Tag Archives: England

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?



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.



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.



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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The Culture Shock Effect!

I remember looking at my calendar the other day and I was swept by a moment of sadness. How is it possible that I’ve been in London for over 3 months already? When did this happen?  I waited what seemed like a lifetime to get here and it’s going by way too fast! I’ve been doing so much, between school, traveling and nights out, I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s going to be like once I get back home to Gettysburg at the beginning of June. I am so very excited to see my family and boyfriend, but the one thing I’m going to miss the most are the people who I’ve met here and the memories we’ve made. They’re not just friends, they are family. They will only ever truly understand what this experience has been. I know my family at home is excited to hear all my stories and adventures, but when I talk about Primark or Tesco or the beauty of constantly hearing English accents, they will only know a small portion of what it really was like.
Culture shock is going to hit me hard, when I return home. There are things I’ve missed so much, including Taco Bell, Wal-Mart and being able to drive a car, but there are things here in London I will never have again my life. The joy of sitting at a kitchen table in McLaren talking with other study abroad students, the moment you find pop tarts at the sweet shop and buy them even though they are ridiculously priced, losing my oyster card right after I topped it up, or even the moments of uncontrollable laughter walking down Waterloo road. These are the things I’ve come to love and will be what I miss most when I go home.


I’ve got a little less than a month and a half here in London and I know its going to go by even faster. It saddens me to think that I’ll be leaving this all behind soon, but I know this journey will last with me long after the culture shock has come and gone once I return home.

Ill be enjoying my time left here, but until next…Cheers from London!


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Leaving the Comfort of Home

Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese

Before traveling to London, I remember reading this quote by Cesare Pavese and thinking I had some sort of notion to what it all meant, now I can say I truly do. There is so much truth hidden with the quote, not just the obvious truth but ones that are hidden so much deeper.  There are truths that you will never understand, unless you’ve studied abroad. Being in an unfamiliar place forces you to be 100% true to who you are, and to the people you come in contact with. Because once you’re in a foreign country, in a city where you know absolutely no one, every person you meet could potentially be your new friend and your new support system. Having been in London for some time now, I’ve formed by own family here. We like to call ourselves “The Millers”, we come from all backgrounds, from all across the country and have somehow managed to form this tight family. We support, joke, laugh, cry, travel and are there for one another. I can honestly say without them, my journey here would not be the same.

I’ve also learned that it is true that life is constantly off balance. Whether it’s getting lost in Paris and not knowing a single word of French, or not having enough change to get on the last tube home and having to walk for 2 hours, or even realizing you forgot your passport while trying to travel outside of the UK, I’ve learned to roll with the punches, to go with the flow and to understand that life abroad is never in balance.  That’s exactly how it should be! Studying abroad forces you to challenge everything you’ve ever known, to leave behind the ones you love the most and to embrace everything it has to offer. From the people you come in contact with, the amazing and sometimes strange food you will try, getting lost, learning to navigate without your phone’s GPS, staying in a hostel with total strangers and having the time of your life, it’s all worth the journey.

Before I came to London, I remember day dreaming about what it was going to be like, the people I was going to meet and the experiences I was going to have. I can say now, that my imagination had no clue, not even a small glimmer of what it was really going to be like. My time here in London so far has surpassed anything I’ve ever dreamed of. This whole journey is life changing and i cannot wait to see what punch I’ll have to roll with next.

Until next time…cheers from London!

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