Hey everyone! My name is Liz, and as some of you may know I am the Queen Mary University of London Global Opportunities intern for the fall 2022 semester. My home university in the United States is Pennsylvania State University (WE ARE) where I am pursuing a degree in Global Studies. This semester I have the incredible opportunity of studying in London with IES Abroad, where I am also taking a couple of courses. I believe that post-graduation I would like to pursue a career in Education Abroad, but am testing the waters with this internship over the next couple of months. As an introduction to myself, I wanted to share with you the perspective of a homesick student, who suffers from mental health issues, misses her family (and dogs), and is quite honestly struggling to feel comfortable in her new reality. By doing so, I hope to show you that if you relate to anything I’m saying, that you are not alone.
What my friend keeps telling me (shout-out to my girl Bridgette, bless her soul), is that this new reality is temporary. I am not permanently stuck in London, nor would many people complain if that were the case. But the truth is, I miss home. I miss my gym buddies who crazily wake up at 4 a.m. to go lift heavy things with me, I miss PA sunsets and the slow transition into fall, I miss my fur babies and their puppy kisses, I miss singing at the top of my lungs in my crappy 2009 subaru impreza, I miss Wawa (no explanation needed), I miss Target (also no explanation needed), and most of all, I miss my family. Cliché I know, but I think you need a little perspective…I live at home with my parents (no shame in that, I’m saving sooo much $) and have only a 10 minute commute to my home university. I am surrounded by my family daily and am now suddenly aware that I 1000% took that for granted. Another insight into my life that might help further understand my predicament, is that I live on a small farm and am used to being out in nature with our horses all the time. So basically I went from country to city and family to alone in a matter of hours, leaving me feeling abandoned in a place where I didn’t seem to fit in. Needless to say, I think it’s understandable for me to feel so out of place in a setting that is so different from my own.
If I come away from this experience with nothing else, I learned how much of a supportive, loving and wonderful family I have. I apologize for flaunting off my family, but I truly have gained a new outlook on my relationship with each and every member of my crazy hodgepodge crew. Philosophically, I think this will also change how I approach my relationship with others; you are only given so much time with them, why hold a grudge over who puts the dogs out next?
Back to London…I think what threw me for a loop regarding this new temporary reality, is that it isn’t the one I pictured in my head. By that I mean it’s not the London you see on social media where everything is glitzy and glamorous, nor is Big Ben right outside your doorstep. Instead there is enough air pollution to turn your boogers gray, a polluted Thames River running through
the city, a giant overpriced and glorified ferris wheel adjoining said river, and additionally for me, occasional motion sickness on the tube. I know it sounds like I am bashing the home of 9 million+ people, but that being said, please take everything I’m saying with a grain of salt. I am most definitely an introvert and you will not find me living it up in London’s nightlife. I’m also
not much of a drinker which does not exactly jive well in a city that is known for its pubs. What I’m getting at, is that how I perceive London is not how everyone else does. There are students in my program living their best lives – traveling to other countries, going to clubs, soaking up everything London has to offer, aka experiencing the “social media London.” But that’s not me, and that’s okay. Also disclaimer that these individuals are only sharing the highlight reels of their lives, potentially hiding any difficulties that their realities might possess. Ultimately try your hardest not to compare your lives to theirs – it’s unrealistic and unfair to yourself to do so.
For me, I instead find comfort sitting in the common area of my flat doing homework. I find comfort in watching Marvel movies on repeat. I find comfort in calling my family and friends from home just to talk about their day. I find comfort in making dinner for my flatmate. I find comfort in eating good foods that Jess recommended (visit the Global Opportunities Office – Room 213 in the Grad Centre to talk to Jess about food). I find comfort in stepping on crunchy leaves while I walk to the gym, and it’s a bonus if I see a dog on my way there too. There are a million small things that you can find comfort in. It will never be all sunshine and rainbows, life never is, but if you find the small things that make you smile, isn’t that better than feeling like you’re drowning in loneliness?
To end, one piece of advice I can offer is to reach out to those who know the area. It could be an advisor, a professor, a coworker, another student, etc., but ask them what there is to do in London that fits within your interests. Don’t always look to social media that will overhype certain locations or foods (I speak from experience). Instead, seek the support that you have around you. For me, I have the lovely Global opportunities team who have been so helpful by providing me with a plethora of food recommendations, all of which have been amazing so far, as well as lovely areas to take a stroll throughout the city. Keep in mind that most people are willing to help, you just have to take the leap and be willing to try.
If you take anything away from my endless rambling, please let it be to realize that this experience comes with an expiration date. Challenge yourself to slowly migrate out of your comfort zone so that you don’t look back and regret not trying something new (I am speaking to myself and also whoever else is willing to read this far). You’re already doing great by being here, so give yourself some leeway and love for jumping over the first hurdle. But know that if you make it over the ones ahead, there could very possibly be a wonderful experience, a great story or in my case, some delicious food on the horizon.