by Sydney Ellison ’24

During the last semester, I was privileged to be able to study away in London. I attended King’s College London as a directly enrolled student and want to share  a very short abbreviated list of my highlights, the “woo!”, and challenges, the “boo!”, of my experience. 

Before I had left for my program, I had never left the continent (My first time leaving the country was on a roadtrip to Montreal over last summer) and I did not have any family that had had any experience in international travel. This is why my main challenge was:

1.) “Boo!”: Preparation

Despite the Office of Study Away being incredibly helpful in organizing and advising during the application process, they cannot really help you with all of the other planning and preparation you need in addition to registration and enrollment. There were many moving parts that a first-time traveler would not have been aware of. I did not go out of my way to do extensive research, talks with former students, and many many emails with the coordinators at my program. Things like SIM cards, visa applications, “how to go through customs”, travel insurance, and shopping for currency rates were just a few of the more detailed planning I was tripped up on at times. 

Thanks to my preparation I felt really comfortable and safe during my travels. I had all of my ducks in order, and it really set the tone going into a semester where I would be essentially moving to a country to go to a new school all alone. This is my first highlight from my experience abroad.

2.) “Woo!”: Independence!

The word that I felt most summed up the feeling of successfully tackling, and enjoying, such a daunting opportunity would be emboldened. I really never foresaw myself ever having the financial or practical ability to ever leave the country, nor did I think I would be able to do it at such a young age. It was incredibly difficult to encourage myself that this was something I was capable of doing on my own, and reflecting on it now, I know that it made me a much more confident, and competent individual. 

Another great aspect of my study abroad experience was how deeply academically enriching it was. I picked one of the oldest English-speaking cities in the world, and this was really reflected in how much history and culture I was surrounded by. As an English major, I was able to share the same streets as the world’s greatest writers and minds. At every turn I was exposed to the same homes, sights, classrooms, and theaters as many great creatives and scholars before me. 

Being in London, and all of the other travel and cultural experiences I gained by way of my semester abroad, truly and forever changed how I view myself as a student, individual, and global citizen. To anyone who has done so before me, they know the lasting impact such an opportunity has on a person; And for anyone interested in pursuing a semester abroad, know that it can change you in the best of ways, as long as you allow yourself to experience it.