A very (not) candid photo in front of my dorm on our last night in London, July 2017
As I’ve written on here before, my wanderlust all began when I decided to study abroad during the summer of 2007.
A piece of the Berlin Wall that stands in London.
To be honest, technically it began the prior July when I met a Dutch boy who was traveling in NYC and I wanted to go to his continent to see him. Spoiler: it didn’t work out.
But what did work out is that I got to experience another culture and live like a Brit. (At least a very posh Brit who could afford to live in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.) I also made friends whom I still keep in touch with today and I learned a lot – i.e. not everyone studies abroad to make out with as many handsome lads as they can (but perhaps they should?). I learned how fun a spontaneous weekend trip can be with someone you’ve just met (we met in our Shakespeare class, bonded on a trip to the Globe, and booked a flight to Amsterdam later that day for that weekend).
But there are also a few things I would’ve done differently and I thought I’d reflect on those mistakes so you wouldn’t make the same ones as me.
- Stay For Longer: I only studied abroad for a month and a half and I definitely should stayed the whole 12 weeks instead. I was nervous though about whether or not I’d make friends or whether I’d go broke (back then 1 USD = 1 pound, ugh). And probably some other unfounded worries, too. I could’ve traveled more on the weekends, too, if I’d been there for more time which brings me to…
- Travel More: I went on a day trip to Stonehenge and weekend trips to Amsterdam and Paris. I should have definitely traveled more but at the time my main goal while studying abroad was to see as much theatre as possible. In six short weeks, I saw 16 live stage productions on the West End, off it (that is not really a term there, I know), at the Globe, etc. So I accomplished my main goal, but now that I know how expensive it is to travel to and from Europe from the States, I now wish I would’ve traveled more when it would’ve cost me a $100 to fly somewhere for the weekend. Alternatively, I could’ve stayed behind in Europe and extended my trip after my semester was over. You become fast friends when you’re studying abroad.
- Do an Internship: Each course that I took lasted three weeks and happened once a day for about 3 hours. This left a lot of time for shenanigans (read: drinking) and although the partying was fun, I think I would’ve been better served if I’d have skipped the courses and worked an internship. I think it would’ve changed my entire experience, which would be sad in a way because I doubt I’d have the strong bonds that I found myself with if I’d done an internship. But on the other hand I imagine I would’ve had similarly strong bonds with the people with whom I’d have interned. Maybe? On the other hand, if I’d had an internship, I wouldn’t have had as much time to see shows.
Overall I wouldn’t trade my time studying abroad for anything. Ever since I have been of the opinion that everyone should be required to study abroad for a semester. It’s so very important to leave your hometown (and country) and meet people who live a different way of life than you’re used to. At least in my very, extremely humble opinion.
Although I never reunited with the Dutch guy again (until he was in New York back in 2012 again that is), the experience lit the fire under my (to use the British phrase) bum to get out of my safe little paradise of New York City and experience other cultures, meet new people, and see the world.
Did you study abroad? If so, let me know in the comments where you went and if there is anything you’d do differently if you had a do over!