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I wouldn’t change the time I had in London for the world. This trip meant so much to me, for it was the first time I was able to travel to another country outside of the US and my motherland, Poland, which is familiar and with family. In addition, I was on my own, which allowed me to grow as I learned to navigate a whole new country by myself.
Although the UK speaks English, I was still able to learn so much from London. The culture of Europe is so different than in the US. I was able to compare Poland’s culture to England’s as well. Although they are similar, there are things in each country that you can’t find in the other. I also found out that there are a lot of Polish immigrants in London, which is interesting since I live in Chicago, also full of Polish immigrants. It seems as if I keep ending up in cities with a lot of my native people.
In the program, I met some amazing professors and friends, explored many corners of London, and learned about my major interest: community action. Through our classes, we were able to go on a lot of excursions as part of our class content, learning about the diversity of the city. If not for this program, I would not be able to visit London’s 19th Princelet Street, the Latin American House, Brick Lanes, the Parliament, the neighborhood Brixton, Camden Market, the Museum of London Docklands, see the Slave Exhibition, or go on a Black History Tour. I say I would not be able to visit all of these places without the program because I’d probably never end up in London or if I did, I probably would never know about them in order to go to them. I am so, so grateful I was able to come to London this summer.
During my time in London, I have not come into any trouble with my identities and how they affected my time abroad. I am a Caucasian woman, first generation college student, and immigrant, as well as a Polish-American. People usually loved that I was from the US, which I have learned from this program and going to Poland that a lot of people adore America/Americans. Sometimes people may have been irritated that I was a “tourist.” I put it in quotes because technically I was, but I also was a student there. My Polish identify also didn’t cause me any trouble, although one of the tour guides said Londoners don’t necessarily like Polish immigrants in London because there are too many of them and they take jobs from locals (the same irritation that locals everywhere in the world seem to have with immigrants). However, I did not have any problem personally from anyone about my Polish identity.
I did not have a problem in Europe with being a woman either. My class was all females, so we did not have any male-female conflict when it comes to the classroom environment (mansplaining and the like). The people in my class found it amazing that I was a first generation college student, studying abroad after her freshman year while still being 18 because they thought of it as a “big move.” Being an immigrant also didn’t give me trouble. Everyone thought it was cool that I’m fluent in two languages. In addition, by observation, I saw that London is a very diverse city, and I observed that people interacted with one another with no sign of disgust or judgment to each other, regardless of other’s identity. You would see people of all class status, race, religion, etc. taking the Tube (London’s train system). Overall, in my opinion, the Tube ’s stations were the most diverse places throughout the city (and they went \ up to four floors underground!).