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London Calling: Reflecting on a Semester Abroad

In a fog of finals frenzy, I will take on the enormous task of repacking everything I brought with me across the ocean three and a half months ago, and finding space for the souvenirs and gifts I’ve accumulated over time. That’s right – the end is near, and I’ll soon be back in the United States after a full semester abroad.

The thought of leaving London is bittersweet. After missing Thanksgiving with my family and being bombarded with the city’s Christmas paraphernalia as early as November 1, I’m 100% ready to go home. I’m dying to see my friends and eventually prepare for next semester after a nine-month hiatus from Siena life. I’m also just eager for a month of relaxing – hanging out at home in my pajamas and binge-watching Christmas movies sounds absolutely amazing right now. I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t craving a good old Long Island bagel.  

However, on the other hand, the thought of leaving this amazing city behind is devastating. I still have moments after a class walk through new, unknown areas or a night out with my roommates when I think, “I have to come back and live here for real.”

 

There is still so much out there that I didn’t get to see or experience, and something about the British lifestyle just screams out to me in a gust of relatability. During late nights of homework and tea, my tired mind drifts off to the idea of graduate school here, but fears of loneliness and homesickness shoo it away. Living here on my own would be far different from now, when I get to live in an incredibly central, safe area with American flatmates who are in the same expatriate situation as I am.

What is it about certain places that make it feel like home? Is it the people or the location? From almost the beginning of the semester, I’ve said that I could happily live in London if I had family or friends with me. Although the picture is blurry, I can imagine a satisfying life here.

However, I’m fortunate to have been raised a half-hour train ride away from Manhattan. New York City has always been right there, constantly reminding me of its possibilities. Somehow, it already feels like home – I know its streets, love its culture, understand the ways of its people, and have nearly everyone I love nearby on Long Island or somewhere else in the American Northeast.

When you’re growing up and must decide where to live and work, what do you sacrifice in the process? The chance to have Europe as your backyard or a similar, if not better, urban lifestyle with your friends and family right there with you?

Studying abroad has definitely made me think more about this future decision, but for now, I’m content to reflect on what has happened this past semester.

I’ve lived and become friends with four amazing roommates, who have done everything from taking care of me when I was sick to encouraging my weird sense of humor. As we scatter to our various parts of the world, I know I’ll be able to text an old inside joke to them and get a healthy dose of nostalgia in response.  

 

I’ve completed an internship in a field I hope to end up in someday and even wrote a full-length, feature piece by the end of the semester.

I’ve conquered London’s rush hour on a regular basis, becoming one of those skilled commuters who can power through a tube station regardless of how much sleep they had the night before.

I’ve visited places I could only dream about back home, fulfilling some of my greatest travel ambitions.

 

I relived my childhood and excited my inner fangirl, visiting the sets and inspirations for my favorite books and films.

 

I gained global perspective when I was in Amsterdam during the Paris terrorist attacks, wandering the quiet, peaceful city the next day and learning that the best thing to do after an international tragedy is to carry on.

 

Most importantly, I’ve become incredibly independent and more capable of doing things on my own. I’ve taken international flights, early-morning bus rides, and weekend errand runs all alone. I’ve learned to rely on my Kindle for entertainment on public transportation and mastered the art of airport security lines after being able to count my number of flights taken before this semester on one hand. I know where my limits of what I can do alone are; yet, I’ve learned that they often exceed more than what I give myself credit for. If you told me in August that I would travel to a hostel in Rome via plane, train, and my own two feet while completely alone and fit a week’s worth of clothes and toiletries in just a backpack, we’d both have a good laugh.        

If you’re on the fence about studying abroad, take that leap of faith. No matter where you end up, the knowledge you will gain about yourself, other people, and the world is priceless. Sure, do it for the pictures, but also do it for yourself. There will be moments of homesickness, fatigue, and frustration, but this is all quickly forgotten when you reach the end of the semester and look back at all that you’ve done. You definitely will not regret it.  

Kristen is a 2017 graduate of Siena College with a degree in English and minors in Writing & Communications and Journalism. Although she constantly pines for life in London after studying there for a semester, she calls New York home for now. In addition to previously working as a writer and Senior Editor for Her Campus Siena, she has worked for Her Campus as a News and Pop Culture blogger and a national editorial intern. Kristen has previously written for New York Minute, London's Health and Fitness, and Electronic Products. She makes far too many references to "Friends" and the British royal family. Her blog, where she talks about books, TV, and film, can be found at Bookworms and Fangirls. Follow her on Twitter @kperroney.
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