Being in London for a few weeks, I love to reflect on all of the lessons I have learned along the way. I am so grateful for this unique opportunity to grow and understand my strengths and weaknesses coming into this journey. Here are three pieces of advice that I would share with anyone interested in studying abroad in general or in London specifically:
1. Communication can still be tricky. I had the misconception that I would not encounter any communication barriers because I was studying in another English-speaking country. You can imagine how astonished I was when I first asked for a garbage bag and housekeeping looked at me like I had two heads. In the United Kingdom, garbage or trash bags are referred to as bin liners or rubbish bags. Culture shock is a real thing and preparation is something that can help to ease the challenges of immersion in a new culture. Looking back, I wish I had done more research on etiquette and common phrases in the United Kingdom. When communicating with locals, there were many things I had to get used to. What is referred to as fries in the United States are called chips in the UK, and what I know as chips are referred to as crisps. An elevator is a lift, an apartment is a flat, a shopping cart is a trolley, a purse is a wallet, a jumper is a pullover sweater... it gets confusing if you are not prepared! Along with verbal communication, there are common physical communications that I had to quickly learn. An example is when on an escalator if you are not walking it is common etiquette to stand in a queue on the right side. Because I did not prepare for these differences in communication, it was so important for me to learn from others and remain open-minded.
2. Take every opportunity. The myriad of new things that I was presented with when first arriving in London was overwhelming. It is stereotypical to say an accounting major panics when things do not occur in order or as planned-in my case, this is true! I spent the first week overwhelmed and stubborn against trying new things, but as I became comfortable, I took the opportunities as they came and found myself having a much more enjoyable time. I obviously advise against trying dangerous or harmful things that you may encounter. But otherwise, experience it all! I had the opportunity to visit Dublin, Ireland because of a friend’s spontaneous plan and flights booked the night before! One of the most important things I learned is that you never know what incredible experiences you could have until you’re open to having them.
3. Pay attention. When I first arrived in London, I spent the cab ride to my flat with my eyes closed. Now, I wonder what thoughts and feelings I would have experienced if I were fully present. Unfortunately, I can never get back this moment; however, I carry this advice with me as I continue to explore the city. It is easy to throw my AirPods in and zone out on the tube, as I walk, or when I feel uncomfortable with silence. I challenge myself to be mindful and present as much as possible. Since doing this, I have noticed small details of the city that give it a new sense of beauty. Being fully aware allows me to truly engage in my surroundings and provides a more well-rounded experience.
Cheers to learning and living in London!