A small university that sat just outside of London, England. Filled with students from all over the world coming together with the same purpose. To explore, meet new people, learn, and grow. Studying abroad this past summer was not everything I wanted it to be, but it ended up being everything I needed instead. It was hard, exciting, overwhelming, inspiring, and filled with so much love. The trip showed me that I can do hard things, even when I didn’t think I could.
I knew no one and had never traveled alone before. I was thrust into a completely new environment without the safety of my mom, my hometown, and my comfort people. Honestly, I looked up study abroad programs and picked the first one I saw. I went to London once before and fell in love with the city and knew I needed to go back. This trip made me more confident in every aspect of myself. I traveled alone, I made new and lifelong friendships, and I went through some of the hardest times but came out on the other side.
I have lived a rather reserved life, sticking to the same mundane schedule every day for what feels like a lifetime. I have always wanted to be a traveling occupational therapist but had no faith in myself to do it. I was afraid I would end up back in my hometown for the rest of my life like everyone else did. But my new mindset is to try. Try it if it is hard and try it if it is scary. I may fail, and boy did I fail so many times in London, but I kept trying.
My laptop broke, I was incredibly homesick, I got lost a million times, I got bronchitis, there was mold everywhere, I experienced heartache, and so much more. But, I have let fear and anxiety riddle my thinking for far too long. While I was there I made sure to take myself on what I call “solo dates”. It is my way of forcing myself into an uncomfortable position so I know I can do it. I traveled 2 hours away to Brighton Beach by myself to meet up with a group of friends who left earlier. Did I get lost? Yes. But did I figure it out? Yes, just an hour late.
I saw every basic tourist attraction and loved it don’t get me wrong, but I also made sure to feel like a local when I was there. We became regulars at the local pubs and also became tourists to see Stonehenge, Bath, Windsor Castle, The British Museum, The Natural History Museum, Buckingham Palace, and the list goes on. We went out every night to see the big city and also explore the more local areas like Richmond or Putney. It was the perfect amount of time. 3.5 weeks gave me time to make friends, and branch out, but also not get too homesick and decide to go home.
Looking back, whether it was challenging or not, this trip is one of the things I consider to be perfect. My study-abroad friends and I still talk to this day and our planning a trip where we can all meet back up soon. I am so thankful for this opportunity and tell anyone who asks that they should study abroad. It truly changed me for the better.
Emma Wiley (BS Exercise Science) spent the Summer 2023 semester studying abroad in London, England through CIS Abroad. Emma had the following to say about studying abroad, “Studying abroad is one of the best things I ever did for myself. My best advice to anyone wanting to study abroad is to just do it. If your classes align and you can afford it do it. Money comes back but I will have these memories forever. You really have to put yourself out there once you get there and you truly get as much out of is as you are willing to put in. I made myself say yes to everything, and I am so thankful I did. Spontaneous trips and nights out were my best memories. Have fun, be yourself, and definitely study abroad.”
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