To my summer abroad in London,
All my life I have dreamed about traveling to England. Reading stories like “Harry Potter” and “A Little Princess” as a child and young adult caused me to dream about the sights, sounds and beauty of England, specifically London. I obsessively googled Big Ben, watched “Love Actually” one too many times and obsessed over the Royal Family every chance I got. It’s safe to say, I was a tried and true Anglophile and knew I needed to travel there.
At the beginning of my sophomore year of college, I had no plans for the summer between my sophomore and junior years. I wanted to get an awesome internship the summer between junior and senior year, had no plans to return to my hometown job and wasn’t keen on staying in my college town that summer. I started researching study abroad opportunities during boring lectures, just to see what was out there. I didn’t think I was actually going to be able to — for as much as I yearned to go to London, I was not financially or emotionally ready to jet set off to a foreign country for the first time alone for weeks.
Then, one day, I applied to the University of Westminster in London, just for the hell of it. I was slowly starting to convince myself that I was ready, that this was what I was meant to do this summer and that if I didn’t do it now I never would. I hit “submit” with an anxious knot in the pit of my stomach and an excited feeling in my heart; I knew this is what I should do this summer.
A few weeks later, I received my acceptance letter in my email inbox. I secured my spot, bought my plane ticket and began planning — and I didn’t think twice until it came time to drop me off at the airport. I sobbed saying goodbye to my boyfriend and family in the airport lobby — what was I doing? Was I really about to board a 10 hour plane ride to an entirely different country all by myself? I highly considered turning back as I descended the escalator into security, missing my flight and staying home for the summer. Needless to say, I was 100 percent completely terrified.
I tried to push my growing anxiety into the background as I boarded the plane and settled in for a long ride. But, my nervousness grew with every mile we flew away from my comfortable life in my hometown and towards the unknown of the next three weeks.
I landed in Heathrow and as my plane hit the tarmac, my first thought (I kid you not) was “okay, let’s get this over with.” I was excited, nervous and ready; but still wanted my family and the comfort of what I had known my whole life. As soon as I met the other people in my program, I instantly felt those nervous and anxious feelings disappear. In less than a day, the people in my program gave me a sense of family and comfort that I had not even felt from people I had known for years.
Looking back on the magical three weeks I spent abroad, I feel like an idiot for wanting to turn back. My experience abroad changed my life in every sense of the term and caused me to get the fatal bite from the travel bug. I cannot believe I ever doubted or took for granted the incredible opportunity I had been given and almost sacrificed not going because I was too afraid of what was to come.
I don’t know what I was expecting from studying abroad — honestly, I was too nervous to think about what would happen past actually getting there. I know I definitely wasn’t expecting it to change my perspective of everything about my life while simultaneously granting me the trip of a lifetime; a trip I’ll be talking about and annoying my Instagram followers with for years.
So thank you, London. Thank you for everything — for the people I met, for enabling me to see a Shakespeare play at the Globe Theatre, for causing me to take “random” weekend jaunts to Wales and Amsterdam (both of which were the most jaw-droppingly beautiful places I have ever seen). Thank you for causing me to get out of my comfort zone in every way possible, from the second I boarded my plane in D.C. until I took my seat on my flight out of Heathrow.
Thank you for all the crazy nights, all the Shakespeare plays I memorized, all the cider I learned to appreciate and all the amazing memories I’ll cherish forever.
Thank you for changing my life, London. Studying abroad was everything I could have ever dreamed of and more.
All other photos taken by author