Studying Abroad: A Reflection Halfway Through

Studying Abroad: A Reflection Halfway Through Image from The Abroad Guide

I have been studying in London for the past two months; it is about midway through the semester, and as I reflect on my time here thus far, I'd like to share some of what I have learned.  

​Expectations…as humans, we naturally tend to anticipate and ponder our futures. Before going abroad, it was difficult to avoid this tendency; thinking back, I do not even know if it was possible, but this idea of going into studying abroad with as open a mind as possible is something things I definitely would have done differently. My experience abroad, I believe, is somewhat unique; I am on a program with a different university, so ultimately, I came in knowing practically no one. In addition, the girl I was supposed to room with pulled out of the program over the summer. To make this even more unusual, one of my two other roommates left the program to return home after a few days. So, it was just me and one other girl living in a flat in a new city. This certainly was not what I expected, but after the fact, all I could do was keep an open mind.

​As my experience kept unfolding, I shortly realized that if I were going to have a happy semester, I would ultimately have to understand that adjusting to living in a new country takes time. I was dealing with outrageous jetlag; I am already a horrible sleeper, so for the first couple of weeks in London, I struggled with adjusting to the new time. I had a ton of trouble getting into a new sleeping pattern, as I would wake up multiple times a night and at peculiar hours. This was just one aspect of adjustment I was working on. If you are picky, like me, this is definitely something to keep in mind when abroad. I discovered that many aspects concerned with food in London are dissimilar to that in New York. For one, food tends to go bad here more quickly, so grocery shopping happens more frequently. In addition, the types of restaurants are completely different. There are fewer delis that serve salads and soups (my go-to), and more pubs and restaurants with a standard menu including burgers, varied sandwiches, and fish and chips. I am definitely still trying to find places that are suitable to my palette, but after making the decision to be more open, I have had fun discovering new foods and exploring various parts of London. Another major thing to which I had to adjust was my schedule. At my college in the U.S., I typically have each class a few times a week, with no class being longer than an hour and fifteen minutes. I was met with the shock of three hour classes- to anyone who has ever experienced these, I commend you. I quickly understood that I would have an entirely new type of schedule, as the three hour classes are once a week; I had way more blocks of open time, which was new, but also fun and exciting to be able to be more self-regulating. I definitely believe that all these adjustments are ultimately forcing me to be both more independent and efficient with my time.

One of the greatest aspects of my time here thus far has been the travelling; I've always been an anxious flier, and I can proudly say that I now enjoy it. If you are studying in Europe, you have so many easy and significantly cheaper (than the price would be in the U.S.) trips available at your fingertips. I have travelled almost every weekend, meeting up with other college and high school friends and adventuring to new countries. Being someone who has travelled very little, this has been an amazing opportunity to venture to entirely new places and learn about different cultures and regions of Europe. I would tell anyone who is studying abroad in Europe to carve out time to travel on weekends; additionally, I believe researching and planning in advance is very important, as it will reduce your stress significantly. Plan around major assignments such as midterms and exams in order to give yourself sufficient time to prepare. As promised, being abroad has forced me to come out of my comfort zone and I have absolutely loved it; being in Europe has given me the opportunity to have practically an unlimited number of adventures.

​Finally, I want to talk about self-care. It might seem as though this can come naturally, but I realized that as I was having to adjust to so many new things, I was somewhat disregarding some of my needs. It is so important to remember what it is that your mind and body needs; for example, even though my schedule has been crazy with odd chunks of time and travelling practically every Thursday-Sunday, I make it priorities to carve out time to exercise in my week, to make sure I am giving myself enough relaxation and down time, and to remember that sleep is extremely essential to surviving any week. I think you can do this by first understanding what it is that you need, to continue inserting whatever this is into your new routine, and to make it one of your top priorities. Self-care, as I have learned, is just as important as anything else in your day.

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