The Beautiful Chaos of My First Two Weeks Abroad

Ashley Kleeberg University College London, England


January 18, 2016

My first two weeks abroad have gone by so fast - a blur of Google Maps, chaos, new faces, new places, getting lost almost everywhere I go, new food and new classes. There have been so many things to do in these first couple weeks that I’ve finally had a moment to breathe and realize that I’ve successfully transitioned to a new city in a new country on my own – something that I would’ve never thought I’d be capable of just a few months ago.

I’m quickly falling in love with London. After the initial chaos subsided, and I learned to navigate the general area around my dorm and found my classes, I’ve been able to stop and take in all the beauty and excitement that London has to offer. One of the most beautiful things I’ve seen so far is the Lumiere London 2016 event in Piccadilly Circus. Lumiere London is a light festival where artists create amazing light displays all over the city (a must-see if you go abroad next spring!). My friend and I went to the Piccadilly Circus display where we saw these massive fish-like light-up balloons floating above the gothic architecture of the London streets, hovering gracefully over thousands of people who stood in awe, mesmerized. The fabric tails of these massive creatures reached down to the crowd, and brushed our outstretched hands as they floated above us. I’d never seen anything like it before. It was one of the most beautiful things I’d seen so far in this amazing city.

Another place I visited was Camden Market which has quickly become one of my favorite destinations in London. Camden Market is full of unique shops and food from all over the world. There are also plenty of food options if you are gluten intolerant like myself – I had a delicious Venezuelan sandwich with gluten free cornbread. There is also an amazing gluten free bakery called Cookies and Scream that serves tasty gluten free treats like donuts and brownies.

Though these two weeks have gone by so fast and have been full of great adventures, like Camden Market and Lumiere London, there have been some tough times as well. Transitioning was difficult at first. I didn’t know a single person when I arrived. One of the most daunting things I faced was transitioning from a small campus back home to a campus spread across a large section of London. My farthest walk to class back home was about eight minutes on campus, but here I have to factor in at least twenty minutes and navigate through city streets with people and cars all around. I’ve learned, surprisingly, that I prefer the city environment to the quiet campus back home – something I never thought I’d say. I enjoy the chaos of people and cars all around, with the excitement of the city and all it has to offer right at my fingertips.

With all that has happened these past few weeks, I can say that the most important things I’ve learned are:

  • Talk to as many people as you can – at orientation events, in your classes, at social events (which I highly recommend attending). I’ve made so many friends at different events and meeting more people will help make the transition easier.
  • Take time to explore your surroundings! I got here about four days before my suite-mates because I am the only study abroad student in my hallway, so I took the time to explore the local shops, figure out the best routes to the buildings where my classes are held, and got more comfortable with my surroundings.
  • Take a deep breath and relax! The chaos of the first few weeks will lessen once you start your classes and get to know more people and find your niche at your school. Give yourself time to adjust and relax.

Overall, have the time of your life and explore everything the city you are in has to offer! Challenge yourself, even if it is something as small as trying to make it to the grocery store without needing to look at Google Maps or talking to someone new or taking a challenging class. The possibilities are endless!