Studying abroad has always been on my “Bucket List” and I knew I would learn a lot both academically and culturally. I also knew that I would experience a certain degree of culture shock as well as a lot of growth. So, after a little over a month abroad, these are my three biggest takeaways. First, you will definitely underestimate the amount of culture shock you are going to have. I don’t know if I was over-confident or just expecting it to be easy because the British speak English but it will happen to you. For me, it wasn’t something that happened like one big moment, but it was the little details. For example, in the workplace, it seems as though everyone (including bosses) are open and willing to talk to you about any subject. Things like politics and personal things are discussed relatively openly and I don’t think that happens as much in the US. Another moment of culture shock was something as simple as my daily walk to class. Everyone knows that the British drive on the other side of the road and you would think that it would be easy to get used to. However, the way we pay attention to traffic is so ingrained in our heads that we don’t even think about it. We are just taught to look “Left, right, left” and it was a huge culture shock because I’ve looked the opposite way plenty of time and almost gotten hit.
My second takeaway is about how I got comfortable living in London. Everyone will have their own tips and tricks on how to do this but personally, I got comfortable by taking advantage of the various walking tours that have been offered through my program. Not only does it get you out into a new part of the city, especially one that you might not have ever gone to on your own. It also gets you really familiar with the public transportation system. I wouldn’t even say that London’s transportation is especially complicated but the more you use it, the more you will feel confident with it! You learn the different lines and the best way to get places and for me, it definitely made me feel more at home.
Lastly, my third takeaway is what some call an “Aha! Moment”. The first few days, I was just trying to get over my jetlag and not fall asleep during our orientations. After that, you truly start experiencing the culture and the amazing city. My “Aha! I’m abroad!” moment was seeing Buckingham Palace. An iconic symbol of the monarchy and Great Britain and it was my first time ever seeing it. I was definitely thinking about how you would never see something like this in America and it was a surreal moment of “Wow, I’m actually in London for the semester!”. Overall, no matter where you study abroad and when you go, you are going to experience ups and downs and have an amazing time!