I’ve been in London for a week now. My study abroad didn’t start out exactly the way I expected. However, I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that things not going how you expect them to while traveling does not necessarily mean things are going badly.
I planned on my first blog post being a reflection from the airport about my pre-trip anticipation and anxiety. But then my flight was delayed 2 and a half hours and I was too worried about making my connecting flight to focus and write anything decent. Traveling by myself makes me a little anxious so, at the time, it seemed like a much bigger deal that it was. Even though, logically, I knew everything would work out, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d never make it to London – but of course I did. I made my connecting flight, and it turned out that even if I hadn’t, there would have been two later flights available that night. There was no need to stress at all.
For those doing a study abroad, it’s important to remind yourself that you’re never on your own if there are problems with your flight. If you stay calm and ask for help, airport employees will do whatever they can to get you where you need to go. That’s their job! AIFS will also provide you with a number to call if things go wrong. No matter what, you’ll make it to your temporary new home.
Once I got to London, I thought that I needed to go out immediately and try to make friends within my program. My roommate and I were so jet lagged that we just didn’t have it in us, so we stayed in the first couple nights. I was worried that everyone had gone out, found their new group of friends, and I would be left out. Then, while we were waiting for an orientation meeting to start, two other girls asked if my roommate and I wanted to go sightseeing with them. We spent the rest of the day being tourists together and having a good time seeing Big Ben and The National Gallery. I’ve had a lot of fun with them this week. I thought that I wouldn’t find my group, but it feels like my group found me.
If you’re worried about trying to find people you mesh with while studying abroad, rest assured you will. Your new friends might not be anything like your friends from home, but that can be a good thing. I think spending time with different kinds of people helps you grow as a person.
One day, I had to find my way home without my new friends to help me. For class, our teacher took us to a museum. At the end, she told us we could wander around as long as we wanted and gave us very general directions on how to get back to the dorms. From there, we were on our own. Most of my classmates were planning to stick around for a while, but I was feeling a little tired and ready to head back. I quickly realized I wasn’t sure where I was going. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s feeling totally lost. I felt myself getting upset when I couldn’t find the tube station and frustrated when I wound up getting on the wrong line, and even a little dumb because London’s underground system is really pretty simple. Of course, it happens to everyone at some point. The most important thing is I made it home safe.
When you’re exploring your new city, it’s pretty likely you’ll end up lost at least once. My advice is to take a moment to breathe, because I’m sure you’ll be frustrated and maybe a little scared depending on your surroundings. Then, try brainstorming all possible solutions. Do you have international data? If so, using your phone’s GPS to get home safely is worth the charges to your bill. Can you speak the language? In my case, yes. I had the option of popping into a store and asking an employee for directions. Do you have money for a cab or other public transportation? There’s always a way home. Just keep calm and you’ll figure it out.
Being abroad can be overwhelming, especially in the beginning. I was trying to get to London, connect with new people, and get to know the city as quickly as possible. I’ve found that there’s no rush. Things usually work out if you just go with flow.