Going abroad can be a very exciting time. Even just the beginning process of researching cities, talking with other students who may have traveled before you, organizing which other trips you’ll make with your friends can be a bit of a whirlwind. But what do you do when you finally selected your perfect location?
For me, I did a lot of the heavy research before I was admitted to QMUL’s study abroad program. I knew which countries I absolutely had to see, and which I could pass. I knew I wanted to be in a big city, and I wanted to ease some of the tensions that come with living somewhere where english isn’t the 1st language. But after getting accepted, I kind of dropped the ball. Being here for a month, I’ve thought of 5 dos and don’ts for the beginning of your transition to Queen Mary.
DO: Research the area you’re in.
I thought I knew everything there was to know about London. Fish and chips was the main meal. Afternoon tea was a mandatory staple. Everything I thought I knew about London from watered down TV shows or word of mouth was actually thrown out the window by the end of my first week. Even just the East End, where QMUL is located is full of so much possibility. There’s always so much to do in our part of London, whether it’s thrifting or a farmers market or a show.
DON’T: Get caught up on planning trips away from where you’re living.
This goes back to my first point. London is incredible for multiple reasons. Yes, it makes travel accessible, but there’s so much to do here, that you could spend every weekend exploring and you’d still have more to see. Some of my favorite places I’ve visited in London are Kensington and Camden. Those are two places I want to visit again, and there’s still so much more on my list. The first month of being in your new home should be dedicated to knowing it.
DO: Set up a plan for communication.
When I arrived in London, I figured I would still be able to use my phone because it has an international plan. But rather than actually checking if I had the plan, I was foolish and went in blind. My first two weeks in London were spent connecting to random free wifis whenever I was off campus, and heavily reserhing sim cards and burner phones as a replacement for my basically useless phone from home. Of course, there’s always 24 hour reception in France House, but it was really stressful and inconevenient having to call back and forth with my phone service and my mom, trying to figure out what I was going to do about my lack of data. This was something I easily could have taken care of at home, but I never thought in today’s day and age I’d have a problem with communication.
DON’T: Spend all your money buying a whole new wardobe.
For me, it was very tempting to want to buy completely new things to start my new experience abroad. I love clothes and shopping, so the idea of immersing myself in “London Fashion” had me reaching for my wallet. When I arrived, not only did I realize that most of what everyone wore, I also wore, but the things I may have wanted I could easily purchase while actually in London. In fact, some things, like jackets and boots made more sense to purchase here.
DO: Pack early and efficiently.
I definitely devoted too much room in my suitcase to clothes. Ideally, I should have used more space to bring things from home, like my favorite snacks, bedsheets, school supplies, and other necessities. Although almost everything I could get in the States I could also get here, it would have been cheaper to make a Costco run before coming abroad and dealing with the high conversion rate. Also, having a familiar blanket or other things that connect you to home really ease the transition.
Ultimately, your experience abroad will be full of dos and dont’s, but it’s all part of the learning experience. It’s really important to go in with an open mind and excitement for what’s to come.