Home Customized Faculty-Led Study Abroad: Expectations vs. Reality

Study Abroad: Expectations vs. Reality

Last Updated on March 3, 2020 by AIFS Abroad Customized Faculty-Led

Study abroad comes with lots of expectations. You’ve dreamed of this moment for a long time and now it’s finally happening! Undoubtedly, reality will hit but that isn’t always a bad thing. Mickey Nielsen, London Business Semester student from University University of St. Thomas , has been on study abroad for the past four weeks. Read below on her expectations and the reality she has experienced so far:


The expectation when taking those first steps in London is to feel accomplished, excited, purposeful, and ambitious. Studying abroad takes months of planning for students and faculty. So, when the day comes to actually go to that country and get started, all that hard work should feel like it was worth it. I anticipated walking out of the airport, excited to get started with my journey. I had pictured myself as Lizzy McGuire when she traveling around Rome with theme music playing in the background. In reality, life did not happen exactly like in the movies, but I was still excited.

Study Abroad: Expectations vs. Reality I AIFS Customized Faculty Led Programs


The Minnesota, USA and London, UK weather in September can be very similar. So, when taking those first steps out of the airport, I felt almost like the pilot thought he was funny, flew in circles for 8 hours and then dropped us off back in Minnesota. It didn’t feel at all like we were in another country some 3, 977 miles away.

I was so excited to be in another country. However, I was feeling quite a bit out of my comfort zone and I was tired, getting hungry, and needed a shower. I also had known a total of one person that was going on this same trip before departure and so I was feeling a bit shy and anxious as well. It wasn’t long until I realized that this was completely normal.

The first week in London

When we arrived AIFS staff, Bea and Mike, met us in the airport. They escorted us to the academic heart of London where the AIFS Student Centre is located. We were taken to a room at Student Central, part of the University of London Students Union opposite the AIFS Student Centre. To our delight, there was some sandwiches, snacks, fruit, crisps and drinks for us to eat after our long flight. That afternoon, AIFS staff sent us off in pre-arranged taxi’s to our homestays. Overall, this day was a blur. I can recall speaking with my homestay Mum and roommate. We went over introductions and a few house rules. We unpacked, showered and then all I remember was passing out into a deep sleep!

The next day, my study abroad expectations began to come true. We were in full tourist mode for the rest of the week. Aside from our orientation meeting, we went on walking, bus and boat tours! We saw the London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace and Big Ben! Did you know, Big Ben is actually the name of the bell and the tower is called the Elizabeth Tower? Our Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook accounts were full of exciting stories and posts; I’d say I took around 400 photos!

Study Abroad: Expectations vs. Reality I AIFS Customized Faculty Led Programs

It didn’t feel like we were there to be students. We were still in tourist mode. Our next week of classes would be a bit to get used to but many of us invited the idea of routine.

Mickey Nielsen is studying on an AIFS Customized Faculty-Led Program through the University of St. Thomas on the London Business Semester. Follow along with her time in London:

Blog: Travel With Mickey

Instagram: HeyMickeyyy




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