was much different than I had ever imagined. Much of this difference came not only from the contributions of Great Britain’s rich history but also from the British people. It was the places, the tours, the evenings wandering around, the countless tube and train journeys, and the Londoners that shaped the Great Britain that I now know.

My understanding of myself and my ability to foster change through my own personal experiences was illuminated during my STEP project. I realized how important my journeys were in being able to educate students that I will one day teach in my own classroom. Being able to impart something much more personal rather than just words from a textbook has a higher probability of impacting students to learn about the world around them. I have become a more confident and independent person as well. During my time in England, I traveled around on my own a few times. This was something that I would have never done before. There is some sort of clearer perception of your surroundings that you are able to obtain when just explore by yourself. You blend more into the environment and locals find you more approachable. I learned a lot from them about their daily lives and was able to get to know other travelers from around the world as well.

All of the sites we visited contributed to this transformation of my outlook. The Tower of London was the first location that truly opened my eyes to the importance of learning firsthand about Britain’s rich history. We were there the second day of our trip and were taken on a guided tour. It was astounding to have read about William the Conqueror, the execution of Anne Boleyn, and the princes hidden in the tower and then actually walk through the castle walls. It was a far more impactful learning experience than I have ever had, and I realized the importance of travel when educating others. Westminster Abbey was another place where I had a similar experience. The history is so rich that being able to stand within the stone walls is incredible. I found myself clinging more to the details of things I had actually seen rather than just read or been lectured on in past history classes. One learns so much more when they are fully engulfed in the past of a place.

On a whole, I also understood London as a diverse global city throughout my experiences. I noticed how those who had ancestors who lived there for hundreds of years mixed with newer immigrants freely. This truly international community has led to the culturally vibrant London of today. It was interesting to be in London during such a pivotal political period in Great Britain’s history. I was able to formulate my own opinions without having to hear about all sides through the news. London truly would not be the same without the diversity that makes it so great.

There were numerous factors that contributed to my transformational outlook on London and Great Britain as a whole. My understanding of culture has been greatly enhanced through my discussion with local British people and the information explained to us by local tour guides. Not only did they tell us about Westminster Abbey, Brixton, Brick Lane, and the British Museum, but they also shared part of their daily lives with us. One tour guide spoke to us about the importance of Protestantism in her life. Our tour guide from the British Museum talked with us about Britain’s legacy of imperialism and what would be left of Britain if historical artifacts were returned to their homelands. Another tour guide asked us important questions in Brixton about immigration and culture: What was our idea of “Britishness”? Do we like the idea of Brixton’s definitiveness as its own neighborhood or should everything be blended together? He challenged our thoughts on London’s multicultural environment. These are the things that I will remember about British culture. I will remember the people that asked us the difficult questions and shared their own perspective on what London is to them. This, in turn, helped me to come to the realization of what London is to me. It sharpened my cultural awareness and gave substance to some of my opinions.

The realization of travel as an enriching learning experience and the recognition of London as a global city will have a significant impact on both my academic and professional goals. My time studying abroad has given me knowledge and encounters that will not be replicated again. This amazing opportunity has also contributed to the stories and lessons I will impart on my students as a future teacher. I hope to invoke the same sense of adventure that this trip has stirred in me. Academically, my perspective has been broadened to encompass other cultures of the world. I now understand the importance of education through exploration. I loved the historic sites but I also loved the people that made London different from anywhere I had ever been before. All of the diversity made the streets livelier, the food spicier, and the people more welcoming. Because of all of the people that define London today, its vibrance is illuminating to anyone that travels there.

While reflecting on my time in Great Britain I came across a quote by V.S. Naipaul that accurately defines much of how I now feel. “I came to London. It had become the center of my world…And I was lost.” While living there for four weeks, London had, indeed, become the center of my world. I was fully immersed in the culture and lifestyle of the city. Most of all, I was able to view it from my own eyes and not the perspective of some historians, novelists, movies, tour books, or others’ tales. I, myself, had become lost in this electrifying city, both old and new. Because of this, my perspective of Great Britain is forever changed, and I look forward to what else can be learned from taking the time and care to get to know a place so well. There is a lot to be learned from exploring the world, and I have a lot more left to see.



My London Adventure

This past May I had the opportunity to study abroad in London. I participated in the Global May Britain study abroad program and it was one of the best decisions of my life. I learned about the politics, culture and history of London both in and out of the classroom, which truly enriched my college experience.



Growing up in Columbus and attending a university so close to home made the transition from high school to college seamless. I wasn’t challenged by a new and unfamiliar city, or homesickness as most freshmen are. I hoped to venture outside the walls of my tight-knit community and experience independence and growth in a foreign city. I had always been a fan of big cities such as New York City and Los Angeles, which drew me to London. I couldn’t have chosen a better location for me to thrive and grow.


Going into this program I knew no one and was nervous to be away from my friends and family for a month. However the opportunity to be abroad far outweighed any of my hesitations. While abroad I expanded my horizons by making new friendships with both OSU students and London locals. I was also exposed to different parts of the city and saw the wide variety of the demographics in London. This opened my eyes to the fact that not all Londoners fit the tea sipping, pale skinned, proper stereotype. In the suburb we stayed in the neighborhood was primarily Indian and broke the initial vision I had of London. I realized that London is arguably a bigger mixing pot than New York City with all the surrounding European cities that flow into it. The different communities that make up London showed me the depth and history of the city. I now see London as a diverse city that brings together varying cultures. I now feel I am a more globally aware person and do not identify countries by my preconceived notions.


Everyday I found myself exposed to different cultures and faced with new experiences. One of the challenges I faced that helped me venture outside of my comfort zone was the transportation system. In London the tube system is heavily used and it took a lot of getting used to. Without the comforts of my car I was forced to stand extremely close with complete strangers, however this helped me to open up and make new friends. A lot of bonding occurred while on the tube whether that was singing late at night, getting completely lost or meeting unique locals. Although the tube started out as an unfamiliar and awkward form of transportation it grew to be one of the things I looked forward to everyday.


Another aspect of London that transformed my view of the world was the history. London is hundreds of years older than the United States and holds so many ancient gems. Seeing the Globe Theatre, the Tower of London, Shakespeare’s house in Stratford-Upon-Avon, The London Bridge, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey opened my eyes to the depth that London had to offer. I was fascinated by the incredible people who had once been in these places and made such an impact on London. I was so thankful for the opportunity to learn about the history of London in the classroom and truly understand the history of the sites when I saw them for myself.


Seeing the variances between the United States and London intrigued me and forced me to think in a more globally minded way. Continuously throughout the month I noticed differences and similarities between the people, food and culture. Whether it was the fact that the toilet paper was square napkins instead of a roll or the wonderful British accents that we lacked. I constantly found myself discovering new ways that the countries differed. The architecture particularly caught my attention and astonished me. Wherever I went I was always met with historical buildings, interesting museums and beautiful designs. Obviously, Columbus is a small town and would not have the big city feel, but even in New York City there is not the same level of ancient culture that London encompasses. Walking into St. Paul’s Cathedral and West Minster Abbey I got the feeling of royalty and breathtaking beauty that I fail to see in the United States. These architectural works of art are incredible to me and the fact that they were built so long ago without today’s technology is mind blowing. I now have a stronger appreciation for the past and the incredible buildings erected so long ago.


As corny as it sounds I can’t believe how much I have grown and evolved as a person in such a short amount of time while abroad. There is so much to be learned through experiencing different cultures and opening yourself up to new opportunities. I am so thankful for this trip and all the amazing new friends I have met through it. Not only have I grown personally, but academically and professionally as well. The fact that I took a history course abroad and can actually say that I saw what I learned about will be one of my most memorable experiences from college. In addition to this, getting to work in a small class allowed me to truly get to know my peers and teachers. Since studying abroad I have been inspired to take a semester abroad in Spain and plan to work in London post-grad. There is so much to be gained while studying abroad and I can’t wait to see what else is in store.


Check out my blog posts at: Keeping Up With Kaki

FIE: London (Now Dublin) – Amman, Peace, Conflict Resolution and Arabic Language

King Hussein Mosque in Downtown Amman, Jordan

King Hussein Mosque in Downtown Amman, Jordan

My STEP signature project was a dual-program study abroad to London, England and Amman, Jordan. The first part focused on the study of the concepts of peace and conflict resolution through the case studies of the Northern-Ireland Conflict and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. For the second part of the program I learned and studied the Arabic language for four weeks while in Jordan.
This trip was one of the most transformational experiences that I have had thus far. One of the main objectives of this study abroad was to present another perspective in regards to these specific conflicts in order to demonstrate the complexity of the situation in terms of regional and tribal tensions (especially in the Israeli-Palestinian case) because t is emphasized that a more complete understanding of the conflict will enable decision makers, leaders and scholars to better assess and resolve the conflict. I think for me being in those poignant locations where the violence took place gave me a more personal perspective into what they had experienced and continue to experience. Additionally, the persistence of the conflicts, especially regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the seemingly impossibility of resolving the conflict that

The Peace Wall in Belfast, Northern Ireland

The Peace Wall in Belfast, Northern Ireland

made me aware of how necessary it was for students to step into the conflict itself and to be present in order to even attempt to make peace; that they need to empathize with both parties to fully and totally understand the situation.
One of the many examples where I was able to get a first-hand experience of the repercussions of the Northern-Ireland conflict was when I traveled to Belfast in Northern Ireland where the group visited the Peace Wall and talked to survivors of the Troubles. What was amazing was that the Peace Wall, which had been erected to separate the two communities-the Protestants from the Catholic neighborhoods-for peace, still exists today and that every night at 11pm the gate would be brought down completely isolating the two communities from each other. This conflict was, relatively, resolved a little under 20 years ago but there are still ethnic tensions because people remember the violence, and the suffering they endured. I’ve never experienced anything that could be so persisting in my mind but acknowledging that this is an everyday thought of these people changed the way I live my everyday life. I’ve become more cognizant of what I do and how it impacts people globally. This is very important because I hope to one day work internationally therefore knowing my role, internationally, is necessary in order for me to be better equipped to handle foreign affairs. Overall, I think that this experience has shown me what role, what sort of impact, I can impart internationally.
Another example of this was when I was in Jordan. I was there for about seven weeks and got to live with a Jordanian family. It turned out that half of my family was Palestinian as well as many of my teachers. Since I got to know these people fairly well we did discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the damage it has inflicted in their own lives. For example, I was in the car driving with my host brother and his friend and we somehow got on the topic of the conflict. Both of these guys are Palestinian. I just remember the friend asking (or contemplating): “What does Israel hope to achieve through all of this violence? I just do not understand” because he had lost some relatives who had been living in the occupied territories. I could feel his pain and confusion that he was experiencing and it made me realize that there needs to be a way to end this without further violence. Unfortunately, that does not seems possible.
Although it seems impossible to find a solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict it must end, just as all of the others have ended. That is not to say that it might end unfavorably but I wish, after being in Jordan, that I will be able to at least have a part in not only the cessation of violence but also in the rebuilding of the two communities. Being over there I realized that I am majoring in International Studies for a reason and that with the privilege I have of attending a university it is necessary that I learn more about peace, war and conflict in order to hopefully help in resolving this conflict along with other international conflicts.