Dearest Her Campus Readers,
It’s been over a month since I moved into my London apartment for a semester abroad. While there’s tons I want to disclose – how to organize travel plans, my opinion on the living situation, how to combat jet-lag and more – there’s one thing that really stood out to me during the first week at my home for the semester: being abroad is a second chance to do your freshman NSO (New Student Orientation) right.
Now, I’m not sure what your NSO experience was like freshman year, but mine was anything but enjoyable. While I may be in the minority of Penn students who had a negative experience, I certainly know that I’m not alone. For me, freshman NSO was a blur of small talk, overpriced tickets for downtown events I didn’t love, feelings of FOMO when I felt too tired to go to so-and-so’s room in the Quad, and lots of unfulfilled exclamations of “let’s get coffee sometime!” along with stressful labels and name-dropping.
I’m a second semester junior now; I have two more NSO’s under my belt and, in retrospect, I look back at them and agree I had a fabulous time. But whenever I heard the legendary stories of some of my friends’ freshman year NSO experiences, I always felt like I missed out.
I arrived in London a week and a half before my classes started at the Queen Mary University of London. I did this with other students studying abroad in London so that we could adjust to the time difference and move into our respective living arrangements. We unknowingly made the best decision we could’ve: we created our own NSO.
Numerous students from Penn are spread out across the city of London. We attend different universities, are associated with different sororities, fraternities and clubs back on Penn’s campus, and all have different groups of friends. But we have this incredible link; we’re all new to this city and, as of right now, have a smaller circle of people we know within London.
In the first week and a half, I’ve had dinner with more people from different “groups” at Penn than I could’ve ever imagined. It’s an unfortunate truth that we tend to solidify our friend groups and then stay within these boundaries at Penn. Here in London, I can say that I was at dinner with a member of Elmos, Sammy, Tri Delt, and ZBT, and our affiliations didn’t matter. The week was full of non-stop exploring; I’ve been to more coffee shops than I can count (though shout-out to John at Avril coffee, I miss you the most). Our pre-games may be large, but they’re exciting and not overwhelming.
All of us abroad in London have matured since Freshman NSO. There’s no “un-cool” party, just newness and opportunity. This past week has been an NSO experience filled with museum visits, underground bars, countless tube rides, and miles walking in our new home (likely in the wrong direction). I have met so many new Penn individuals, but instead of small talk, we immerse ourselves in engaging conversations about our abroad bucket-lists and where we can find the best afternoon tea. And when I’m too tired to go meet people for drinks, I know that “status” is irrelevant and everyone will be just as excited to see me tomorrow.
I am so lucky to have experienced this. I know and hope that this friendliness and exploration will continue throughout the next few months of my abroad experience. I urge you to consider going abroad if you feel stuck in a specific place at Penn or if you want to take a leap and live somewhere new; and while I can’t guarantee you a pool party, I’m pretty sure your first week abroad will be infinitely fun.