While many students are beginning to reflect back on their fall study abroad experiences, I am only halfway through my full year abroad. Sometimes I worry about what I will be missing at home in the spring, and I definitely miss my friends and family back home in the United States, but I think that choosing to stay a full year was the right decision for me.
Spending a Full Year Abroad
There are a variety of factors which make me thankful that I am staying in London for another semester. For starters, there is so much more left in the city that I want to see! Having a full year in the city has meant that I did not have to choose between focusing on academics or immersing myself in the culture here. I still have many more trips to areas like Shoreditch and Soho, places which I don’t think a person could fully explore just a few weekends. A second semester also means I have more time to travel throughout Europe as well. For instance, next semester I am planning a visit to Budapest and Greece, which I never would have had time to visit this semester.
The biggest factor for me was that I felt like the only way to really learn what living in a different city was like would be to live there for an entire year. One noticeable difference between my fall semester friend’s mentality and mine is our focus on making British friends. I have made branching out to people in my flat and students in my course here a major goal for myself. While many of my American friends stuck with people from their home universities, I mingled with lots of new people from here in the United Kingdom. For me, it was important to make British friends so that I would have a support system for the duration of my time here. Because of my closer connection with British students I also feel like by the end of the year I will understand a lot more of the nuances of British culture and life. For example, at the end of December I am going to a family Christmas party with one of my British friends and will be learning all her family’s holiday traditions.
To other students who are thinking about studying abroad for a full year I say this- do it! I think it is a great opportunity to really immerse yourself in another culture and to gain a new perspective. And my advice to other prospective full-year students would be to start planning early. I began looking at programs in the summer before my sophomore year and started saving money for my trip as well. Especially in a city like London, you will need to save quite a bit for a full year. Also look into IFSA Butler scholarships and their Work-to-Study Program to subsidize your trip. It is also important to start planning out your credits and course requirements with your home university’s academic advisor. Try and either fulfil a lot of your credits in your sophomore year or find a program abroad that will count towards most of them. If you’re unsure which programs might fit with your major then reach out to IFSA. Their advisors will be able to provide recommendations on programs which fit your study abroad wants with your academic needs.
I am happy with my decision to study abroad in London for a full year. It has opened a lot of new doors for me and I am even considering getting a graduate degree here after I graduate: something which never would have had happened without my study abroad experience and the friends I have made here.
Tessa Reading is an English major at Trinity College and studied abroad with IFSA at Queen Mary, University of London in 2017-2018. She served as an International Correspondent for IFSA through the Work-To-Study Program.