Month One Advice

Jackie O'Leary Queen Mary University of London, England


February 3, 2015

One month. 28 days to be exact, but let’s just round up. I’ve been in the lovely land of England for one amazing, exciting, scary, and adventurous month. It’s amazing how fast the time can fly. Between classes, homework, and adventures, I feel like each week has flown by. It’s amazing how much I accomplished in one month, and how at home I feel at Queen Mary (although I still feel like a complete newbie to London half the time). Now that I’ve been here for a somewhat significant amount of time, I feel that I can make a list of the three most important points a study abroad student should know for their first month abroad. This list comes directly from personal experience, and most likely, personal failures, so I expect my commentary on each point!

  1. It’s a lot easier to make friends when you don’t put pressure on yourself to make friends.

    What I mean is that immediately after arriving in England, I felt compelled to find the very best friends ever so I could enjoy this experience with awesome people. But no matter what, people are going to bond, and it’s easy to find people you click with well. I did find great friends, and lots of great acquaintances. So stressing over making friends is a waste of stress. And even after a month, I can still meet new people and strengthen relationships I have with others. The great thing about studying abroad is most people are thinking like you: they want to make the most of of this experience.
  2. Take advantage of any and all trips presented to you (within your means, of course).

    Arguably, the best thing about being in a different country is everything that makes the country different from America. Therefore, sitting in my room, doing homework, reading, and watching Netflix does not justify my being in England. I can do, and actually do, all that stuff in Philadelphia, so why do it here? Therefore, I’m trying my best to explore and go on trips. I’ve gone to lots of outdoor markets, the Tower of London, a West End show, a pub-crawl, a pub quiz, a museum, and more. If someone offers you a chance to do something, go do it. Otherwise, this trip is just another semester of school. Feel free to plan trips too; I know I certainly am trying to make up my own trips and present them to people as well. However, sometimes it’s easier to just go along with someone’s pre-made plans, so if asked, take them up on it. I’m still working on this point, but I’m getting better. (As I’m writing this I’m sitting in a café in Kensington. See- exploring!).
  3. Despite my previous point, remember that you’re STUDYING abroad.

    Somewhat unfortunately, I’m here to take classes. I need to go to class, do my homework, and write essays. First and foremost, I need to make sure my studies are important while I’m over here. And honestly, these classes are hard. I’m taking classes that are relevant to my majors/minors, unlike some people who are lucky enough to take some easier classes. Therefore, I’m thrown right into two classes that are a continuation from the first semester. These classes are overwhelming, to say the least, as are my other modules (what they call classes here). Fortunately, all of my instructors are very considerate and understanding of my being a little behind. The hardest thing to remember is that amidst all my travel planning, I need to plan time to work on essays and readings.

It’s amazing how fast time has already gone. It feels insane to say that I’ve been a Londoner for a month. I feel like I’ve barely scraped the surface of this amazing city, and I know I haven’t scraped any surface of Europe yet. There’s so much to do, and thankfully, I still have a lot of time to do everything I want to do. I’m excited about plans I have in the making: a trip to Dublin this weekend, a trip to Rome for Easter to see my best friend, and as I’m writing this I got a text from a friend asking about how serious I am about going to Luxembourg at the end of the month. Every day I think of new plans I want to make, and get excited all over again about how much the world really is my oyster this semester. With 4 months remaining, I am nothing but excited and ready to make this semester the best time of my life.