Study Abroad: My Abroad Experience in London
LIFE DOESN’T START UNTIL YOU LEAVE YOUR COMFORT ZONE AND ALTHOUGH IT CAN SEEM SCARY, IT’S DEFINITELY WORTH IT.
By Vicky Saperstein, Marist College
Are you questioning if studying abroad is worth it or if the studying abroad experience is as amazing as everyone says? The answer to these two questions is YES. To support this answer, I’m going to reflect on my studying abroad experience and share my story with you.
My abroad story begins as a senior in high school looking at colleges. One important aspect I was looking for in a college was the international programs and how strong they were. Luckily, I fell in love with a college that currently has a strong program and fully supports students going abroad. From an early age, my dream was to study abroad in London, England. Not only do I love the culture but I have family there so I thought it would be awesome to go abroad and discover my roots. I also just really loved London from pictures, especially with the Summer 2012 Olympics being held there. Fast forward to Fall semester of junior year, where I was applying to the program in London, applying for my student visa and most importantly, trying to grasp the fact that I was going to be away from my comfort zone of home and school for four months. To be honest, it was a lot to take in but it was something I needed to do for myself and I knew if I missed this opportunity, I would regret it.
Lets fast-forward again to January 2nd, 2013, the day I started the most amazing journey of my life. There I was, heading to London, leaving America for the first time and taking on an opportunity of a lifetime. I walked onto the plane with my best friends with nervousness and excitement. This was really happening and there was no turning back. When we arrived, we dealt with the jet lag, got settled in our rooms and dived into the British culture as soon as we could. On the first day, we took the Tube together with our Oyster cards and headed to Big Ben. Big Ben is the most well-known landmark in London so when I first saw Big Ben, I was hit with excitement. I just couldn’t get over the fact that I was living in London for the next four months and when I looked up at Big Ben, all I could think about is “Wow, this is real and I’m here!” I knew from this moment that I had to make the most out of my abroad experience. I had Tuesdays off from class, which was awesome because we went to museums all over London. Each weekend, we either traveled to other countries or explored London. Looking back, I can’t think of a day that we didn’t go out and explore. Living in London and becoming a part of the British culture is totally different from just visiting as a tourist. Studying abroad gives you the ability to be a local in amazing cities. No matter how much traveling you do with friends or family, nothing will compare to studying and living in a country.
There are so many amazing benefits to studying abroad but one has to be the fact that it is so easy to travel to different countries. I traveled to 7 countries and countless cities, including France, Italy, Czech Republic, Ireland, Belgium, Holland and not to mention, tons of cities or towns around London. I know that my friends who studied abroad in Florence, Italy traveled to 10 or more countries. It seems mind-blowing and unreal but it is so easy to plan trips. My favorite quote that’s related to traveling is “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page” by St. Augustine. From studying abroad, you gain the ability to open your book. Without even realizing it, you are learning so much each day you travel. Of course, there is concrete information about the country given to you by tour guides but nothing compares to being in that country and learning about it. It sure beats taking a history class in America. In fact, I loved all my classes abroad and we took a ton of field trips around London, which I thought was pretty awesome. Like trips to football games or to concerts? I’ll take that over reading a textbook any day!
Going back to traveling, there were times where we got lost or lost the tour guide but my friends and I worked together as a team and found where we needed to go. It all contributed to the growing process that I didn’t realize was happening until I got home. In addition to being educational, it’s also a ton of fun to be in a foreign country and catching a glimpse of a new culture, even if it’s only for a few days. It truly opens your eyes to how much there is to explore in the world. Each day I traveled, I made sure to pack in the days and do everything that I wanted to do. In France, I climbed the Eiffel Tower and in Ireland, I kissed the Blarney Stone, the list goes on and on. The things that I did were things I dreamed about doing and now they’re part of my reality!
Studying abroad has made me grow into a more independent person and it completely changed my perspective on life. From the shy girl that I was in high school to the outgoing senior in college that I am now, studying abroad has helped me develop into a better person. This may sound a little over the top but it’s true and I’m forever grateful for my abroad experience. I have gained amazing memories meeting amazing people, spending time with family members that I haven’t seen in years, traveling and having the time of my life. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. If you have the chance to study abroad, please do because you will not regret it. Not one second of it. When are you ever going to get the chance to explore the world for months at a time? It’s a chance of a lifetime and it is one that you will remember for the rest of your life! Life doesn’t start until you leave your comfort zone and although it can seem scary, it’s definitely worth it.