In less than a week I’ll be on a plane back to Iowa. I can’t believe three months has already passed, but alas, all good things must come to an end. Before I left, I posted about my expectations for my term in London. And, since it is nearing completion, it’s time to reflect.
One of my goals for this semester was to become more comfortable with change. And let me tell you, London is a big change from Des Moines. I wasn’t expecting there to be such a big difference, so it made adapting harder at first. I was thinking it would be extremely similar to the U.S. since it’s an English-speaking country. That was my first mistake.
I can tell you that I definitely had a bout with culture shock because of my expectations. It was really difficult to overcome it at first, too. In all honesty, it took me about three weeks. And there was a time when I would have given anything to go home. But, I stuck it out and looked for things that would make the experience worthwhile.
I spent a lot of time exploring and learning about the city on my own, and I found it really helped. I realized that once I started actively seeking out things I liked about the city, I started to enjoy the experience more and more. I stopped dwelling on the fact I wasn’t in Des Moines, and started living in the moment. And then it hit me. I had overcome a very large obstacle. I had finally adapted to the culture around me.
Looking back on that experience, I can’t help but think about how it has prepared me for the “big kid” world I’ll be approaching in a few short months. The transition from college to career is a big change. I’ve been in school pretty much all my life, so being done is going to be really weird. I’m excited for what’s to come, but I know that it will be a big transition. I’ve adapted to living in a completely different country, though. I think I can handle it! And when the going gets rough, I’ll just have to spend some time looking for the things around me that I enjoy.
With that, I’ll leave you with a piece of advice. It’ something that I’ve heard numerous times back in the states, but it really started to have meaning when I arrived in London. Never ever let a challenge or the fear of failure stop you from achieving your dreams. Study abroad was a challenge for me at first. It’s my senior year, and I thought it would end up hurting my job prospects. Once I truly started to see the benefits of my time – confidence, independence and the ability to adapt to changing environments – it all made sense to me.
The challenge could have made my experience horrible if I would have let it. Instead I kept on keeping on and looking for things to make it better. And I’m thankful I did, because it gave my study abroad experience meaning. So if you’re thinking about studying abroad, don’t let the challenge of leaving what you know deter you from having the experience of a lifetime.