London Lessons

I'm more than halfway through my study abroad experience and as it continues to wind down I can't help but reflect on what has truly been the most incredible experience. Prior to my departure everyone had assured me of just this, that it would be life changing and all. I had nodded along in agreement, but to be honest I didn't start to revel in it until more recently. As of December I had barely been out of the U.S. and now here I am living in London and traveling across Europe. I'll have hit 7 countries before returning home and thats not something I had even dreamt of accomplishing at 20 years old. I'm not trying to get all philosophical and cheesy (although would it even be my blog if I didn't?), but studying abroad really has matured me and I've picked up a few lessons along the way...

1. You can't hit it all and thats okay:
I had made lists upon lists of all the places I wanted to see and all the things I wanted do. But the reality is 3.5 months is nothing in the scheme of it all, especially when life is as fast paced as its been. Despite all the traveling, seeing and experiencing I was doing, I kept feeling myself freak out over all the things I hadn't done. Of course I wanted to see Budapest, Berlin and Barcelona, I wanted to hear more live music in London and I wanted to try every gluten free hotspot; but its just unrealistic. Instead of obsessing over what I haven't done, I've been really trying to enjoy the things I have done and continue to experience London in the time I have left. Sometimes the unplanned adventures are the best anyways. The world isn't ending come April 19 and I'll be back for Berlin, Budapest and Barcelona.

2. Decide your own experience: 
I know some people that have spent their study abroad experience traveling every weekend and others who have chosen to stick closer to their (temporary) homes. Personally, I found a balance between the two. I've had plenty of free weekends to explore London and really acquaint myself with the city, but I've also done my fair share of traveling. There isn't one way to do it. You don't have to travel every break, but you also don't have to stay behind if thats not your jam either. Plan it all out how you want and don't let any other pressures influence you. I know its cliché and all, but it really is a once in a lifetime experience. There aren't rules here, you get to make it up as you go.

3. Afternoon Tea fixes everything: 
I wasn't much of a tea drinker prior to my arrival, but I've slowly come around and by come around I mean become totally obsessed (I say as I sip my Harrods Georgian blend.)  Tea isn't even really my point here, because obviously not everyone studies in England. The point is to embrace your host country's culture and let new traditions be a part of your post abroad self. But for the record, afternoon tea really does fix everything.

My best afternoon tea recommendations: Harrods (duh) and The Reuben for a more traditional experience. Sketch for a cooler one - its the most Instagrammed restaurant in London. Need I say more?

4. Don't be afraid to do your own thing: 
Meeting people is a huge part of studying abroad and the group of friends I've found here has been a highlight of the experience. But at times when I don't have class or homework and my friends do, I'll bring along a book to the coffee shop I've been meaning to try out. If people are traveling and I'm not, I'll check out a market I haven't been to or explore a neighborhood I haven't seen. Just because people are busy or uninterested in checking something out that you're interested by, doesn't mean you should miss out on an opportunity to do it. One of the advantages of studying abroad is the independence it brings.

5. Go for it: 
Try new restaurants, explore new neighborhoods, go out to new bars, travel to all the places you've dreamt about. If there is one time in your life to really just go for it, its now. Chances are you aren't going to get another experience like studying and living abroad; and there are so many opportunities that come along with it. Make the most of the time you have. I've probably done so much growing up because I branched out so much. Just "yolo" and all that.


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