Reflecting on Challenges of Living Abroad

Hannah Oliver, Global Business Institute London: International Business Issues and the City of London Summer 2022

Spending the last six weeks living in London has given me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to develop professionally, academically, and personally. It seems like just yesterday I was pacing around the airport before boarding my first ever international flight. However, since then I have found a home in London, completed two classes and an internship abroad, and took six more international flights to visit Paris, Dublin, and Venice.

I have learned so many valuable skills from the City of London. The three most prominent life skills I am bringing back to America with me are communication, cultural awareness, and time management. Gaining these skills was not easy. Social media and many blogs focus on the positive aspects of being abroad. Of course, the amazing, optimistic details are what people naturally want to share, myself included! But in reality, I faced many challenges that surprised me.
Since moving to Pittsburgh, I have always lived with some of my closest friends so moving into a small flat with four strangers with four different living styles was a challenge. It was a huge adjustment that forced me to be confrontational and refine my communication skills to maintain a comfortable living environment. Refining my communication skills also played a significant role in my internship. The organizational culture of my internship was relaxed and self-directed. This was very different compared to my prior professional experience, which was fast-paced and required a specific allocation of tasks. I had to learn to adapt to office dynamics and a company culture that was new to me.
At work, I also was very immersed in a new culture not only because all of my coworkers resided in the UK, but also because they all were members of the Turkish Cypriot community. By communicating with my coworkers and being open-minded, I could adapt to occasional language barriers and differences in work style. Along the way, I was introduced to traditional Turkish Cypriot food, engaged in conversation about their cultural perspectives, and learned about influential figures and the history of Türkiye (one of the many things I learned: this year, the Republic of Turkey rebranded and is now observed under the United Nations as the Republic of Türkiye). One of my goals when traveling to London was to engage in the culture of the city. I was lucky to engage in a diverse culture during my internship. But, to meet other locals, I had to go out of my comfort zone to initiate conversation. At first, this was difficult for me but as I became more comfortable, meeting Londoners became natural. I am so thankful for all the new relationships I developed over the past six weeks and feel that my goal to grow in cultural awareness was achieved.
Before arriving in London, I overestimated how much free time I would have to explore the city. During the first weeks, I found myself overwhelmed having to manage class, my internship, new friendships, and my time to sightsee. I seemed to always have a full schedule and before learning to manage my time I sacrificed sleep and time for myself. It was so important for me to learn to balance my schedule. By adjusting my lifestyle to keeping a calendar, planning ahead, and allocating time to care for myself, I began a routine that was more comfortable for me. I now feel like I more fully understand how imperative time management is and will continue to use the tactics I implemented in London in my day-to-day schedules.

Traveling across the pond was an experience that allowed me to truly engage in a new culture and opened doors for me in my studies of international finance. I will eternally be grateful for the skills I learned, the people I met, and the incredible experiences I had in London. This opportunity has shaped my global perspective in so many ways and would not have been possible without the support from Pitt Business, Pitt Global Experience Office, and donors who are passionate about giving students the ability to study abroad
I am lucky to have called the incredible City of London home for these six weeks. Thank you for following me along this journey.
Cheers, London!