With the end of spring break marking the halfway point in the program, I have had some time to sit down and reflect on the first half of my study abroad experience. Going in, I expected this semester to be more relaxed, but I have found in some ways, I am actually busier here, in London, than I may be back home. This has to do with not only the fact that I am working as an intern while taking classes, but also because I am usually away from my flat on the weekends. With this in mind, I came up with a few takeaways from my experience in London detailed below:
- Plan ahead– Though it goes without saying, planning ahead is essential when you have a list of things and places you want to see before you leave London. Although three months sounds like a long time, it only adds up to a few weekends. I know many students choose London because of its location and proximity to other countries that they want to visit while studying abroad. If this is you, make sure you take a look at flights, accommodations, and activities for your chosen location of visitation way before you go, your wallet will thank you! Believe me, my roommates and I planned a last-minute trip to Belgium which could have been much cheaper had we done it earlier! Additionally, many classes with CAPA require outside of the classroom exploration of the city of London, which is another activity to keep in mind and make time for when planning your weekends.
- Keep an open mind– In the United States, we are used to a high paced, on-demand society. Meaning, we are used to having everything at our fingertips at all times from Wi-Fi to 24-hour grocery stores. This is not always the case in London. It is important to remember that although the two countries are very similar, our cultures vary in many ways. This also pertains to simple things like personal space on public transportation systems. Therefore, it is important to be patient and understand these differences in order to have the best experience here. This point is something that I think took the most time to get used to because as Americans, we have grown up in the environment that we are accustomed to. Yet, one cannot grow without getting out of one’s own comfort zone, right?
- Budget wisely– Again, another no-brainer. We all know that cities are generally more expensive, and London is no exception. Additionally, with the less than stellar exchange rate from American dollars to British pounds, it is easy to admit that watching your wallet is a priority for many college students while studying abroad. However, getting into some good habits early about money spending can really pay off (pun intended). For example, there are several grocery stores within walking distance of all CAPA residences. This is a plus because students can buy in bulk and save money by cooking their own meals. Additionally, grocery stores called “Sainsbury’s” and “Tesco” offer a 3-pound meal deal that comes with a sandwich, drink, and chips which is handy for a cheap and easy everyday lunch.
In the end, there are many differences when it comes to life in the UK versus life in the US. However, it is up to you to make the most of it. I know that I went through an adjustment period when I first came to London, but it has and always will be, an experience I will remember fondly.