I was scared to go to London, not at first, but near to the day of departure I was out of my mind with worry. There were a thousand things going on in my life and it just didn’t feel right to leave home and friends behind. I was scared that I’d made the wrong decision to go for three weeks, scared that everything wouldn’t be in its place when I came back. That a boy I liked might forget all about me, that my friends would cease to remember or miss me. I was also scared that I would be totally alone in London. Being alone is one thing, wandering the streets of a beautiful place I thought it would make me feel like the last person in the world.

Now, I wouldn’t trade my experiences in London for anything. I didn’t realize before I boarded the plane that the next time I stepped foot on American soil I’d be a different person. A better person. I have London to thank for that, I have the other students I met to thank for that as well. London taught me so much not only about myself but about people and tested me in ways that made me grow deeper in my character, to be stronger.

Before this trip, I never thought that I could be so open to new experiences, to understanding people that were totally different from myself. I never thought I’d make lifelong friends in three weeks; friends that have made such an impact on my life that If I hadn’t met them, I’d be less of a person because of it. I realized that it’s okay to mess up and to go the wrong way several times in the tube system and metaphorically speaking, because no matter how much I got lost, I knew I could figure it out, eventually. That messing up by turning our punting boat in all different ways in the Thames river in front of the Oxford graduation class, might be embarrassing but gosh seeing people loving life and being happy, graduating Oxford University, I’d mess up all day to see that again! It didn’t hurt either that me and my boat mates were eventually saved by a hot British boating instructor Sal. That I learned so much in my fantasy literature class, than I might have ever learned in a English class before. That I saw beautiful things in museums and city streets and seeing them alone, or with another person, or the whole section of study group B and realizing I should never have been afraid because life is beautiful and people are wonderful if you give them the chance. If you think people don’t surprise you anymore or that no one will be kind or see you for yourself again – think again, because I thought I wouldn’t be surprised, that I wouldn’t make deep connections and have a good time. I am so happy that I was so wrong!

London was wonderful and everything about it seemed surreal and wonderful. I have a thousand stories I could have told about why London was one of the best times of my life, though it was one of the most challenging, but I think the journey isn’t about the destination though it may be awe inspiring, transforming and freaking cool. The real journey is how it changes you for the better, how the journey makes you see yourself in a new light. It didn’t matter what I was leaving behind for only a few weeks, because I realized that I had the strength to deal with it when I got back. The experiences, the friendships I have made, what I learned about myself, well I wouldn’t ever trade that for the world.

Madeline Martin is majoring in English and spent Summer 2019 studying in London, England through AIFS. Madeline had the following to say about studying abroad, “It isn’t about what you know, who you know, or what you’ve done. It’s about what you will learn, who you will meet, and what you will do. To open yourself up to new experiences.”

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