"I often find myself getting stuck in the day-to-day grind of being a college student, but studying abroad early in my college years has allowed me the benefit of being able to looking back to my time in London and remembering there's a bigger picture, a bigger world, and so much out there for one to experience."
I've always enjoyed traveling and absolutely loved my previous experiences exploring different countries. As a result, the Global Edge Program was an experience I couldn't pass up as it provided me the opportunity to do so again while also allowing me my first opportunity to "live" abroad, rather than just being a tourist abroad. In the end, it gave me the chance to stay in one of my favorite countries, England, for four months and travel to Switzerland, France, Spain, and Italy. Another important factor was that I wanted to break out of my comfort zone. After living in the Bay Area for the majority of my life, I felt the urge to experience a new culture before committing to another four years here in the Bay at UC Berkeley. Global Edge definitely delivered in more ways than I could have possibly imagined and I will definitely treasure the experience. Lastly, as an incoming Freshman, I was especially drawn to Global Edge as it gave me the opportunity to make lasting friends in college with whom I made so many incredible memories with and am still friends with to this day.
I can't choose one! From the prolific amounts of street food to the countless art museums to daily music concerts... not to mention the double decker buses, pubs, historical sites... in London alone I had so many unique and interesting cultural experiences that made everyday exciting and worthwhile. While thinking about my trips to Switzerland, Italy, France, and Spain... well, each country contained so many different cultural experiences that I couldn't possible choose one that stood out above the rest.
The biggest challenge studying abroad was definitely managing my time. This was mainly due to the fact I was experienced a lot of "firsts". Global Edge was the first time, since I moved from Toronto, Canada in first grade, that I've lived in a big city such as London. You instantly feel the quickened pace of city life and the "hustle and bustle" rubbing off on you. Additionally, being a first-semester freshman, this was my first time taking college courses while also being the first time I lived independently in an apartment. Between getting homework done, buying groceries, and organizing weekend travels it definitely took a bit of adjusting the first week. However, by keeping my calendar up to date, experimenting with new habits, and planning ahead, I managed to make the most out of my time in London. On a slightly different note, even though my peers and I were living in the center of London, it would take approximately 30min to get anywhere of note due to public transportation and traffic which at the end of the day, quickly added up. Listening to a podcast though was a great way to remain productive on those long bus/TUBE rides!
It certainly varies, but my weekdays typically involved going to class either in the morning or afternoon (I had only one class session per day most weekdays) and going out to explore in my free time. For example, I would have an English class in the morning, go to the British Library in the afternoon to study, and finally go see the London Philharmonic perform at night... while also stopping by my favorite street market for some food. On the weekends, when I wasn't traveling in a different country, I would always try to visit a new place in London with friends. Some of my most memorable weekends involved going to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to run a 10k, participating in the WWI Armistice Day events, and going to the Wimbledon tournament site.
I took courses that fulfilled my L&S breadths and my Political Science requirements, specifically, POLSCI 2 (Intro to Comparative Politics), PHILOS 25A (Ancient Philosophy), COLWRIT R4B, and HISTART 15 (London Museums). These classes were in some ways harder and in some ways easier than the courses here at Berkeley as even though we only had them once a week (COLWRIT was twice a week while POLSCI 2 had a lecture and discussion) and many of the classes were excursions, the coursework was just as engaging and challenging while each one of the class sessions ranged from 3-4 hours. However, one aspect in which the classes in London were certainly easier was the grading. Professors were more lenient graders while the grading scale in the UK works in your favor when transferred back into the American grading system.
The most memorable aspect of my time abroad was being to experience the London cultural scene. I was able to attend over 15 symphony concerts (including some at the iconic PROMS), see Les Mis, casually visit any of the world-class museums whenever I wanted, and learn about the traditions and history of England through the historical sites I visited such as Parliament, Notting Hill, the John Soane Museum, and the Docklands. On the other hand, the most meaningful aspect was taking a solo trip to Marseilles, France where I had a great time self-reflecting as I hiked through the Calanques National Park.
In addition to the most expected effects such as becoming more independent and cultured, I think the most significant effect studying abroad had on me was putting everything in perspective. I often find myself getting stuck in the day-to-day grind of being a college student, but studying abroad early in my college years has allowed me the benefit of being able to looking back to my time in London and remembering there's a bigger picture, a bigger world, and so much out there for one to experience.
As always, there will be reasons for you to be hesitant in studying abroad, but do EVERYTHING in your power to find ways around those reasons and take a leap of faith. I'm sure you'll appreciate you did.