In some ways, the last 14-weeks abroad (!) have flown by far too quickly to notice any significant changes. With finals approaching, I am fully expecting these last two weeks to pass in a heartbeat, leaving me to reflect on my semester in detail only when the dust settles. But even in the midst of such a busy week, several changes stick out from when I first left for London.
One of the more superficial changes – I can cook now! I won’t claim to be an expert, but I can survive on my own for an entire semester, at the very least. I live in a flat with five other college students – most of the flats in our building are filled with college kids as well – so a cooking endeavor gone wrong has been a common cause for the fire alarm to evacuate our building. This past Sunday, one of my flatmates and I made a traditional Easter lunch of roast chicken, green been casserole, fruit, and potatoes (traditional in the Midwest, at least!) and I had to laugh at the significant improvement over our first several home-cooked meals in London. To be fair, we didn’t have many other options; food in London is expensive, and we tried not to eat out for too many meals.
The more substantial changes – I have become a lot more independent, both as a traveler and as a student. Back on campus, it is easy to become dependent on friends and the campus community. The dining hall provides meals, different groups organize a time to work on group projects, and day-to-day life is very structured. Living abroad is much different as everyone has their own schedule and generally their own agenda. When it comes time to travel, there’s a very similar feel: whether you’re traveling alone or with a group, you have to know exactly which bus to catch to get to the correct airport and terminal with enough time to catch a flight. If you sleep in and miss a connection? You’re likely out of luck – and I heard about plenty of horror stories these past several months. Learning to plan across different time zones, countries, cultures and languages is a valuable skill, one that is difficult to replicate back on campus.
I have also had a chance to consider my academic and career goals to a much greater extent. A recent trip to Seville, Spain gave me the opportunity to speak Spanish again – for the first time since high school! This reminded me of the value of studying a language. Realistically, it would be tough to continue Spanish classes during my senior year, but I hope to pick up the language at some point in the near future; it was a huge advantage to have some familiarity with the language while I was traveling, and I know it would be even more advantageous in a professional setting. I also had a chance to meet several international students who attend graduate school in London – London School of Economics, London Business School, and King’s College, to name a few – and they have offered several pros and cons of attending an international graduate school. London would be one of the few places I would seriously consider studying outside of the U.S. on a permanent basis, mostly due to the lack of a language barrier, and hearing their perspectives has sparked my interest in further international study.
Here’s to hoping for a memorable end to a wonderful semester abroad thanks to the Gilman Scholarship!
Cheers from London,