The Collegian
Saturday, April 20, 2024

The Art of Self-Reliance while Abroad in London

Westhampton College '10

Before I left for my time abroad in London, I had thought that I was fully prepared for all the adjustments I would have to make. I memorized all the advice from the University of Richmond Study Abroad Office, read every website devoted to "London travel tips" that Google had to offer, and listened to all of the Harry Potter books on CD to get used to British accents.

Now that I have actually arrived in London, the story is a bit different.

What I have realized in my first week of living abroad is just that, I am now living in a country 3,725.8 miles from home. Yes, it was useful to know what to pack and recognize places like King's Cross when I see it on a map, but those things help me very little in my day to day living.

Student accommodation here consists of self-serving flats, which means that I have my own room and my own 'toilet,' but I share a hallway and a kitchen with five others. Unlike Richmond, students here buy their own toilet paper, cook their own food and figure out life on their own. While I have done all of those things in the past, the magnitude of them has hit me more in this past week.

Perhaps it is because I was dropped off in the middle of an unknown campus, in an unknown city, in an unknown country, but lately I am more aware of the fact that I must rely on myself.

Am I hungry? Well then I better figure out where the nearest grocery store is. Need to be at the Monument Tube station for an orientation event? Well then I get a map of the Underground and figure it out. Orientation here consisted of getting picked up from the airport, listening to a few speeches, and being handed a packet with information on nearby stores and told, "Good luck!"

At home I feel as if most of us are eased into the growing-up process, slowly receiving more responsibility from our parents and our high schools until eventually we head off to college and receive even more. Going abroad changes all of that.

In my mind, I compare it to an exam. All the things I learned before were practice homework assignments, and my time abroad is the final test. Here's hoping I pass.

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