By Melanie Spina
I’ve always wanted to explore the world, but I just never knew how to do it. As soon as I heard about the opportunity to study abroad, I knew it was something I had to do. I fell in love with the idea of learning and studying in a different country. This semester, I have had the wonderful opportunity to study in London, at Regents University. I have to say it may be one of the best choices I’ve made yet.
From living in a new country with a different culture from my home in Venezuela—or even from New York, where I have spent the past three years at LIU Post, to meeting new people and making new friends, I honestly think studying abroad is an opportunity that every student who wants to travel should take advantage of. Once you graduate and get a job, the chances of spending a significant amount of time in a different country are very slim. So, enjoy that freedom now.
My travels began in late August. Although, I was completely excited, I have to admit that it was nerve-wracking at the same time. I was going to a country that I’d never been to before, and I had to adjust to a new culture, which really isn’t as easy as it seems.
But, it’s worth it. I still get those homesick moments when I say to myself, “I could really go for some good New York bagels right now,” but once I adapted to London, I realized that these opportunities don’t always come around twice. I knew that I had to make the most out of this experience while I have the chance. Having fun in a brand new country doesn’t make being apart from your friends and family any easier. I’ve been through this before, when I first moved to New York from Venezuela to attend college at LIU Post, but I don’t think that was as hard as moving to London to study for a semester. I have a lot of family in New York, whereas I came to London without knowing anyone other than my roommate. Although it’s tough to keep in touch with everyone since there is a 5-hour time difference, there are ways to keep connected with the ones that you love. I try to Skype and text my parents as often as I can. As long as you find ways to keep in touch, missing your family gets a lot easier.
Regents University is great. The campus is located inside Regent’s Park, which is in central London. It’s absolutely beautiful. All you have to do is literally take a step outside the park and you’re in the city. The classes are quite similar to Post; they are small and engaging. A lot of classes not only encourage you, but also take you outside the classroom, to further the learning experience. For example, my Theatre class provides us with free tickets to attend plays, and we talk about them in class.
One of the biggest culture shocks that I am still coping with is that everything is extremely expensive. However, if you know how to budget and save your money, then you shouldn’t have any problems. I’ve also noticed small cultural differences like how the English say certain things like chips, which is the way English people refer to fries. Another big difference, which often serves as an inconvenience, is that the tube (subway) stops running at 12 a.m., whereas in New York, it runs 24 hours.
The plus side is that I’ve had the chance to do amazing things that I probably would have never done before. I was lucky enough be able to attend London’s Fashion Week, which was such a fun experience. I was able to get makeup and hair done, as well as shop for the latest trends. The best part was getting to see a fashion show that displayed the latest styles for next spring.
I will also have the opportunity to not only learn about England’s culture, but also other cultures of countries in Europe that I could travel to while being here: Italy, France, Scotland, Ireland, and other European countries. In fact, I’ve just recently made my first big trip to Scotland, which was planned through the University. We took a train there, and then a tour guide showed us around the country’s capitol, Edinburgh. The tour guide took us on a bus up to the highlands of Scotland, which consisted of beautiful mountains and lakes. We also got to visit the Stirling Castle, where we learned all about its history and fun facts about the country.
If are thinking about studying abroad, I would definitely recommend it. Preparing for it can be tedious, so here are some tips and steps that will help you.
Choosing where to go: Pay a visit to the Study Abroad office, in the Winnick House, Room 221, and ask about the different countries and programs that are available. Let them know what countries you’re aching to see, and they will work with you to pick the best study abroad program for you.
Take the leap: If you have decided to study abroad, embark on your adventure! Keep in mind that adjusting to a new culture can be a bit nerve-racking at first, but remind yourself that this is something you may not get to experience again.
Money: We all know that studying abroad is not necessarily cheap, but the study abroad office can assist you with scholarships, grants, and financial aid options that may meet your needs. You’ll also want to get a job — if you don’t have one already — so you can start saving money for the experience.
Travel, travel, travel: Many people who study abroad go to Europe, since it’s fairly easy to travel to different countries on weekends. No matter where you go, try to travel to a different country or different cities if you get the chance. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it can be a simple backpacking adventure. You’ll get to discover new places and cultures that you never expected you’d see.
For someone who desires to travel and discover the world, taking the opportunity to study abroad is worthwhile. If you do take the chance, the best advice I can give you is this: be open to experience, explore your new city, don’t be afraid to get lost, meet new people, learn different cultures, and most importantly…don’t forget to have fun.