This post was written by Ashley-Lynn Goldstein, who is studying abroad in London, United Kingdom.
When someone would ask me, as a freshman, sophomore or even as a junior, if I planned to studying abroad, my answer would always be, “I’m not sure. The whole idea seems too overwhelming for me.”
In spite of my fears and reservations, – and with a push from my parents and friends – I submitted my application to study abroad in London last October. At that point, I tried not to think about it too much and instead went through the motions of getting my transcript together and figuring out what classes would transfer back to GW.
It was not until I was standing at JFK and had just said goodbye to my parents, grandma, sister, boyfriend and friends that the entire experience became real to me. I was headed off to a foreign country where I didn’t know anyone, and I would not be back on American soil until May. Fear began to rush over me, and the anxiety stayed with me for weeks after arriving in London.
When I first arrived I was completely overwhelmed. Not only was I meeting all of these new people, but also I had no idea where I was going. I was having an unanticipated culture shock. I wrongfully assumed that because the English speak the same language as us their culture is the same.
For much of those first few weeks I felt alone and scared, not knowing what to expect or if things would get better. I missed not only the ones I had left at home, but also the comforts and familiarity of home. I wondered if I had made the wrong choice and should have studied with my friends in Barcelona.
A few weeks into my trip things started to turn around. I mastered navigating the city, memorized the tube and knew all of the British lingo. I had found comfort in finding my own spots in London. I now had my favorite lunch place, a frozen yogurt place, a place to go grocery shopping and a place to study. I began to enjoy my experience and see London not as a foreign city, but as my city.
Today, as I look back on my experience, I realize just how much I have changed. I have learned to adapt and not worry so much about the unfamiliar. I have become more independent traveling around Europe without anyone to help me. I have also gained a look into cultures different than my own and have realized that different isn’t better or worse – it’s just different.
As I begin to pack my bags and head back to America, I feel mixed emotions. I am so excited to see all my loved ones at home. At the same time I know I am going to miss London. London will always have a special place in my heart because it has become a second home to me. London will always be my city.