I had all sorts of expectations for my study abroad program before I left, mostly about academics, work, and personal time. Some of them ended up being true but most were different, but ultimately led to some really good experiences. The biggest difference between my expectations and reality ended up being about my classes. I assumed that classes would be similar to those at my home university: only an hour and fifteen minutes long with little to no homework assignments and frequent quizzes or tests. I didn’t find out until arriving in London that my academic experience would be very different from this. Classes here are almost three and a half hours long and professors assign long papers instead of quizzes and exams, with occasional homework assignments being shorter papers. This was quite a difficult transition for me because I’ve never really had to write papers in high school or college at Pitt. As I’m taking 5 classes (15 credits) while abroad, I’ve had countless 1,000-2,500 word papers due over the course of the semester. While it definitely isn’t what I was picturing my academic experience being like, I’m grateful that it improved my writing skills, as this is an important skills to have in jobs and life in general.
I have gained a lot from my internship at Grant Thornton even though a lot of it was also different than I expected. For example, I thought I was going to be busy working with a large IT team in the office. However, the offices are pretty small and there’s only one other staff member working in IT. I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t as busy with work as I had been at a previous internship, but I was still able to learn a lot about IT from my coworker and got to know him very well.
Outside of school and work I had many expectations about how much travel I would do. Before coming to London, I made a long list of other countries I wanted to visit while my time abroad but ultimately only went on 2 trips, totalling 3 countries. While I was upset about this fact at first, I’m glad that I didn’t overwhelm myself with traveling, as it would have put me behind in schoolwork as well as the required hours I needed for my internship. The trips I was able to go on were fantastic, and taught me a lot about how to travel and navigate myself around foreign countries. I’m sure that in the near future I will find my way back across the Atlantic and use these experiences to help me in my travels. Overall, most of the expectations I had about studying abroad ended up being different than what I actually experienced, but this is a perfect example of why it’s important to be flexible and spontaneous as I’ve still managed to have a fantastic study abroad experience.