Tag Archives: England

A Day in the Life in Canterbury, England

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Finishing college and Cambridge

This week I finished my college degree. In the past five years I have written dozens of papers, taken countless tests and quizzes, and spent hundreds of hours in the library, but Thursday night that all concluded when I submitted my final paper. As I said before it all feels a bit odd finishing my degree at the University of Cambridge, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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A pasture near River Great Ouse.

With the completion of this study abroad program I feel well prepared to jump into my next stage of life. In college I lived in the urban city of Berkeley, the rural mountain community of Monteverde Costa Rica, and now finally the historical town of Cambridge. I never thought going to university would provide the opportunity to travel and live in so many new places and I can confidently say that living abroad has been the most educational experiences during my time in college. Powerpoints, lectures, and discussions provide for academic growth, but living in a new country allows for growth in far more important ways.

Snapshots of St. Ives, Cambridgeshire on my 23rd birthday

Having visited the UK once before and having previously studied abroad, I did not experience the same radical personal changes that are common from your first time abroad. That being said, this experience was in no way any less important. At UC Berkeley students feel an intense pressure to immediately launch into a career, which makes a high stress environment conducive to rash decisions. Being here we were all so engaged with the Cambridge community and English culture that we didn’t have the mental space to worry too much about job apps and resumes. This is not to say that career planning was put on hold, to the contrary this program has provided the time to think deeply about my career priorities and goals. I have had many discussions with the locals, my professors, and my peers about careers in medicine and science. I even perused the job openings on the local hospital’s website this week. Studying abroad at the end of my college career has provided freedom and time to deeply ponder my career direction and aspirations, a luxury I would not have had if I was back home.

Local snacks! These were the best scones I have ever tried and we couldn’t resist indulging in the wild blackberries.

 Furthermore, living in Cambridge has given me a window into a different lifestyle. In the United States I would never have the chance to live in an 800-year-old building or visit ancient Roman sites such as Bath. There is a sense of permanence here that is oddly comforting: life has persisted for thousands of years and will continue to do so while you are here, and after you are gone. Layered upon this antiquity is a vibrant modern culture. Walking through the beautiful stone buildings you see live music almost every day, food from all over the world, and the distinctive youth fashion. Life here is founded on traditions and history, but also innovative and progressive. Getting to experience life in England I can now relate better to European foreigners and better understand what influences their morals and values. I will incorporate various habits and customs that I learned here when I return home.

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Gonville & Caius College on King’s Parade

A piece of England will always remain with me in the form of the growth I experienced here. Cambridge has given me a certain steadiness and confidence that I would not have had if I chose to do summer school in Berkeley. I feel more firm in who I am, but at the same time more open to change. Studying abroad has been an exercise in assessing my strengths and weakness; I know what I am capable of and what I need to work on. As I pack my bags, melancholy washes over me: it is difficult letting go of this beautiful chapter in my life, but I can’t help but be excited for the next one. I am no longer a university student, but I know that as long as I can travel I will never stop learning.

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A Day in the Life of Gilman Scholar Elizabeth in London

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Where Are You From?

Two days into 2017 and I found myself on a long journey to the United Kingdom. After spending the holidays at home with my family in Mexico, I packed my suitcase and drove north for four hours, just me and my mom. We crossed the border and arrived in Tucson, Arizona – spending a brief night in a place that I had also once called home. Ever since my parents relocated to Mexico, I rarely have the opportunity to visit. Perhaps it was just the nostalgia, but it felt right to be in the place where it all started before flying to my college home again.

The next morning, I took in the lingering smell of the desert rain and kissed my anxious mother goodbye. Seven hours later, I found myself lugging my heavy suitcase up three flights of stairs to a mostly empty college apartment in Philadelphia. After two years studying at the University of Pennsylvania, it also felt like home to walk around my college campus and have late night conversations over noodles at the local Ramen Bar. Less than 24 hours later, I packed up my second suitcase and stumbled back down the stairs before heading back to the airport for another day of traveling.

By the time I arrived in London, I had passed through 3 different countries over 3 days of travel. Disoriented and exhausted, it was difficult to find the charm in London when I first arrived. My heater didn’t work, my phone service went out, and there was no logic in the placement of crosswalks. During orientation, I sat in the back with one of my best friends from Penn and we rolled our eyes at every cheesy presentation while introducing ourselves to an overwhelming group of new people.

What school do you go to? What are you studying? Where are you from?

 

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First day out in the city in typical London weather!

 

Though the entire situation surrounding “Abroad Orientation” called for small talk and awkward introductions, my inconsistent response to every “Where are you from?” question made me uneasy. As I stumbled to simplify my complicated background and the different layers that compose my identity, I realized that home could take on different meanings. To other American students, I was mostly from Arizona, the place where I grew up. In awkward and somewhat incoherent sentences, I would also mention Philadelphia before quickly moving on. On the other hand, to my British classmates, I was clearly American. Yet, I would often find myself clarifying that I was Mexican too.

 

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Strolls right at dusk down on Oxford Street.

 

It has been a month since I first arrived in London and as the days pass, introductions and “where are you from?” questions have become less frequent. Still, these past few weeks have encouraged me to look back and pinpoint the places that I call home and people that have inadvertently impacted and influenced who I am. At a time when the value of diversity has been questioned and undermined, I find myself embracing my background and the framework that it has provided as I find my place in this expansive and multifaceted city. Sure there is no place like home and there is no place like London but I have a feeling that the two aren’t altogether mutually exclusive.

 

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A rare day of sunshine near Tower Bridge.

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by | February 17, 2017 · 4:21 pm

Farewell, England

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G. K. Chesterton

It is unbelievable to me that my adventures while studying abroad in England have come to an end. It is a strange feeling. The feeling of coming back to the same place being a different person. My time studying abroad in England almost feels like a dream because it happened so fast. As I looked out the window of the plane coming back to Florida it felt like it was yesterday that I was leaving. I definitely have noticed myself experiencing the reverse culture shock and it is a more clear realization on how different Americans are culturally from the British. Although the differences may be small, the small differences are what make up the big difference. Yes, we are definitely friendlier. The British have mannerisms that we don’t. In America, I have the privilege of going to a grocery store and not having to bag my own groceries. The British and Americans may speak the same language, but we really don’t in terms of context.

While I do miss England, I definitely do not miss the food. I am so glad to be reunited with American food! Yes, I said it. Food in the United States is so much better. Hands down. On a serious note, I am appreciative to have the privileges of being an American. Part of the reverse culture shock that I had was just realizing how many privileges I have as an American and the opportunities the United States has to offer to its citizens.

I was sad to leave on a flight to go back to Florida, because frankly, I didn’t want to leave. I embarked on a journey and adventure of personal, educational, and professional growth when I decided to study abroad in England. I look back and I absolutely achieved my goals. However, as I grew in every aspect I realized that there is no limit to growth. True discovery means the understanding of always having more discoveries to uncover. By being abroad, I gained the understanding and knowledge of the world and myself. For me, my perspective on what I thought the world was and the people in it expanded and evolved. I advocate for everyone to go abroad and see the world, because to see only a small part of it is such a shame. There is a bigger picture to discover. Once you see the bigger picture you realize that you can impact it to make a change.

I miss England and hopefully I will be back one day. I created amazing memories with new experiences and great people. When I was in England I was able to make it my home. I think there are both advantages and disadvantages when it comes to living in the United States, United Kingdom, or any other country. I miss the small differences in England, but I miss the people I left behind more. I love traveling and I love going on flights, but I never wanted to go on a flight more until I had to get on a flight back to Florida. As I landed in Florida and looked out the window I saw a plane take off. Once again I found myself looking at a plane taking off and wishing I was on it back to England. Without realizing it, I made England my home. Coming back it didn’t feel like I was coming home. It felt like was leaving it. Farewell to England, but I promise, I’ll be back.

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The Stages of Culture Shock

As an American studying abroad in England, before I arrived in this country, I did not expect that I would get a big culture shock. I was wrong. The similarities that the United States and England share are just above the surface. Once I arrived in England, I felt that I completely skipped Stage 1 and I went straight to a mixture of Stage 2 and Stage 3. If anything, I experienced Stage 1 before I arrived with my ideas and expectations of what I thought England was going to be, but my ideas and expectations were probably a little bit too high.

The feelings of irritation, frustration, homesickness, depression, and helplessness were experience the first 6 hours I landed in England! But I already talked about that in my previous post. Let’s just say my first day in England was definitely rocky and it didn’t help with my exhaustion and jet lag. Put me into a situation where I am tired, hungry, and have no Wi-Fi or cellular network and I feel very vulnerable and upset.

However, I have grown past all those feelings and have bettered myself to be a stronger and more independent individual. I’ve gone through Stage 4 by taking each day at a time and making new friends while I am studying abroad. When you experience new challenges and changes all at the same time it can be very overwhelming, however the best thing to do is just to tackle each challenge and change one step at a time. I have met new friends from all over the world and it’s so wonderful to learn about their different perspectives in life. It allows me to broaden my mind by being more humble, accepting, and understanding.

Currently, I am at Stage 5. I am well adjusted to my new life here in England and I’ve gotten used to many of the new challenges and changes I’ve experienced in the beginning. There are moments while I’m walking on the street and I just feel so blessed to be studying abroad in England. While it is much colder in England than in Florida, I would not want to go back. If I had the chance to stay in England longer, then I would definitely take that chance! My 5 months in England just doesn’t feel long enough. As much as Dorothy wanted to go back to Kansas, I don’t want to go back to Florida.

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Loving England, Rain or Shine

My name is Lily Nguyen and I am a student at the University of Central Florida. I am a double major in Hospitality and Event Management and I am studying abroad in Guildford, England at the University of Surrey! I have always dreamed of studying abroad in England and when the departure day came, I couldn’t believe it. The waiting had ended and before I knew it, I was scrambling to get to the airport and to get through security. Everything went by so fast that I felt like I didn’t even have time to be nervous. It wasn’t until I said goodbye to my parents that I realized that it was finally happening. I was about to travel internationally all by myself.

Landing at the London Heathrow airport was surreal. It didn’t feel like I just entered into this new country and that I was finally on British soil! I was so excited for this new adventure and journey to start; however, that feeling didn’t last long. I had a very hard time my first week in this brand new country. I knew that I was going to be homesick, but I definitely didn’t know the extent of how everything would overwhelm me.

It was when I was alone in my dorm room that it hit me – I was alone in a foreign country. I wasn’t able to get my Internet or Wi-Fi setup immediately, so when I wasn’t able to contact my friends on campus, I felt extremely vulnerable and lonely. I began to question why I was in England and why I was doing all of this. But then I realized something…I was just feeling extremely overwhelmed and that that’s perfectly normal.

I had to take a step back to evaluate why I was in England and why I wanted to study abroad in the first place. I had to remember and appreciate the opportunity that the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship by the U.S. Department of State has given to me to achieve this dream of studying abroad. I had to realize that in that moment I was just extremely exhausted, overwhelmed, and homesick. I had to realize that I wasn’t actually alone and I’m sure other study abroad students have felt the same emotions I felt in the beginning.

Once I was able to evaluate the situation, I knew that I was going to be okay. I knew that this journey was going to have bumpy roads, but that’s part of the life adventure and a big part of the fun. I know that every experience through this brand new adventure is going to better myself, even the unpleasant ones. After a week and a half of being in England, each day is better than the last and I learn new things about my host-country and myself every day. Even when there are rainy days, I know I should try to have a smile on my face and appreciate all the experiences that I am able to have in my life. Rain or shine, I know England is where I’m supposed to be at this very moment and I’m excited to experience what it has in store.

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