Here’s How Studying Abroad in London Changed my Life

Written by Alexis Morales

I studied at St. Mary’s University in Twickenham, London in the Spring of 2018. The idea of visiting England had been on my mind for quite some time, but it wasn’t until I started at Saint Peter’s University and found out I could receive college credit and explore London simultaneously that I even considered it a real possibility. I spent about five months at St. Mary’s studying Media Production and Film Theory while making the best memories that would change my life for the better, something I never even expected.

1. Forced out of my Comfort Zone

Before traveling to London, I had never even been on a plane. My hometown, Jersey City, New Jersey was my bubble. It provided me with everything I thought I needed – until it didn’t. Learning to live in a foreign country, even without a language barrier, isn’t easy and no matter how many travel books you read beforehand, you’re never as ready as you think you are. And that’s part of the fun! After this experience, I wasn’t scared to leave my little bubble, because I knew it would be there for me when I returned from my latest adventure, whether that was a week by myself in Missouri representing my school at a conference or a two-week travel course to Vietnam, hiking the mountains with a group of peers. It ultimately broadened my comfort zone as I realized what I was capable of and how the only force stopping me was myself.

2. Gave Me a New Sense of Independence & Adventure

Living in my little bubble, I never really had to be on my own; I always had someone there, my best friends, my family, my dog, etcetera. My college was just a 5-minute drive from my house so if I ever got that bored, I could walk home but when you’re 3,500 miles away from everything you know and love, you need to learn its okay to be alone sometimes. In Twickenham, if my friends were in class or I just wanted to go for an adventure on my own, I could easily just walk to the “downtown” area of Twickenham or Teddington. I would check out the shops, grab a coffee, or just sit by the river Thames for a while, whereas at home, I’d never want to go anyone on my own and not because I didn’t know my way around, it was just not something I found appealing before my time in England. 

3. Reinvigorated My Passion for Learning

Almost everyone who has experienced some form of higher education would probably agree that being stuck in a classroom can get very repetitive, even if you love what you’re studying. But when you study abroad, everything changes. Suddenly, everything you know, becomes what you knew and you have to encourage your self to see things from a different perspective. For me, it was discussing American versus English media, their differences in advertising strategies, and the way societal norms are reflected. I was able to not only provide a different perspective for the rest of the class but was also able to learn from the other students.

4. Gave Me Connections All Around the World

I was the only person from Saint Peter’s who went to St. Mary’s that year so I didn’t know anyone going into it and while I’ve always considered myself a friendly, social person, I wasn’t sure I would make friends. Thankfully, St. Mary’s International Student Orientation brought us all together into one room and tried to break the ice. In addition to a bunch of us who came from across the US, there were people from Spain, Australia, Germany, Japan, and the Philippines and I know if I ever found myself in any of those places, I could hit them up without a doubt. This was really great because while I had only expected to befriend English people, I also became super close to two girls who were actually from New Jersey (We even kinda became known as The NJ Trio). Since coming back to the states, we’ve been able to stay close and we try to get together when our schedules permit.

5. Improved Financial Literacy

Fortunately, Saint Peter’s and St. Mary’s had an exchange program which meant the merit and academic scholarships I received would carry over and cover my tuition for the semester, and then I was able to apply for more financial aid to cover my housing accommodation as well. Then I had to pay for my flight but the rest of my experience was generously financed by my family. That being said, I was given a budget for my time there because as much as my parents wanted me to enjoy my time, they had their own bills to pay, understandably so. This meant I needed to keep track of my finances and plan for the big experiences I was looking forward to like trips to Ireland, France, and Switzerland while also being able to explore the local area and visit places like Stonehenge, Abbey Road, Camden Markets, and so on!

6. Taught Me to Live in the Moment

Life is short, that’s one thing studying abroad made very clear. Five months seems like a lot of time when you think about everything you’re missing at home, the birthdays, the parties, the time away from pets. But its never enough, there’s always going to be another country to visit, another restaurant to try, another red telephone booth to pose in front of. So make those memories, take those pictures, say yes!