When I prepared to leave for London three months ago, I wrote one of my first posts and mentioned that something was going to change. I didn’t know what it would be or how I would be different and I still don’t know the full extent, but I know I’ve changed. Studying abroad was something that I have always planned on doing. While looking at colleges it was one of the few questions I asked because it was important to know how easy it could be done with my major and where I could go. Because of this, I spent one of my first weeks at Drexel sitting down with my academic advisor deciding when the best time to go would be and how I could make it happen.
On September 3rd I arrived in London, filled with excitement, anticipation and a bit of nerves wondering what life would be like. By going to school on the other side of the country, I had already learned how to be far away from home, but a 3 hour time change is a lot less than 8 hours so I knew this would be yet another step in the larger journey called life. Over the course of the past three months I learned how to travel and how to ‘find my own way.’ It is difficult to truly explain how things have changed, but as I sit in an airport (for 10 hours) about to fly to Dublin, I’ve had the chance to reflect a little bit.
Week 1 was filled with the eagerness of classes. Still getting excited anytime anyone spoke with an accent and learning about the little things like free coffee & tea at Waitrose. There was so much I would learn, both in and out of the classroom, but I had already fallen in love on the first day. As the weeks passes, I got into my routine, feeling like a local and being able to give people directions when they asked. I got sick, got healthy, traveled to other countries, mastered the bus and tube system (with City Mapper of course) and truly felt like London was my home.
More importantly, I felt my eyes being opened to the world. After taking a tour of Scotland for 3 days on my own, I felt this immediate desire to road trip around the US, spend a month on a bus tour of Australia and add even more countries to my travel board. The thing about Europe is that there is this appreciation for history that doesn’t quite exist in the same way in the US. Partially due to a ‘later start,’ but also because part of the American mentality is to always have ‘new’ rather than to appreciate the old. Yes, new technology is great and I am a child of the internet, but at the same time, it isn’t always necessary to have these glass sky scrapers in place of old victorian style buildings. What I loved about London was that although the city has plenty of new & old, they live in harmony. An LEED green building is next to a Victorian style building, yet it somehow works.
For me, studying abroad wasn’t about finally being ‘legal’ in a country and getting to drink whatever I wanted (it’s expensive and I had other things to spend money on.. like tea), or being away from my parents (been there.. done that), but it was about traveling and growing as a person. It was about finding my way around a city without a map on occasion and just knowing the general direction of where I had to be and taking in the architecture and culture around me along the way. It was about opening my eyes and my mind to view the world with a larger and clearer lens.
They say study abroad changes you and I know that when I do get home to Philadelphia in January and Arizona in March, I’ll understand just how much. At this point, I just know that I’m an even better google mapper than when it all started.