For my STEP Signature Project, I did a May-mester study abroad in London, England. This 3 credit hour class dove into what it really means to be a U.K. native by discussing the history, customs, and culture that comes with living in England. Regular discussion based classes were paired with excursions around London, to get a first-hand look at what we were studying.
Studying abroad really did change me in ways I did not expect. The largest and most important change, was my world view. Being a student who had never left the country before, studying abroad made a big world seem more attainable. No longer was Europe something I only read about in class or saw in movies. Instead, it is a place I called home for a whole month. I learned not only to get by in the city, but thrive there. There is a large sense of awakening and independency that comes with leaving everything familiar to live in, not just visit, a new place, and this is exactly what I got out of my Global May program.
Also a big change in my life occurred due to the words of my professor. I will never forget when she told us, “you have to expect just the right amount of stuff to go wrong.” This is something we discovered again and again over our month in London. And it was hard. I am a planner, a stop-and-think kind of person, someone who likes to really know what’s going on. But her words paired with my crazy new environment instilled in me the ability to be flexible, go with the flow, and think outside the box when an unfortunate situation hits.
The largest turning point when it came to independency was when I discovered I had contracted not just strep throat, but also mono, in the great country of England. This lead to me really having to take the reigns on my health. I had no parent to call the doctor for me, or even drive me to the appointment. I was calling my insurance provider, forwarding emails to the hospital, getting directions to the hospital, meeting with a new doctor, taking different medications (because the U.K. doesn’t offer the same meds as the USA), and so much more. I had to advocate for myself in ways I’ve never had to do before, but this grew me as a person.
When it came to my worldview however, two particular events really helped to put the world in perspective. On May 22nd an attack occurred 3.5 hours away from our study aboard housing, and on June 4th, an attack occurred 1.5 miles from my hotel. These were the closest I had ever been to attacks of hate, and it also happened to be at a time I was farthest from home. No longer were these situations ones that I only heard about on the news, but experienced. I saw London as it grieved, as it increased security, as it raised its alert levels, as it tried to heal from these terrible happenings. And during my month abroad, London became my home, so the pain ran a little deeper than it ever would had I just visited. Before my trip, news was just news. Not only of bad situations in other countries, but even of bad situations in other states; everything always just felt so far away. But now I see that it’s never really that far, that it can happen anywhere, and that these situations are something to be taken very seriously. I now think more of the world around me, and London has given me a bigger heart, even for those I do not know.
In between these large significant events, was day to day functions, which had a more profound effect than one could imagine. Having to find out where to buy groceries when there are no familiar stores around, or having to memorize the different tubes lines because you lack a car, are just a few things that helped me feel independent. Not every corner was lined with a Panera, so we all really had to explore and try new things before we found that quick, cheap place to eat lunch. Even small changes in my verbiage showed that I was better at adjusting than I thought. No longer was it “exit”, but it was “way out”. No longer did I ask for the “restroom” but instead, the “toilet”. London even forced me to learn the simple task of how to cook pasta, in order to save a few bucks by not eating out. The trip to class no longer required thought, even if it was a 40-minute commute. All these little things, no matter how small, became the big things.
These changed were quintessential for my life, even if I didn’t realize that at the time. College definitely gave me more independency, but Europe gave me maturity. I had to really learn how to take care of myself, and make my own decisions, but because of this, I feel so much more prepared to take on the real world after graduation. I no longer doubt my abilities to fully adjust to a brand new city when I move one day- from navigating it on my own, to finding the hot spots, and even to feeling out the safety of certain areas.
My classroom experiences will also be so changed from this trip. Learning about Great Britain in texts will be more relatable given that I have experienced it all first hand. However, beyond just that, I will think further outside the box. When hearing about new medicines or procedures in my pharmacy classes, I will now think about how this affects the rest of the world, not just America. I am also more aware of the differences in health care and medications of different countries now, and that is something I will have to understand when dealing with foreign patients in my future career.