The world is a vast, expansive place filled with different cultures, colors, rules, religions, sexualities, norms, et cetera, et cetera, and the list goes on. Some of us are comfortable with sticking to what we know, but for those of us who have a thirst to explore and understand the differences this world has to offer here is some advice for you. The post I am writing today is for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s International Honors College and for any student who is considering studying in another country.
|A beautiful seaside view of Plymouth, my new home.|
Forget All ExpectationsWhen traveling to a new country we often make fictional expectations based off what we see on television, read from books, and see in pictures. However, the only expectation you should have is to have a good time. Don’t expect a prince charming to appear on a moped, show you around the country of your dreams, and have you become an international popstar. Lizzie McGuire tried that and we all know that romance was a bust. The problem with setting the bar high is that there is a chance that you will be let down.
|Paulo may be handsome, but is quite deceiving.|
Sticking Out like A Sore Thumb
As an American studying in England I did not expect to feel so estranged some days. Quickly, I discovered that my differences would draw a lot of attention from the locals. I distinctly remember giving a presentation in front of my coursemates the second day of classes. The instant I opened my mouth everyone heard my accent, their eyes averted directly towards me and the quiet chatter ceased to exist. As a person who hardly gets nervous I couldn’t stop myself from stuttering. There are negatives and positives to being a foreigner. Many people will be intrigued by your differences and will be open to getting to know you and forming a friendship. However, there are people who will be prejudice towards your differences as well. As an American I've received a lot of positive reactions. For those who have biased opinions towards you, you will have to charm them with your good looks and wit.
|No matter where you go, good people are easy to find.|
Socializing SteroidsMy biggest fear before traveling to England was that I wouldn't make friends. I consider myself a fairly sociable person who is comfortable with making small talk among strangers. However, I would not say that I am entirely extroverted. Socializing can be exhausting and sometimes being the life of the party is often draining. No matter if you are the social butterfly or the shy caterpillar socializing with locals, internationals, flatmates, anyone, and everyone is so important to the experience. A new person is another story, connection, and friendship. Introduce yourself to the Canadian sitting in the back or the gang of chatty Geographers in your course. Trust me, you'll be glad you did! You might even get invited to go a British roast or a trip to Europe like I did.
|A delicious roast made by my good friend Harriet.|
Sing, Sang, Sung: Join a Group
In our everyday lives we often get bogged down by responsibilities. Studying abroad allows you to take a step back from all the typical chaos of your friends, family, and work. I took this free time to do something that I was passionate about, singing. I joined Plymouth University's student choir in order to get back in touch with my love of music that I packed away long ago in high school. By doing something I love I was able to surround myself with others who have a similar interest as me. I even received a solo in our Spring concert. I sang "You'll Be in My Heart" from Tarzan (Video coming soon).
|Myself and a couple of girls from choir watching the school's Sweeney Todd production.|
There's No Place Like Home
Studying abroad in England has been an experience of a lifetime. Plymouth, a once unfamiliar playground, has become a home to me. However, the biggest dilemma I face is missing my friends and family from time to time. It's hard leaving a place of comfort and familiarity. But your friends and family will be waiting for you while new ones are awaiting to be made abroad. I won't lie to you it can be quite difficult and time differences are annoying. You will wake up at 4 AM to talk to your best friend about her life problems or stay up on the phone way past your bedtime. As you grow during this experience, their lives and yours will continue to move forward but will always remain intertwined.
|A seaside view of my home in North Carolina.|