As I began my college search in high school, I knew studying abroad was an experience I needed to have. Having traveled to many locations around the United States during my childhood, I felt ready to conquer another country.
London was the dream location, of course, mostly because of my infatuation with the monarchy and Harry Potter. However, running some numbers made me realize “The Big Smoke” would break my bank – significantly.
I didn’t have an enormous amount of experience in any foreign language, except for a few French classes back in high school. My leftover knowledge of colors, food and a handful of numbers would not get me far in a crowd of Parisians.
United Kingdom it was then. Besides London, the other program available was a semester studying at Liverpool Hope University.
A vibrant city on the northwest coast of England, Liverpool is known for its plethora of museums and galleries, two professional football teams, exciting nightlife and home of Britain’s most famous rock group; The Beatles. Not to mention, only a three-hour train ride from London.
Sounds like a fantastic alternative.
In the months and weeks leading up to my departure, I prepped every aspect of my travels thoroughly. However, many people told me I could never be fully prepared to study abroad.
This became apparent to me less than 24 hours into my journey across the pond. The first leg of my flight from Chicago to London went without a hitch. So naturally, the travel gods decided they needed to bother me a bit.
My travel mates and I had an hour and a half layover in London until our connecting flight to Manchester departed. More than enough time to get through customs and security, right?
We seemed to get stuck waiting in every line – or queue as the British would say – that one could possibly get trapped in at an airport. The customs officer asked me at least 15 questions about my entrance into the country and carefully studied every official document in my possession.
Finally, we were allowed to pass and jogged to the line for security. We had less than 30 minutes until our flight would depart. I hurriedly took off my shoes and jacket and put my carry-on and personal items in bins. Then I watched as a security woman grabbed my carry-on bag off the line for a random search.
Why? Why my bag?
She carefully began taking each item out and inspecting them. I could not help being slightly annoyed. I nervously looked at my phone, checking the time. Only 10 minutes until departure.
As you probably guessed, we did miss our connector, but fortunately secured a new flight – departing 7 hours later. Ahhh!
So a day later than planned, we finally made it to our home for the semester in Liverpool. I have never been happier to see a bed and shower in my life.
As I experienced, nothing can truly prepare you for the unexpected surprises that occur when traveling. However, I have found that this is the most exciting part of studying abroad.
In the few weeks I have been here, I have met and befriended some incredible people. Students like myself who have goals and an appetite for adventure.
I have been lucky to view breathtaking sunsets along the River Mersey and awe at the historic architecture of Pier Head. I am beyond excited for all I will experience in the coming months and how it will shape me.
Bring on the unexpected surprises, Britain. I’m ready.
Study Abroad Contributor