Going Abroad Requires Adjustment

Nearly 75% of Wake Forest students study abroad. For me, studying abroad in the fall of my junior year wasn’t really an option. I felt like it was just something I would do along with most of my friends. When choosing where to go abroad, I knew I wanted to be in an English-speaking country. When I settled on London with several of my friends this time last year, I immediately started counting down the days. I began making lists of places I wanted to go and things I wanted to see. Every upperclassman I talked to raved about their abroad experiences. They told me it would be the best semester of my life.

Fast forward to Sept. 2 of this year. I’m sitting in my new flat, which has an unfamiliar musty smell, in a city I’ve never been to before, holding back tears. I felt homesick and alone in a flat with five of my closest friends. How could I feel like this? Surrounded by friends in a place I had been waiting a year to come to, I felt totally and completely alone.

It took me almost a week to come to a realization that would help me move past my homesickness: studying abroad is just like anything else. It isn’t all fun all the time. Moving anywhere new requires an adjustment period. I think I expected to become accustomed to life in London as soon as I exited the plane at Heathrow. After all, that is what everyone told me. They said, “Abroad is so fun I wish I could go back. Enjoy every single second. I would give anything to still be abroad!” That first week, I expected all the fun to hit me all at once, and when it didn’t, I felt like I’d been lied to.

I felt like I was beginning college all over again in a new place.

Fortunately, after the first week, it got better. A lot better. I found a grocery store I liked going to, I learned how to take the tube by myself (with a little help from Citymapper) and I became obsessed with Cadbury Buttons. Now, a month and a half since I arrived, I cannot believe how much progress I’ve made. My feelings of homesickness gone, I enjoy every single day. Like most things, it isn’t all fun all the time, but I’ve gotten comfortable with the uncomfortable. It doesn’t bother me as much that the tube is delayed or that our dryer doesn’t really work. I’ve come to love the city and appreciate my own growth. I feel like I have a place in London, and I make the city my own through my experience of it.

For anyone considering studying abroad, DO IT. Halfway through, I’m finding it to be the most transformative, exciting and scary experience I’ve ever had. It isn’t always fun and it certainly isn’t always comfortable, but it is the best decision I’ve made at Wake Forest.