Studying abroad in London made me reflect on who I was, who I am, and who I want to be. The sound of “studying abroad” connotes a lot of “news” – at least for me. Exploring new cities and cultures, meeting new people, and discovering new passions. All of them were true, but in retrospect, it was more about making sense of myself by paying attention to how I felt during all the new experiences, encounters, and conversations that I had and looking back at how the past made the current self.
I came to London, pretty much feeling lost after finishing junior fall at Wesleyan University. The coursework was hard, facing the challenges of academic research, and not knowing what I wanted to do after college. The hardest thing was doubting myself, my passions, my surroundings, and the decisions that I made for myself. Of course, studying abroad was not an instant remedy but a gradual process that allowed me to re-realize that I am who I am today, thanks to all the ups and downs and eventually being able to accept and appreciate all of them.
I always wanted to come back to the UK as this was the place where my English learning started; As a kid, I remember the UK, especially London, being a very diverse city with people from a wide range of backgrounds when I joined the summer school. However, I chose to pursue undergraduate studies in the States as I wanted to experience interdisciplinary learning with the freedom to explore courses that would build towards my main interests in health policy and management. I also wanted to go to a liberal arts college with a small learning environment where I could have a close relationship with and have adequate support from faculties as I was not confident as an international student who was born and brought up in Japan until high school.
Academically, I found the University College London less demanding in terms of daily assignments and preparation for the courses largely due to more lecture-style learning; however, this does not mean which one is better or not. I found myself more relaxed and genuinely learning about the subjects that I care about rather than constantly feeling overwhelmed by being chased by deadlines. Here, I learned the importance of taking the balance between studying and having fun with a calm mindset that allows true learning. At the same time, I came to appreciate more about my home institution as its intense academic environment prepared me to feel so.
As a person who loves exploring good food, taking a walk, trying out new coffee, going to museums (almost all museums are free in London!!), and watching musicals, London was a dream place with its convenience and diversity. I could also visit other cities – Cambridge, Bath, and York – that each had unique histories and faces during my time here. However, what was more important for me was people who experienced all these things together, shared what we thought, exchanged our stories of how we got here, and gave me opportunities to reconfirm who and what I genuinely want to be surrounded by.
Looking back, I might be rushing and packing my schedule during my time at Wesleyan to fill up my lack of self-confidence and acceptance. Besides being exposed to a wide range of people, ideas, and values that I do not necessarily agree with, I lost confidence and started questioning myself. However, this study abroad experience allowed me to re-realize that it is fine to feel that way sometimes, but I should not be an enemy myself, and believing in and trusting myself, values, feelings, and thoughts are very important, mainly because the world is diverse, and each society has its own standards and norms. I learned that trusting myself enables me to trust and accept others, which would allow me to cherish differences that make the world a better and more beautiful place. I am beyond grateful for Wesleyan and IFSA, who gave me opportunities to realize all these important things.
Ransho Ueno is a student at Wesleyan University and studied abroad with IFSA at the University of London in Spring 2022.