I’m not going to deny it- I was never a big believer in studying abroad. Aside from the fact that I was rejected from three study abroad/volunteer trips prior to applying for London, I just thought they were a waste of time and money. I used to roll my eyes as I heard family members, classmates, and professors brag and glamorize their $20,000 worth of semesters spent in Europe, but in the back of my mind, I was obviously just jealous.
Once I surrendered to my undying need to leave New England sometime before I turn 30, I decided to apply for the London study tour. Here are some of the valuable lessons I learned as a cheap, unworldly American turned aspiring British citizen.
Bring DOUBLE the money you originally planned on bringing.
My professor (Dr. Lizie- take a class with him if you get the chance!) originally told us to bring about $1000. I laughed it off and made my way across the pond with $800 American dollars to my name ($300 in cash and $500 on a prepaid credit card). Everything was fine until I visited the Currency Exchange desk at London Heathrow Airport. $253 American dollars translated into about £160 British pounds. With meals averaging £10-£15 per person and extra fees when using an American credit card, I basically had to live a little less extravagantly than I would have liked to on my trip.
Your American accent is annoying, but talk to people anyway.
When we first got to the hotel, I had my first experience of feeling like a “stupid American” when I heard a young British woman mocking and laughing at my accent in the lobby (I was extra tired and cranky, so I sounded a little more Boston than usual). It was at that very moment that I truly felt like a cultural outsider for the first time in my life. It took me a few days, but once I finally accepted the fact that my Valley-Girl-meets-South-Shore-Chick voice was here to stay, I started reaching out to locals and asking questions. Not everyone was nice, but many people were curious to know what part of the US I was from and what I was studying in school. They even helped me find my way on the tube and gave me an insider’s tip as to where to find the best fish’n'chips. Breaking out of my comfort zone was worth it.
Make the most of your hotel downtime.
I have a 15-page paper due tomorrow about my trip. 10 of those pages are journal entries that I should have done before bed every night instead of ordering room service, napping, and watching British reality TV shows. Unfortunately, my slacker alter-ego was obviously on the trip with me, so here I am struggling to get it all done tonight. Your memories will be fresh in your mind during the trip, so get some notes down while you’re there in order to write the most illustrated and personal journal entires possible.
The best advice I can offer to you if you’re planning to go abroad is to just DO IT. You deserve it. You can figure out the money and class scheduling later. I hate to quote Drake, but “you only live once, that’s the motto. YOLO.”
And if you’re interested in checking out the rest of my London pictures, the public Facebook album is right here!