Falling In Love with London

Out of the many memories when starting out college, I remember repeatedly hearing about study abroad over and over. Endless flyers plastered with the faces of smiling students in front of great monuments such as the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower and the Colosseum floated along the tables of freshman orientation and the club fairs.

Looking up from the many flyers, bright faces of the study abroad administrators mimicking the exact expression of those on the flyers, I was curious to see if studying abroad really felt as good as these people were conveying with their eager disposition. Although I never really thought I would be going on such a grand trip in the midst of my undergrad career, deep down I knew that I should whatever I could to get on one of these study abroad trips; even though too many internships seemed to fog up my brain as to how I should really be spending my quarters and summers.

Even more so, the most frequented phrase when talking to upper classmen about their time spent at UCLA, was attributed to going on a study abroad program and how it changed their lives, or that they wish they would’ve. Although this was a bit dramatic, I always pondered the idea of going on a trip that would be close to “changing” my life, whatever that would entail. This then brought me to think about the times I had traveled, and how I did enjoy it, but not in a life-changing way. There was something about the way the students talked about going on a study abroad and how they made it seem uniquely intriguing. I was curious as to what about these trips that made them so magnificent…

Fast forward to my second year of college, and distant whispers of trips to Florence and England suddenly drifted throughout my English classes. My mind traveled back to all those club fairs at orientation and to the many flyers on Bruin Walk. My senses were awakened. “Hmm” I had thought to myself, maybe this is the time to see if my life can really be changed like the way the students had depicted.

So I collected a flyer. I went to a meeting. Of course brought it up to my family.

I was left thinking: could I really end up going? The possibility seemed too unlikely. Too much money, not enough time. Seemingly, there seemed to be more important things I could be doing.

But then, it happened. Signed up, figured out all the issues that came along, and I found myself on a plane to London, England.

Sitting here now, looking back at the trip, I can’t really tell you exactly what felt so special about London. I mean of course, it’s a grand city. There are so many great things. But there is something about how I felt there that really made me feel like I evolved a bit as a person (plus had some really great coffee mixed in there too). The idea of learning about a place, reading about the people and the history, walking by those same places painted in books, is simply inspiring.

Being able to go somewhere far away and learn about such great things is amazing. But I will honestly never be able to tell you how it feels to do study abroad, or explain why it is so good. It is just something to take a leap of faith for, to experience it.

On a less exciting note, I didn’t really think about the weird section of time summer after my study abroad. Giving me not much time to find a job or internship, but enough time to feel like I was wandering aimlessly, not doing anything too productive. I figured I would go back to my normal day-to-day activities. But after spending a few weeks’ jam packed with trying to experience everything there is in London and going home to a weird in-between stage, was very interesting. I felt before, that being so busy on a study abroad trip and coming home would be relaxing but, it actually felt reversed. I felt that I was losing the momentum that I had experienced so much in London. One thing the upperclassmen didn’t seem to discuss much, was what it felt like after something as big as study abroad. Of course this happens many times on trips or vacations that you cherish. Leaving anything good or comforting will tend to give you a bleak feeling when you get back, but I didn’t expect it to feel so strange. Nonetheless I knew that I would have to do something to keep myself from going crazy.  The best thing that I could recommend is trying to accommodate a new routine for yourself at home. Write about your experience and try to do productive things while there. Make plans for the future and try to focus your goals. The time after coming home from a big trip like that, is paramount to your growth going into the new school year, or the new job, or really anything. The experiences that you went through while going on the study abroad, good or bad, will alter how you think for years to come, thus will affect the outcome of your character. Curating yourself after the trip and taking time to learn about the individual that went abroad for a while is the most important.

So even though you may feel a bit sluggish after your study abroad trip, try your best to get on your feet and strive to keep the momentum you had. 

Photo Courtesy: Micaela Harris