My first few weeks abroad have been nothing short of spectacular. The biggest takeaway so far has been the importance of taking the time to explore my surroundings. At this point in the semester, my schedule feels pretty booked with coursework and my internship. I have made it a personal goal of mine to set time aside to explore London and really take note of where I am. Familiarizing myself with my West Kensington neighborhood allowed me to feel much more comfortable in London. I have already become great friends with other students in my program who live near me. Together, we spend our free time venturing to different areas, markets, parks, coffee shops, etc. Another resource at my disposal has been the staff on our program. Each week, I can expect an email about events happening around the city and personal recommendations for London. The city feels like home more and more each day.
There are, of course, some moments when it is very clear that I am not actually home. It didn’t really hit me that I am away from home and experiencing a new culture until I began my internship. Another major takeaway is that my internship is a prime opportunity to learn about new cultures. Most of my coworkers are English, but I have coworkers from countries like Ireland and Italy as well. When we have time, we discuss differences in areas such as politics, education, work, leisure, and language. As English is my first language, I expected to understand everything said around the office. I learned quickly that this would not be the case, due to a difference in accent and vernacular. I will never forget the first time a coworker told me “Bob’s your uncle.” Another instance in which I felt very removed from America was Superbowl Sunday. It is such a massive, unavoidable event back in the states. If you want to watch the event in London, though, you have to seek it out a bit and pay for a ticket in advance for a table at a pub. It was very interesting to see how these pubs promised “traditional American food – chicken wings and corndogs!” In my international marketing class, a topic that we have placed a lot of importance on is cultural intelligence. Developing this skill has helped me to achieve success both professionally and personally while abroad and will continue to propel me throughout my future endeavors in marketing.
This may be surprising to some, but one of the biggest moments of culture shock I have experienced so far was the first time I went grocery shopping. I was overwhelmed by the amount of products I did not recognize. Additionally, some products that do overlap between the UK and US are not called by the same name. When asking for help, I’ve had to actually describe foods and products so that the employee would understand what I was looking to find. The final takeaway I would like to mention in this blog is that it is okay to ask for help, and even better to ask for/research some recommendations for food while abroad. It is very likely that you will end up finding a favorite dish from your host country that you will miss when you arrive back home.