If you had asked me one week ago when I left London whether or not I was sad to be leaving, I would’ve excitedly told you I couldn’t wait to be home. Now, just two days later I find myself feeling melancholy that my study abroad experience is over. There wasn’t a certain excursion, person, moment, restaurant, or day that made me fall in love with the city I called my home for 6 weeks. In fact, I really didn’t think I had fallen in love with it at all, that is until after I left. London reminds me a lot of the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote, “Things are sweeter when they’re lost. I know – because once I wanted something and got it. It was the only thing I ever wanted badly, and when I got it it turned to dust in my hand.” While this quote refers to something more tangible, the feeling it evokes in me is the feeling I have about London as I look back on my experience. I wanted the opportunity to study abroad in London so badly, but once I was selected, I didn’t think I seemed to vibe the way I thought I would. Until now, when I look back and realize while there was no single defining moment that made me love the place, I do. The new friends I made, the beautiful sights I saw, photos I could never capture anywhere else, and food I wish I were eating as I type this, all made London a life changing city for me.
When I arrived at our student accommodation I found myself very overwhelmed. My closet was half the size of my one at home, I had a bathroom the size of an airplane’s, and my bed might as well have been made of wood or bricks. Adventuring out of the accommodation gave me a feeling of hopelessness, confusion, and insecurity. I just felt lost. I craved familiarity, a Kroger, my cat, a hug from my mom, and a Dairy Queen blizzard. The first three or four days suffocated me with a longing to be back home. But then school started to pick up and I was making connections with other students, the professor, and our TA. I began to familiarize myself with my local surroundings learning how to get to the classroom building, and I even got a local gym membership. It took a lot of deep breaths, phone calls home, and late nights listening to the sirens of the city while telling myself everything was just fine, until I finally began to believe it and blossom. I won’t pretend every second after my first few days were easy sailing, they weren’t, but I have gained experiences, knowledge and positively changed parts of myself thanks to every emotion I experienced.
When I chose to apply for the study abroad program in London I almost anticipated a New York type of feel. If that’s what anyone else thinks, they’re wrong. London is MASSIVE. It is spread out so far you can take the tube for an hour and still not travel from one end to the other. But in this expansive amount of land are some of the most unique buildings, sculptures, and art you’ll ever see. A tour of parliament alone gave me a glimpse of our history and how the United States government was founded. Westminster Abbey told a story of the unknown soldiers that had passed through the doors over thousands of years of wars. The University of Oxford was so fascinating and beautiful I thought about transferring from IU, just kidding! Each and every excursion, whether with my class, or on my own, provided me with an appreciation for London’s history, culture, and its people. While there are many more similarities than differences in our cultures, it was still vastly different in size alone and a shock in of itself for a girl from a suburb of Indianapolis.
Studying abroad really challenged me, changed perspective on culture and learning, and in the end, I am a different person for having studied aboard. I wouldn’t suggest anyone leaves college without an experience like this.