The biggest obstacle I faced was being homesick. I had never left home before, and I'm very close with my family. I found it hard at times, but I could keep in touch with them through phone calls, e-mails, and even Facebook. It wasn't always easy, but by the time I was supposed to go home, I didn’t want to leave!
What was the hardest thing to adjust to?
Being from Williamsport, I've never really experienced "city life". At first, everything seemed so big and unfamiliar; but once I got settled in and had a routine, London felt more and more like home. People and places became familiar, and it felt less strange with each day. "City life" turned into the norm for me, and it was like I'd lived there for years!
Where did you live?
I lived in Northwest London, in a very nice area (a few blocks away from Finchley Rd. tube station). I rented a flat with another American exchange student. Although the apartment was a bit expensive for its size, I was only about a 7 minute train ride from the University, and I lived in a very safe part of London. Also, there was a bus stop right outside my building, and the nearest tube station was a mere 4 blocks away. It wasn’t the biggest place, but it was just what I required for 4 months, and it was too convenient to pass up!
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
I loved exploring London! It was absolutely amazing being able to hop on public transportation and go anywhere I wanted! The sights, the museums, the churches: it was unreal. The shopping was fabulous, too! There is so much to see and do, and after 4 months of living there, there are still things I have yet to see and do there.
Favorite part of your experience?
Travelling around the UK was my favorite part of the experience. Unfortunately due to a shortage of funds, I wasn't able to travel around Europe, but the UK itself had enough to keep me busy. I visited Scotland, Ireland, and many places around England like Oxford, Bath, Stonehenge, and Windsor Castle. I do regret not being able to travel to more places while I was there, but there’s always next time!
How will it help you in the future?
The independence and confidence I gained from going to London forever changed me. If I can move to a foreign country, live on my own, go to school, and navigate through a huge city like London, I know I can do anything. I was definitely intimidated and even a little scared at first, but I accomplished so much in London, that I know my experience there made me more prepared for life in general. Also, on a more academic level, attending such a multi-cultural university in the heart of a large city prepared me for the business world on an international level. I studied under professors from all over the world, and worked side-by-side with students from all over as well. London prepared me for the "real world" better than any classroom ever could.
Advice for other students
Don't neglect your studies; it is the reason for going abroad in the first place! It is very easy to do in a city as fabulous as London, but remember- your grades follow you back across the Atlantic!
Try to document every last bit of your experience. Take pictures, write in a journal, do whatever you need to in order to capture your time there. It's going to be hard leaving and coming back to everyday life. I found it made it easier to be able to look back through my journal entries and photos to remind me that this wonderful experience did actually happen to me- it wasn’t just a dream!
Make the most of your time abroad. It is overwhelming at first, but you will probably never again have an opportunity this great. The time goes by too fast, and before you know it you’ll be back in the States, back to reality. It was the most amazing experience of my life. Have fun, live it up, and take it all in while you can!