I have officially been in London for one month now and I can’t believe how fast time has passed.
I remember standing in front of the beautiful St. Pancras station, watching the famous double decker busses pass by, and feeling relieved and excited to finally be in this beautiful city. And to be honest, even after a month, this feeling hasn’t faded.
I have been dreaming of studying abroad ever since I was a little girl, but never thought it was a feasible thing, and frankly I had no idea where I wanted to go. Eventually, after some research and a lot of debating, I landed on London.
It’s funny because even after getting accepted into the program and booking my ticket, I still didn’t believe I would actually make it. Between the Greyhound ride to NJ, the flights, the trains, and 48 hours of non-stop travel, it seemed like I would never get here.
But I did, and I’ve truly never been happier.
With that being said, it would almost be impossible for me to recap the entirety of this past month. So, without further ado here’s the Top 10 Things I Have Learned From Studying Abroad. (So far!)
1. Pack light, but bring a BIG suitcase.
When I was first packing for this adventure I had absolutely no idea where to start.
How and what do I pack for three months?
I was out shopping for luggage one day, when a friend advised me to bring the biggest suitcase that I could. At first, I thought this was crazy, as everyone had told me to pack light. But, after arriving, I am so glad I listened to this advice.
WHEN YOU GO ABROAD…YOU WILL SHOP!
Even if you think you won’t, you will and having a big suitcase allows you to bring stuff home, and it works great for storage when you have a small dorm room or flat.
2. Look both ways before you cross the street.
Now I can’t speak for other cities, but in London traffic is inevitable and cars do not stop for you.
When I first arrived, it took me forever to get used to crossing the street. There are instructions painted on the pavement at crosswalks telling you to look right, or look left, but I assumed this was just a precaution. After all, in the States they always teach you to look both ways before you cross the street.
However, I quickly realised these instructions were quite literal. Traffic is fast moving and pedestrians DO NOT always have the right of way.
So pay attention and if it says “look right”...DO IT.
3. Budget from the start
Before I left everyone would say,” Oh you’re going abroad? You better save your money.”
I always sort of ignored this comment thinking, I’m just going to study. I won’t be spending that much. I was wrong. If there is any advice I can give a student, it is to have a budget from the start. This experience will be one of the most amazing times in your life and knowing what you have, and what you can spend, only makes it a less stressful, better trip. I recommend setting aside money for travel, food, and fun.
You will spend more than you think in those first few weeks getting settled, and this will only help you in the long run.
4. Be Open Minded
If you want to make the most of the time you are abroad, say yes to things. (within reason)
Don’t be afraid to talk to new people or try something you have never done. You’ll be surprised by what you learn about yourself and the varying cultures.
If you keep and open mind, anything is possible.
5. Find a Spot you Like, and Frequent It.
This is a piece of advice that was given to me from a friend before my departure, and it definitely holds true.
Studying abroad is a time for new experiences and new people but it can, at times, feel chaotic for a lack of a better word. Finding a spot that you enjoy, whether it be a coffee shop or pub, can give you sense of familiarity and community.
It’s also a great way to meet new people and make friends with the locals.
6. Do not.. DO NOT exchange money at the airport.
This one may seem a little obvious…but I was one of those unfortunate travellers who did not wait to exchange my money, and was RIPPED OFF by the exchange rate at the airport.
Even if you think you will need cash…wait.
I promise it will be worth it and it’ll give you the biggest bang for your buck.
7. It’s Okay to Be Uncomfortable.
If there is anything you can take from your experience with study abroad, this is it.
Travelling to a new country can be a daunting experience. Regardless of the excitement you may feel towards this new adventure there will be times when you feel out of place, or even lonely. Don’t let this discourage you. It is normal to feel this way. You are starting over, meeting new people, and experiencing a new culture for the first time.
Let yourself be uncomfortable.
If you do, you will open yourself up to new experiences and will learn things about yourself, you may have otherwise not discovered.
8. Be selfish!!
You are only abroad for a short while, so make the most of it. If there was ever a time in your life for you to be a little selfish, it’s now.
Find friends you love, adventure, and do whatever is going to make you the happiest; because at the end of the day this experience is for you, and you alone.
9. Don’t Forget About Your City
A lot of students will be eager to travel to as many places as they can while they are studying abroad.
While this is a great time to do this, don’t neglect the city where you chose to study. but Don’t forget that you chose to study there for a reason. I’d recommend planning a few trips to places you really want to travel and try to get out and go somewhere new at least once or twice a month; even if it’s just a day trip.
10. Try Something New Everyday
Studying abroad is a time for new. New Experiences. New People. New places. Living in London, this isn’t too difficult to accomplish because the city is so large. However, even if you are living in a small town, find something new to try everyday. Whether its food, a store, or even just a new route to class, do it.
You’re in a new place, and you never know what you might stumble upon.
Study abroad will be one of the best times of your life, but it is all what you make of it. Go into it with no expectations, allowing yourself to really enjoy every minute of this opportunity...and you will have the greatest time!