Make Some Wishes Out of Airplanes – Study Abroad

Spring of my junior year, I went abroad to London. It. was. sick. I can literally rave about it for weeks (my friends and I still take “LONDON!” pictures when we’re together) but I’ll just go through the highlights and a few “life lessons” learned…hopefully it won’t get too sappy.

My program – I directly enrolled at University College London (UCL) so I was essentially an exchange student. Most of my friends, in fact most students, study abroad on American run programs and they’re great and afford students the opportunity to immerse themselves in another culture. I, however, really wanted to live, work, and study with Brits and other international students. UCL is London’s “Global University”, which is perfect for an IGS student like myself. In fact, my flat and friends at UCL consisted of students from Greece, England, Cyprus, Poland, Japan, Luxembourg, Holland, Argentina, etc.

Academics/Internships – UCL was more challenging than expected. It is one of the top universities in Great Britain and in the world. Some rankings have placed it as high as 4th in the world, so it’s not a stretch to imagine that it wasn’t a walk in the park. That said, it was more than worth it. It wasn’t impossibly difficult and I learned a lot. I was taught by experts in their field, who wrote the seminal books for the subjects I was studying. My art class was site based, so every week we met for a few hours and studied the art firsthand at museums such as Tate Modern and Britain, the Victoria and Albert,  and the Courtald Gallery. (I highly recommend fulfilling your Fine Art req abroad, btw.) My Applied Anthropology course had an experiential learning component, in which we volunteered with an NGO or non-profit. I was originally assigned to a development NGO but after a bit of logistical hooplah, I found myself volunteering in a mental health rehabilitation center. I had never imagined working with rehabilitated patients with mental health issues and it was so far beyond my comfort level, but I think that’s the point.

Travel – Half of my study abroad experience was visiting cities and places I had never been. Since I could literally dedicate an entire blog just to talking about traveling in Europe and the shenanigans involved, I’ll give you the ten-second recap TV shows use to explain an entire drama-filled season by going through the places I visited and the most memorable thing about each.

Liverpool – the country side, cathedrals, and all things Beatles
Munich –  Hofbräuhaus (look it up)
Fussen – a horse-drawn carriage up to Neuschwanstein Castle (aka what the Disney castle is based on)
Paris – too obvious
Venice – Carnivale and walking around with a bag of cheese and bottle of wine
Barcelona – tapas, paella, 4am
Rome – breaking my ankle and ending up in a boot right outside of the Trevi fountain

Looking Back – Study abroad was an adventure. I learned a lot – culturally, academically, personally, and just about life in general. While I am fully cognizant of the fact that study abroad is not for everyone and that not everyone has the opportunity to do so, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. If you’re even just entertaining the idea, take the time to look into it and talk to someone about their time abroad (I guarantee they’ll be more than willing to chat).  Also, studying abroad is just plain exciting. It may not be the only way to seize life by the horns, but it’s a pretty darn good one.