I'm currently sitting on a plane from London Heathrow to San Diego's Lindbergh Field. I waited until I was on the plane to write this last post for two reasons: 1) packing woes previously overwhelmed me, and 2) it felt silly to write about my overall London experience whilst still in London.
The past three and a half months were more than I ever thought I'd experience in regards to Europe. When I entered my freshman year at GW, I had no plans to study abroad. My parents were against it because of the cost, my then-boyfriend didn't like the idea of me leaving the country, and my own personal goals as a student and a writer meant that I didn't want to be away from GW. In the second semester of my junior year, I chose to study abroad on a whim - literally two weeks before the application deadline for King's - and I barely submitted my materials in time. In truth, I can't remember what made me decide to study abroad - the promise of adventure, fear of the future, a desire to get away - but to any GW students still on the fence about study abroad, I can tell you this: it was the best decision I've ever made.
Studying in London allowed me to start over in a new city but with the safety net of GW ready to provide help if I needed it. I had to find my way (literally and metaphorically), make new friends, and create a life for myself in the King's community in a very different way from when I started as a freshman at GW over three years ago. It forced me to stand on my own two feet. I'm still terrified for the future and apprehensive for life after GW, but I'm now confident in myself and my ability to build a life and identity for myself, no matter what.
More importantly, study abroad opened my eyes to the different cultures of the world. I grew up fairly sheltered - I've traveled heavily in the US and Canada, but I never left North America as a child - and it's only through participating in study abroad that I've realized just how much there is to see, and how easy it is to see it.
There's a famous post on Tumblr, in which a blogger states: "My bro just came prancing into my room with a Burger King crown. We don't have Burger King in Belgium. He drove all the way to the Netherlands." That sort of cultural-merging is absolutely true about my experience with living in London. I remember back in October I spent the morning in Prague and the evening in London. I took a train from London to Paris in 2 hours. A flight to Ireland lasted barely an hour. All of these different countries and cultures are so close together, there's no reason not to see it. As Americans, we're at a disadvantage because these things aren't at our fingertips.
Study abroad changed my life, because I'm now determined to return to Europe and spend a month or two backpacking. Public transportation passes like the Eurail Pass make it affordable to travel for a couple of months without breaking the bank, and hostels are decent enough accommodations. In fact, I've done the math and - as a west coast girl - the most expensive part of my trip would be the plane tickets there and back; the plane tickets are almost equal to what hostels and train tickets would cost for one month.
I now have a strong desire to see the rest of the world, to experience the differences between as many cultures as possible, and I didn't before. It's a cliché (perhaps it's a cliché for a reason), but study abroad opened my eyes to the rest of the world, and I would highly recommend it to any and all GW students.