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Things I Learned Studying Abroad

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To me, the city of London always felt like some sort of alternate universe. Seeing it in movies and ads always gave a tinge of familiarity, with the same lights and crowds as my home New York, but yet it still looked foreign- the double-decker buses, telephone booths, and thick accents. When I got the chance to study abroad in college, I knew that I wanted to go somewhere different from what I was used to. Something that would allow me to get out of my comfort zone, see new things, and most importantly – learn. Here are some things I learned studying abroad in London.  

– Don’t be afraid to try new things 

When I was in London, I found myself wanting to do new things without knowing where to start and questioning if I should do it. However, IFSA’s weekly newsletters gave me the courage and opportunity to attend events I would have never thought to go to and try new things that I discovered to love. Because of this, I got to experience London in a way that I had never thought of before, including trying delicious, hot curry at Brick Lane and attending the Hallyu! event at the V&A museum. IFSA constantly kept me updated on London fun, diverse events and travel advisories, which allowed me to feel safe while having fun in a new city.  

– it’s ok to feel homesick 

As someone who always considered themselves as independent, I rarely had the feeling of loneliness or homesickness. There is always something to do in London– cool museums, countless combinations of food cuisines, hundreds of vintage shops- but no matter how many places I went or activities I did, I still found myself thinking of home.  

Being away from home for so long made me find that being homesick is normal, and instead of pretending it didn’t exist, it was better to talk about it. I realized that my peers in and out of the IFSA program shared the same feelings as me, and we bonded over missing home, getting together for home-cooked meals on holidays and sharing stories about our hometowns and families. Studying abroad will not always just be comfortable- there will be moments that are so far from what we’re familiar with, but those are the times that lead to growing, finding new things and meeting new people. Being homesick isn’t a vulnerability, but it just shows that we’re human. 

– You dictate your study abroad experience 

The study abroad experience is often glamorized to be full of life-changing experiences, growth, and vacationing, to a point where I sometimes found myself pressured to always be “making the most” out of being abroad. Everyone studies abroad for different reasons, and nobody’s journey and goals are the same. I learned to listen to myself and reflect on what I wanted out of London. Sometimes what we want is travelling to the explore France, and sometimes it’s just reading at a cozy coffee shop or taking a stroll across Tower Bridge at night. I learned to be kind to myself and remind myself that everyone grows at different paces and times. Growing is not always one big noticeable change, and if we aren’t growing, we are not stagnant, but reflecting, and being wonderful the way we are currently. 

Sophia Wang is a student at Brandeis University and studied abroad with IFSA at Kings College London the Fall 2022 semester. She is an International Correspondent for IFSA through the Work-To-Study Program.