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The time is finally here! The night before I fly across the Atlantic to my new home for the next six weeks - London! I am very excited for this trip, it will be my second time abroad and another European country to check off of my bucket list. Besides all of the mayhem of packing and saying all of my goodbyes to friends and family, I’ve found some time for reflection that I can hopefully look back on at the end of my trip.
My first thought is to think about what I’m most excited for, but I’ll save that to end on a good note. I am worried about a few things. One, I am worried about being so far away from home. Anything could happen to any of my loved ones and I would hate to be away when tragedy strikes. I am also a bit concerned about the pickpocketing that we have been warned about in London. Europe is notorious for pickpocketing and our coordinators have given us some tips about not making ourselves seem like targets, but I’m not so sure. What I am sure of is these fears will be alleviated as soon as I get settled into my new home!
There are more pros that outweigh the cons. I am very excited to meet everyone on the trip! It is a luxury to be able to travel with a group of students also from Michigan, so I am looking forward to representing our school well overseas. In addition, I am excited to fully immerse myself in the culture, while still doing some tourist-y things that I may never be able to do or see again. One thing I am looking forward to the most is going to see a musical or two!
It is officially the end of week three and I won’t lie, I’m feeling a bit homesick. I think the reason for this and a mistake that we all made on this trip was cramming all of the exciting bucket list activities in the first week or so. Now, we have gotten into the routine of the twice a week, 8:30 AM classes and that isn’t the most exciting thing to be looking forward to.
The classes are not all that bad though. This program consists of two classes: one literature course and one social action course. While they both qualify for race and ethnicity credit, the topics discussed go further than that. I have particularly liked the literature course because the professor integrates a lot of London’s history into the discussion, something that I haven’t learned much about in previous courses. The social action course is a lot of collaborative work, which is a unique learning experience that I do not get back on campus in a 300-person lecture. Our excursions expand on our readings and discussions. Some places we have went so far are the British Museum, Houses of Parliament, and the Museum of London.
Something that has surprised me a lot about being in London is the diversity! I thought London would be mostly white, but I was greatly mistaken. It is so refreshing for me, who comes from a small, rural, predominantly white town, to come to such a big city where so many people with varying racial backgrounds call home. I love the British accent and the English-speaking has been extremely helpful in situations.
I have really been focusing on spending the time I need for myself, whether that means venturing out to a park alone or simply spending a day in. Mental health is so important to keep track of, especially when being away from home and the essence of familiarity. The structure of the program and the small group makes it easier to find and form a community thousands of miles away from home. Contrary to popular belief, we are not in classes all day every day. Having some free time to explore and create close bonds is crucial to keeping my wellbeing happy and healthy. I am keeping a positive attitude about things though; I know these next three weeks will fly by just as fast as the first three did!
I can’t believe my time in London has come to an end! This was truly the best experience of my life and one that I will never forget. While pictures and videos are fun things to show to family and friends, the memories and friendships that I made on this trip is what will truly stick with me. This program was unique in that it accepted students from any year and any major. One memory that truly sticks out to me is when a few of us decided to rent bikes out for the day and go for a nice bike ride around the city. It was so unique because bikers are expected to drive on the road with the cars. This can be scary for many people, myself included, but I was respectful to the people and the norms there and ended up liking riding on the road rather than the sidewalk. Because of this, I had an opportunity to meet and get to know people that I may not have crossed paths with back in Ann Arbor. We are already planning to meet up in the fall!
One of the biggest lessons I have learned on this trip is to be flexible and patient. Things may not always go as they seem and you have to be able to set your opinions aside sometimes in a group setting. A prime example of this is the London Tube system, which experiences many delays. Outside of classes, we had two excursions per week and we were responsible for getting to the destination. Many of us traveled in groups, but we were often met with line delays or closures. It taught me that although situations can be stressful, they are also out of my control. The destination will be reached in time and it is important to stay calm and patient. Also, I have learned that respect is crucial and can be shown in many ways. Our classes were small and sometimes people would run low on energy, but nobody ever felt disrespected or like their voice wasn’t heard. Our professors were awesome and so many important topics about race and community development were brought to life. I am so thankful and grateful that I could go on this trip because of this scholarship! It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life.