“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” -Henry Miller
It’s been seven weeks already! In the blink of an eye, I’m almost done with my time here in Europe. Looking back at the many memories, some definitely better than others, and at the person I’ve become, I realize how much this experience has changed me. I’ve learned, I’ve grown and I’ve developed a new way of seeing things. To anyone who’s thinking of studying abroad, no matter where in the world, it will be something that will change you, and the way you see the environment around you. I advise three things (and for those who already have, you’ll definitely relate/agree!).
1. No matter where and how long, the experience will be full of ups and downs
At the beginning, it felt more of a vacation rather than being in school. I felt like a tourist trying to blend into London’s inevitably wild nature. The lifestyle here is so different from what I’m used to, at Philly or Puerto Rico, so it took me quite a while to adapt. I was still learning to take the tube every morning, find affordable places for us to eat or hang out around the city, or simply fit in! Everything seemed so unfamiliar, yet so intriguing. After the first few weeks, it felt like being it a state of limbo: I quite didn’t feel like part of it yet, but it wasn’t so “new” or unfamiliar anymore. In moments, I even felt displaced. However, everything fell slowly into place: I started to love the tube, having to travel so far every morning became more of an adventure rather than a burden, and I started discovering places, such as Camden and Shoreditch, where I loved spending my free time and hanging out with friends!
Most importantly, I’ve become an independent, strong young woman no longer afraid of the unknown, of getting lost, and of being surrounded by the unfamiliar and making it my own.
2. Step away from the tourist landmarks, and get to know the local spots!
As mentioned before, living in such a big city has made me learn to step out of my comfort zone. I can confirm that the best places in London (or in any place in the world) aren’t the ones that are explicitly showcased in a travel magazine, but hidden in the less crowded areas of the city. Don’t be afraid to explore and get lost, and you’ll run into the best spots where you can experience the location like a local! This way, you become more aware of their culture and traditions, and even a glimpse of how the carry their daily lives.
Abney Cemetery in Hackney, London
3. Appreciate the resources your location has to offer.
London is a city with around 2,000 years of history, that has gone through both growth and disaster. Take your time to learn about this, and fully immerse yourself in the cities background, creating a better understanding of why it is the way it is today (this applies to any city you visit). Go to museums, do research, or even take time to learn something new. Your host city might be known for something completely out of the box, and won’t know it unless you decide to learn about it yourself. One of the many perks London has is that it has free admissions to all the museums, and an amazing variety ranging from famous art galleries to anthropology and natural history (all free of cost). Taking time to take advantage of this is a must!
Royal Pavilion at Brighton, England’s famous beach town (about an hour away from London via National Rail Services)
The best summer of my life might end soon, but It’ll always be part of who I am and who I’m about to become. It’s on you to make it unforgettable, and if you do, it is something I guarantee you’ll carry with you forever.