"My confidence developed greatly as a result of navigating my way through a completely new atmosphere that required me to step out of my timid shell. My experience studying abroad in London was the turning point that validated the fact that the world is so much larger than I have ever known it to be. In the grand scheme of things, especially in the moments that I feel like a tiny spec in midst of such a hectic, immense world, I remember how much I am capable of and remind myself of the possibilities waiting for me."
I decided to take part in the Global Edge program once the fact that I had been accepted into Berkeley settled in my mind. When I choose to take part in new experiences, I go all in, and I knew it would be the right choice for me because it terrified me and excited me all at once. If there is one thing I have learned in my life so far, is that the best experiences come from the most unexpected and challenging opportunities. The opportunity to study abroad my first semester of college was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I could not let pass me by. I could not pass up the chance to live and study in a city whose destination seemed unfathomable to me. In a way, the chance to go to London felt like the opportunity to realize a dream I was not aware I had.
In studying abroad, I realized how great and distinctly diverse the world is outside of the United States. I think in the U.S. we are not often culturally aware of the history and culture within other countries and I learned a great deal through living as a foreigner in England. It felt incredible living in a city that embraced diversity in a different way than what I am used to as a native of the Bay Area. I had never heard so many languages being spoken at once in the same city. I really felt as though I was immersed into a whole new world with limitless opportunities to explore a new side of myself.
As a first-gen student, I was worried that I would not know how to manage my first official semester as a college student, abroad. I had several concerns about living in a completely different continent than my family as I learned to budget my finances while managing my responsibilities as a student. Fortunately, I was able to set up a budget plan using an app called Mint, which helped me track my finances and feel reassured about my spending. Additionally, I found a routine that worked for me in which I could make time to enjoy my time in London while also managing my school work. I made sure to be organized and add time to do things that took my mind off of school.
I would wake up at around 8 AM (once the jet lag wore off) and make breakfast with my roommate before heading off to a class. We’d take that time in the morning to listen to music and proceed to commute about 40 minutes to ACCENT, the center where classes were held for Global Edge students. The commute was the best part, as we got to go on the tube. I loved going on the tube every morning since it allowed me to feel like a typical Londoner on her way to work. Despite being in London for a semester, it was not enough time to get used to the rich pull of the city. Once at ACCENT, classes would begin and students engaged in the material with a smaller class. After class, I would usually get lunch somewhere close by like Pret (Loved it!) if I had another class soon or I would go home and do work, buy groceries, make dinner, or do some work. My days consisted of a lot of coffee and once settled into the London routine, A LOT of tea. The nights were the best, as my roommate and I would usually stay up and just talk about nothing and everything all at once. The surreal feeling of being in London as college students never wore away.
I took four classes which centered around a London theme: London Theatre Capital, London Museums, Ancient Philosophy, and Introduction to Comparative Politics. These courses were truly incredible and taught me a great deal about the cultural vibrancy in London. The classes were definitely more interactive and at times, were not taught in a traditional classroom setting. I would say that the courses in London were not as rigorous as the ones I have taken at Berkeley, although they definitely did require me to be on top of readings and engage in meaningful discussions throughout the semester. I enjoyed having smaller, intimate classes that allowed for more conversation and engagement than the traditional, large-setting classes in Berkeley.
Throughout my time in London, I was able to put myself in the middle of experiences I never had in high school. For the first time in my life, I made more of an effort to make memories and I did so with peers that have become some of the most important people in my life. The most memorable night was the night that one of my best friends and I met Manuel Turizo, my favorite musical artist. We were front-row in an event he was performing in, without ever even thinking he’d perform in London the same time we would be there. That experience in itself cemented the fact that London became the home to some of the most unpredicted and most wonderful memories in my life.
Truth be told, this entire experience rekindled a desire in me to take more risks and step out of my comfort zone. I believe that being in such a large, renowned city that I had never envisioned ever being in, was a wake-up call to the incredible experiences that were possible for me when I did take the risk to explore them. My confidence developed greatly as a result of navigating my way through a completely new atmosphere that required me to step out of my timid shell. My experience studying abroad in London was the turning point that validated the fact that the world is so much larger than I have ever known it to be. In the grand scheme of things, especially in the moments that I feel like a tiny spec in midst of such a hectic, immense world, I remember how much I am capable of and remind myself of the possibilities waiting for me.
To students considering the Global Edge program, I highly recommend taking a chance on this opportunity! I know how scary it is to start your time at Berkeley in a completely different country, but I think it is an opportunity that will teach students so much of what they are capable of. It is intimidating enough to be at a school like Cal, and there is something very special about taking on that challenge as a Global Edge student. I also recommend taking the time to plan visits to more low-profile spots in London with just as much soul as the big touristy spots in the city. As much as I loved my time in London, I do wish I would have made more time to visit places that would give me a more intimate insight into the grand city. Lastly, if you can, try to map out a plan and a budget to travel to other countries in Europe while you are in London! It will change your life!
This experience through Global Edge planted a seed that motivates me to embrace being outside of my comfort zone and learn to be flexible with changes and new experiences. I feel that I have become more self-aware as I integrate the experiences from my time abroad to my aspirations as a social justice advocate in the future. My confidence and ambition to break barriers in the social and legal field are a direct result of tackling the challenges I faced as a freshman studying abroad in a foreign country.
The appreciation I have for study abroad programs like Global Edge and the life-changing opportunities for students like myself, motivates me to encourage more students to take the risk of the unexpected in studying abroad. Given my own background and prior lack of knowledge in study abroad programs, I want to take part in conversations and projects that will reassure students that these types of educational experiences are attainable for them, no matter their circumstances.