At my university the majority of students choose to study abroad. In many ways I feel we take for granted this once in a lifetime opportunity. During the application process the campus is buzzing with abroad conversation that seems almost trivial, where did you apply?Nice, I’ve heard such great things about it there. We’ll have to meet up in [insert picturesque European city here]! I can’t wait to stalk all your photos. The months leading up to my departure were of course exciting, but if I’m honest, more overwhelming than anything. I couldn’t keep everyone’s plans straight, nor did I want to. Now this is not to say that I don’t love my university or peers, I just wasn’t willing to get lost in the details of the “best experience” of someone else’s life. London for me was an escape from the everyday. London was a chance to unplug.
Once I arrived, I realized how little planning I had done. Sure, I had loosely committed to some weekend trips and generally, kinda, maybe knew where Queen Mary was located. Then I remembered my friends’ endless research and wondered if I my laissez fare attitude would end up screwing me over; for a moment I panicked. Why didn’t I survey London on Google Earth during the summer? I should have asked friends for recommendations and put together an itinerary already. It’s not like me to make impulse decisions and I definitely don’t have a great sense of direction (or any at all, really) to rely on. Winging it felt dangerous. But by that point, I didn’t really have a choice. Unlike my friends who booked hostels the same night they received their letter of acceptance from their program, I found my “unpreparedness” actually worked in my favor. I had no expectations of what three months in a new city would look like or how I’d fit in. I realize now that I allowed London to show itself to me.
I wasn’t disappointed in anything because it was all a surprise. Restaurants taste better when you don’t stress over their rating on Trip Advisor and national monuments are more iconic when you happen to stumble upon them. It was easier for me to laugh when things went wrong because I was so impressed by everything else. It’s certainly not comfortable to put your trust in the unknown, but I believe that the pay off is worth it.
I’ve struggled to completely capture my feelings towards London when friends and family ask me. I absolutely loved the city, the friends I made, and the experiences I was afforded. I’d go back tomorrow if I weren’t trying to graduate on time. What I can articulate clearly however is how thankful I am not to have not taken myself too seriously. I urge you to make it up as you go. Don’t impose what you’ve read or been told on a place. The quality of your time abroad isn’t measured in how much you did or didn’t accomplish relative to a travel guide or your friend’s blog. Do the touristy things of course, but please give yourself the freedom to create unexpected memories. Though I figured I’d miss out, I learned that taking the train in the wrong direction of the airport for nearly forty minutes means an extra forty minutes of conversation with dear friends.
I didn’t plan on seeing Dave Matthews Band (one of my all time favorites)…and I never imagined it be possible to get so close.
Looking at this pink bird prompted some guy to call every bird in Barcelona over and place it on my body, very random. My friends and I reference it every time we see a bird now. Who would have thought?
Free bottle of Prosecco on my birthday—an already great day made even better.