Author: Giovanna Cottone, Semester in London – University of Westminster Fall ’17
If you’re reading this, you are probably about to embark on a trip of a lifetime, or if you’re me, you are very nostalgic and reminiscent on your time abroad. It has been almost three months since I returned from London and I am writing this to provide some words of encouragement and some friendly advice that could potentially help you regarding your future travels. Bon Voyage!
Say YES to every adventure!
It may just be one word, but it is the best possible way to open ourselves up to new and endless experiences. To truly live life, you have to try new things and be open to adventures. Being in a different country from what we are typically used to and what we are most comfortable with, it allows us to truly step outside of our comfort zone and forces us to do things we wouldn’t typically do. Each adventure, whether you enjoy it or not, will help you grow as an individual and will give you good stories to tell. There are some things you can’t do or see in America, and by going abroad you have that chance to experience it. You never know when you’re going to make it back across the globe, so make it worthwhile!
Culture shock is a REAL thing!
When studying in London, I figured I had nothing to worry about given that the U.K is one of the most similar European countries when in comparison to the United States. People in London spoke English, they dressed similar, acted similar, have similar hobbies, and as strange as it sounds, the similarities are what made the adjustments so difficult for me. The slight similarities made me want everything to feel like just how it would back in the states, easy. Along with these similarities came the language barrier, the transportation systems, cars driving on the opposite sides of the road, history on every street, the currency exchange rates, and cultural norms. When first getting to your destination, it can be very overwhelming, but it’s nothing time can’t fix. Persevering and accepting these cultural differences is what makes your abroad experience so memorable. We are choosing to go and temporarily live in a new place, and one of those reasons are to become aware and learn how people in other parts of the world live. Culture shock can be frustrating when first exposed to it, but at the same time we are living and learning in a completely different world than we are used to, and that is amazing.
It is okay to get lost.
Sometimes getting lost leads to the most beautiful places….
The best advice I could possibly give is to not have a set plan. Of course there are major tourist attractions that are at the top of our list of places to see and that is okay! But don’t plan out your days to the tee. The big attractions are surreal to see, but so are the little nooks and crannies of places that seem so silent and subtle compared to the bigger and more popular places. I would find myself walking around aimlessly for hours, not having an ending destination. Get lost, ride the metro until you feel like getting off, climb a mountain, walk around a park, talk to a street performer, the opportunities are truly endless. By planning and scheduling, it can make you miss out on the precious moments that surround you. This is truly how you see so much.
Don’t be afraid to try and learn new things!
Immerse yourself in the culture that surrounds you. In London, it seems like every single street has a major part of history attached to it. Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Downing Street, Kensington Palace, the changing of the guard, the list could go on. Go to museums, galleries, and tours. I took a day to learn the entire underground tube and bus system (or at least I tried), because I was so intrigued by it for some reason. Try foods you have never tried before, because (I guarantee you) you’re not going to be eating American food. Get pasta and gelato in Italy, eat baguettes and croissants in Paris, become apart of their culture and lifestyle while you can, because it’s only temporary!
Document your time abroad.
Document your trip. Whether that’s through pictures or writing in a journal, I can guarantee you that you will be so thankful that you did. I bought a polaroid specifically for my trip and I carried it around with me almost everywhere I went. I brought a small book/journal and every time I snapped a picture, I pasted it in this book with the location and date of where and when it was taken. At the end of my trip, I had pages upon pages of pictures lined up. Pictures taken on your phone are memorable as well, but by doing something like this you can share it with friends and family so they can truly get a grasp of what you were doing during your time abroad. And it will definitely be bittersweet to pull it out and reminisce from time to time!
Applications for Fall 2018 in London at the University of Westminster open until April 15th!!