Each morning I wake up and write down three things that I believe would make the day great (it’s in a book called the Five-Minute Journal for anybody interested). Looking back on my past five days in London, I’ve realized that I’ve had five great days.
Day 1: Monday, August 28
What would make today great? Peace of mind.
On Monday, I walked away from my family and into the security line at Chicago O’Hare Airport. My whole body shook as tears streamed down my face. I embarked on my journey abroad knowing nobody. As I sat down at my gate, I was surprised to find three other AIFS students in my program there too. I began to breathe and realize that I wouldn’t have to start these four months in another continent alone. Soon, another AIFS student arrived, her face looking just as panicked as mine. She was also coming abroad knowing nobody, and we quickly bonded over our identical trip anxieties and fears. The 8-hour flight was tough, but when this girl, Maddy, asked me to come sit with her the time moved quickly. I knew I was extremely lucky to have gotten off the plane having made what I knew would be a close friend. For the first time, I felt at peace with myself and the situation.
Day 2: Tuesday, August 29
What would make today great? Meeting new people.
I arrived at Heathrow airport on Tuesday and knew I was about to have a jam-packed day despite my lack of sleep on the flight and impending jetlag. One of my biggest fears about studying abroad alone was making friends. I felt great coming off the plane with a friend, but knew I still had to put myself out there to make more. While my whole body sank with sleepiness, I forced myself to go on the walking tour AIFS hosted that day after moving in. I was surprised at how easy it was to talk to the others and how quickly I made friends. I began to realize that many people in the program also came alone and were eager to befriend others. It reminded me a bit of my freshman year of college, moving into a new dorm full of scared and excited people. It can get overwhelming, but I think it’s extremely important to attend events and be social the first few days of the abroad program. Show jet lag who’s really boss, and have a full day filled with meeting new people.
Day 3: Wednesday, August 30
What would make today great? Talking to mom.
One of the harder parts about my transition to London was the time-change. In college and over the summer, I was used to talking to my family in the morning before school or work, but could not longer do that with the 6-hour time difference. Waking up at 8 AM in London meant it was 2 AM in Chicago, so nobody in my family was able to answer. Every morning, this small change made me remember that I had moved across the world, a terrifying and thrilling thought. I knew it was important to take time out of my busy day to talk to my family, and I found that calling midday or late at night before bed was my best bet. Although my conversation with mom was quick, it helped ease my nerves to hear a familiar voice and get to share all the exciting things I had seen and done in the past few days.
Day 4: Thursday, August 31
What would make today great? A workout.
While that detail may seem small, working out was a part of my home routine that I hoped to incorporate into my schedule in London. I was surprised to find that my campus did not have an available gym, so I had to partake in an activity I was terrible at: running. I’ve never been good at running, but luckily living [close to a park] made this activity a lot more enjoyable. Getting to see the beautiful [views] in the morning (along with countless dogs) made me excited to wake up and run, no matter how sore I got. It was comforting to be able to continue an activity that I did at home and I found this important in my transition to living in a new country. Change has always been something I’ve struggled with, so doing this familiar activity helped ease my nerves.
Day 5: Friday, September 1
What would make today great? Finding a new place.
On this day, my friends, Maddy, Lauren, Emily, and I decided that the best way to see London was to be a complete tourist for the day. We decided to go on the Big Bus: a double decker bus tour of London. While it may seem silly to do such blatant tourist activities while trying to adapt into a new culture, I found it to be a great way to get my bearings of the city. The great thing about the Big Bus was you could get on and off as you pleased, so we got off in Soho and explored the ins and outs of the area. It’s very important to resist the urge to stay in bed all day despite jet lag and go out and about and explore the country you’re abroad in for the semester. Each day, I try to find something I didn’t see before, whether it be a coffee shop or museum or new street sign.
My first five days in London were filled with ups and downs. Change is something I’ve always struggled with, and needless to say moving across the world for a semester is not easy. However, each day I kept finding something to do to make it great, and this is something I take with me each day in life. Studying abroad comes with tough times, so I recommend finding a positive moment in each day and holding onto that to make your experience great.
This post was contributed by Samantha Strausser, who is studying abroad with AIFS in London, England.