You only London once

Learning experiences as a student studying aboard go far beyond the classroom setting.

It’s weird to think that only a few days ago I was in my bed in Virginia sleepless with the anxiety about flying over 3000 miles away from my friends and family for a (seemingly) long four-month period. I had only been to Europe one other time, when I was 13, and I'd had my Mom right there with me. This adventure was going to be my first trip outside of the United States where I was alone, and even scarier, a student.

The weekend before my departure, I visited SU to say goodbye to the people I love most, and it really depressed me that I would not be seeing many of them for a year, as many of them will study abroad during the spring semester. While I shed a few tears as I drove away from the campus, I also felt an overwhelming emotion of joy and adventure. I was excited to immerse myself in a new culture: to try new foods, get a better understanding of a foreign society (if Britain can be called a foreign society), make new friends, and overall, challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone. 

Like me, about 200 other Syracuse students enrolled in the London program couldn't wait to begin a new chapter of their college experiences by studying in a foreign country — to a point where all of us stayed wide awake the entire red-eye group flight to England.

Since being here, I have challenged myself to become familiar with the city and make it feel like home. My roommate and I have conquered shopping in the various farmers markets, and we’ve begun to learn how to cook exceptionally tasty meals (if I do say so myself) on a “poor-American-college-student” budget. We have made carrot purée, avocado salads, spaghetti Bolognese, and chicken stir fry within the past week, and we and continue to challenge ourselves to learn new recipes. And for those of you who know me well, you’ll know what a feat this actually is.


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I also have challenged myself to explore around the city. I hopped on the tube (which is what Brits call their subway system) and travelled around areas ranging from Oxford Circus, to Greenwich, to the British Museum. I’ve also done a fair share of sightseeing on foot, and thus, discovered all of the beauty that London has to offer. I even ended up finding a perfect little park, not too far from my flat, where I have been able to enjoy several hot and sunny days (not cold and rainy as my father SWORE London would be like the entire time I’m here). 

Here I am, not even a full school week into the semester, and I feel as though I’ve been here for months. This is something I wouldn't have even predicted a couple weeks ago.

I’ve finally gotten used to the coins (pounds and pences, galore!) and I am coming to terms with the fact that drivers sit on the right side of car and drive on the wrong side of the road. Embarrassingly enough, I’ve learned the hard way: having almost been run over by three (you heard me) notoriously speedy London drivers, many of whom flash rude hand gestures at “silly American nobs” like myself who aren’t familiar with the foreign traffic patterns (despite how every crosswalk has written on the pavements which direction to look.)

More importantly, since being here, I’ve come to accept how I am a silly American. I have trouble understanding certain thick British accents; have laughing fits over British slang (these bleedin’ wankahs ovah ‘ere ah so sassy with theh dialect!) and even get overly excited when I’m not carded when purchasing alcohol. 

But I have learned an important lesson from the amazing staff at Syracuse’s Faraday House: they told us that being classified and stereotyped as Americans is inevitable. What matters, they told us, is to try to understand where these stereotypes come from and to challenge ourselves to change our habits to purge “ugly American” stereotypes of being, well frankly, fat, fake, over-consuming, know-it-alls.  Their recommendations included: read British newspapers, stop eating out so damn much, stop checking social media every 15 minutes, don’t drink to get drunk, lower our voices, etc.

These simple suggestions have not only helped me get used to society across the pond, but I have come to realize that these tips are great practices which I hope to adapt as life-long skills. No matter where in the world I may be.

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