An American In London

Meg Savin

When my plane took off from JFK heading to Heathrow airport on August 26th, I had no idea what the next four months would have in store for me. I was thrilled to be participating in Colgate’s English study group in London for the fall. I must admit that simply stepping foot on the plane was a bit of a relief, in that the headache of packing as well as acquiring all necessary international student ID cards, certification letters and setting up my bank account to waive the six dollar international ATM fee would finally come to an end. It was not until about a half hour before landing that I felt a bit uneasy. My travel buddy, a young man from North Carolina and member of another study group heading to Scotland for the year, suddenly turned to me and said, “You know, I filled out this study abroad application on a complete whim. I’m not so sure I want to do this. I mean, I don’t know if this was the right decision.” Tyler, who had been a nonstop talker for the past six hours was the reason for my complete lack of sleep on the flight over, but also was a great distraction to any qualms I may have had about living an ocean apart from my family and friends. Suddenly, his and my confidence began to wane.Once arriving, it would be a lie to say that the first few days were smooth sailing. Dragging groceries back to our flat in the rain, buying phone cards and cell phones to call home and say that we had arrived safely, getting hopelessly lost, as the streets of London refuse to have consistent names, and dealing with banking difficulties when some of us challenged the lowest standard of living for one week, were just a few of the predicaments of week one. Eating peanut butter and jelly and pasta night after night and balking at the cover prices for the London clubs, I couldn’t help but laugh when my flat-mate observed, “I really feel like a college student for the first time.Luckily, we spent our last evening in London before flying home for winter break reminiscing about these first few days, laughing in complete disbelief of our incompetence. Since that first week I can say that I successfully planed and took trips to France, Spain, Ireland and explored much of England. I have traveled miles on the tube, spent countless hours researching London’s historical archives, visited every museum in the guidebook, and been introduced to theater that I may never have explored on my own. Even more importantly, perhaps, are the amazing people that I can say I have met along the way. From the Malaysian student whom I met in Leicester Square, to the Alaskan student with whom I became acquainted while in Dublin, to the incredible 32 Colgate students with whom I spent the semester living, traveling and studying with, I can say that each has left an impression in my memory.If I was not a huge advocate of study abroad before, I now am. Especially for us ‘Gate kids, it seems all that much more important because we live in such a rural and isolated area of the Country. All of the positive clich?es proved true for me: I feel that I am more aware of the rest of the world and not just my own niche in Hamilton, New York. I am more independent, and I appreciate the luxuries and services that Colgate has to offer. Most importantly for me, however, is that the experience has planted in me the unquenchable desire to travel and see as much of the world as possible. The thought of graduate school or a future career abroad is incredibly enticing and seems feasible.Having had such a fabulous semester abroad, I feel rejuvenated to study at Colgate. This break away from Hamilton was well spent and one that I encourage all to take. I cannot help but wonder about Tyler and hope that his experience has been as rewarding as mine.