Unfortunately, this will be my last update from London. I fly home April 18 and that definitely feels bittersweet.
I had been preparing for this program since my freshman year at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Now that it is over, and I graduate next month, I am proud of myself for what I accomplished and would not take a second of it back for the world. Here are some of the most important things I learned during my study abroad program.
1.) Independence is important. I have always been an introvert by nature and always enjoyed doing things by myself, but I never thought about it as independence. I achieved a goal I have been working years for and it took me on a journey of self-reflection. I knew coming here meant getting out and experiencing the city, not sitting in a dorm room wasting precious time. I will never be this young with this much free time on my hands again. I made the most of my days by writing lists of everything I wanted to accomplish. Anything I did not achieve on a given day would be put on the next day’s list.
2.) Surviving without technology. I am not a person who is constantly glued to their phone, but it is nice to know the internet is there when you need it anytime you need it. At my accommodations, the Wi-Fi was not always reliable, and my phone has been on airplane mode the last four months, only getting a connection when Wi-Fi is available. As a heads up, Wi-Fi is not available everywhere here. London spans a huge area, and it is easy to get lost. More than once, I have been somewhere without Wi-Fi and only had my sense of direction to get me where I needed to go. The first couple of weeks were hard, but I learned how to ask for directions, mastered the underground system and found myself able to tell anyone where to go without using a map.
3.) Be conscious and courteous to other people and their cultures. The world is an incredibly diverse place, and I hear at least 5 different languages over the course of a day here. Not everyone will hold the same beliefs, customs or language as you. However, it is important to at least try and learn about them and to appreciate where they come from. You may run into someone or travel to a country that does not share your first language, but communication is not impossible. Learn a few key phrases or about customs you may not have been aware of. People will always appreciate someone who tries over someone who is ignorant.
4.) Keep a journal. Studying abroad is one of the biggest journeys you might embark on. Write down all the things you did, saw, felt, the people you encountered, the food you ate or the music you heard. Write down everything that you think matters and want to remember. You can look back at this journal and see how much your thoughts, ideals and self changed over time. You can see how much you accomplished and be proud of yourself for everything you did
5.) We are all human, going at this thing called life together. Everyone is on a journey. You cannot tell someone how to walk theirs as much as someone can tell you to walk your own. We all have decisions to make and no one can tell you how to make yours. Life is what you make of it. So get out there and live.