That Time I Studied Abroad

Three years ago, while looking for colleges, one of the main qualifications I considered was its study abroad program.  Ever since I was young, I’ve wanted to study, live and travel in a foreign country, and Monmouth University was the school with the best prospects to accomplish this.  The first week of freshman year, I had every bit of information printed on the 2011 Spring program – even though I did not intend to participate until Fall 2012.  I planned every semester’s schedule around the classes I wanted to take abroad, and I knew from the get-go that I wanted to have as many free electives as I could whilst in Europe.

Coming from a town of 3000 people (and 4000 cows), going to a city of millions sounds like a daunting move, but the city of London welcomed Monmouth University with open arms.  Within a week, I was able to navigate the tube with ease, and tourists were asking us for directions. 

My classes met around the city.  Every week, my art history class met in the National Gallery, and we learned about Renaissance masters in front of their most famous paintings.  My Social History and Architecture classes took me to places such as Westminster Abbey, Bloomsbury and the National Maritime Museum.  My theatre class allowed me to go to eight musicals, the price completely included in tuition.  It has always been informative to learn in a classroom, only looking at things. It was downright inspiring to learn in a city, literally in front of subject            

The city of London is a vibrant combination of the old and the new – showcasing some of the World’s best art, history and landmarks, blended seamlessly with some of the best entertainment and nightlife Europe has to offer.  From spending the afternoon at the Tower of London to partying in Piccadilly Circus, London had a lot to offer students.

The city lived up to all of the historical expectations that I had going in.  Between the museums (all of which were free to get into), the landmarks (the Tower of London being my favorite) and the famous stores, the history geek in me was more than pacified. 

The entertainment was also second to none: I saw Ed Sheeran in concert, Sweeney Todd in its closing days, and went to the premiere of the final Twilight film in Leicester Square, all things I would not have been able to do had I not been in London.

The food, on the other hand, did not live up to expectations.  After eating “British-style food” in American restaurants, I thought that I at least enjoyed fish and chips.  I was very, very wrong.  Every time the refectory served some sort of British cuisine, many students were immediately turned off.  Our first meal was bangers and mash, and seeing a roll of sausage on top of mashed potatoes was stomach turning, to say the least.  We were able, however, to find a few things in the refectory that we enjoyed, and found restaurants around Regents that we enjoyed on the weekends.

I travelled to many other places, including Dublin, Paris, Milan, Wales and Prague.  I also took a day trip to Stonehenge and Bath.  My two favorite trips were Paris and Dublin; I would go back to either in a heartbeat.  It was always nice, however, to come “home” to London after a weekend away.         

 I learned a lot while in London.  The best part of studying abroad was the realization that having never lived in a city, and having never been in a foreign country for so long, that I was able to not only navigate and live, but to feel at home.  Nothing but studying abroad would ever be able to give me that comfort, and because of this, I feel as though I could be in any city or country, and be able to adapt to the place and situation.  Studying abroad was the best decision I have made in college, and is an experience that I will carry with me the rest of my life.

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