Six letters. Two syllables. My passion. Travel.
By Heather Concannon, Syracuse University
Since a young age, I caught the “travel bug” – whether it was my family’s annual trips down to Walt Disney World to my most recent adventures in Greece, I have always enjoyed travelling. All of my adventures have molded me into a more cultured individual, yet nothing could have made more of an impact in my life as my time studying abroad in London.
Although this wasn’t my first time in London, it was certainly my first time being in the city without my family by my side. I have grown up very independent however, I must confess, I was nervous to be in London without them. It was weird to me to think of seeing Big Ben, but not as a tourist with my family but as someone living in London. However, I set aside my nerves and embraced my newfound freedoms.
The most major milestone of my time abroad would be living in my first apartment. Unlike the typical housing process at college where you simply select a residence hall out of a limited selection online, finding an apartment was WAY WAY WAY more stressful. In fact, it felt a lot like the “go-see” episode of America’s Next Top Model in which the contestants run all over a foreign city to meet with designers. My roommates and I schlepped all around London for a weekend apartment hunting viewing the good, the bad, and the just plain horrifying, until we finally found our own piece of paradise off of Baker Street. Although we were fortunate enough to have many student perks, we still have a lot to manage. We had to figure out paying rent every month, setting some ground rules, grocery shopping and on my part, learning how to cook! Prior to my time abroad, I depended purely on the dining halls and delivery to fill my stomach, but when I was abroad, I began to slowly dive into some simple meals. When I didn’t feel like hitting the kitchen, I had to budget my money properly to decide where to go eat.
Another major change was planning trips. Whenever I had traveled in the past, my family or our travel agent would mainly call the shots as to what airlines we should fly, where we should stay, etc. But here I was planning a trip to Croatia with only the soul help of my two other friends who were travelling with me. After selecting a less than satisfactory hostel when I journeyed to Scotland, Trip Advisor became my best friend, helping me select hotels/hostels, eateries and some more exciting sites to see beyond the tourist norm.
On top of it all, I had to learn a new transportation system, a new currency and get a handle of living in a big city. Being a student also meant I had to prepare myself for a new way of learning. Unlike most college courses, where one sits in a class listening to lectures and reviewing Powerpoint presentations, the courses I took over in London were extremely interactive. Many courses included field trips around the city of London, shedding a new light on famous sights and monuments – completely different than what a typical tourist would learn! I felt that I gained more of an understanding on what it was like to be a Londoner and take in their customs.
Beyond becoming more of an independent individual, my time studying abroad truly helped me become more cultured. I began to look beyond an “American” lens to completely grasp what life was like as a Londoner.