"As cliche as it sounds, studying abroad made me realize how futile it is to compare my journey to anyone else’s. Whenever I caught myself thinking about the things that I was missing out on, I would stop, look around, and remind myself of how awesome my own life is."
I got into UC Berkeley off of the waitlist, so Global Edge and Fall Program for Freshman were the only admission options that the University provided me. I truly believe that if I was accepted under regular admission, I would not have considered studying abroad the first semester of my Freshman year. That being said, Global Edge was the best experience of my life and I cannot imagine my college experience having unfolded any other way. I ultimately chose to participate in Global Edge because it provided me with the opportunity to develop connections with a cohort of eighty fellow students, which is rare at such a large university. Additionally, London is an excellent city to study abroad in, especially if you are worried about a language barrier.
My London Museums course provided a deeply immersive insight into the history of the world through the realm of art. I had no idea what this course would teach me; I mostly just wanted a break from the monotony of lectures and I thought that it would be a nice way to explore the city. This course certainly satisfied those desires, but it also introduced me to the global scale of London. The museums in London contain artifacts and insights into histories of cultures spanning the globe, which sparked my interest in colonial histories and repatriation. Long story short: studying in London not only introduced me to local culture, it also gave me a new, multicultural perspective.
FOMO (fear of missing out) has always been an issue for me. I tend to double, and often triple book myself because I want to grasp onto every opportunity and experience as much as I can. Living abroad really forced me to reframe this perspective and to sit back and breathe every once in a while. I caught myself envying my peers who were attending football games in Berkeley, as well as those in my cohort who were able to travel to a new country every weekend of the semester. This contributed to my existing anxiety about living away from anything I’ve ever known, and it diminished the value of my own experiences. As cliche as it sounds, studying abroad made me realize how futile it is to compare my journey to anyone else’s. Whenever I caught myself thinking about the things that I was missing out on, I would stop, look around, and remind myself of how awesome my own life is.
A typical day in London would involve commuting on the tube to the West End, enjoying a latte and a pastry at a quaint little cafe, then walking to the Accent Center where all my lectures were held. I would spend my whole day around the center because it’s in the heart of the city and there is so much to see just a short walk away, from the British Museum (which is literally across the street) to Oxford Street. Once my classes were over I’d take the tube home and maybe watch some Love Island with my roommates or go on a late night adventure. On weekends, I would always see something new, whether it was a country or a town in the countryside or a district in London. I was lucky enough to have four day weekends so exploring actually consumed the majority of my time.
The Global Edge program was really great in terms of courses, as they ensure that you finish the majority of breadth requirements abroad. I took London Museums, Global London Literature (R4B), Comparative Politics, and Ancient Philosophy. My courses were deeply fascinating; even ancient philosophy, which sounded like a great bore prior, turned out to be enriching because I would learn about a philosopher, and often have traveled or have tickets booked to the city that they were from. The same goes for my literature class- after reading Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, we did a walking tour of the novel’s setting. Additionally, I found the courses much less rigorous than typical Berkeley courses, or maybe I was just more interested in the material than ever before.
The most meaningful takeaway of studying abroad was the bonds that I made among my fellow cohort. The people of London are notoriously a bit cold, which was an interesting dichotomy to sunny California, and I lived in an apartment rather than with a host family, so the closest friends that I made were fellow Berkeley students. This was a really rewarding experience because I was surrounded by people with similar backgrounds, yet we knew nothing about each other, so while gaining a whole new cultural perspective, we were also developing really strong friendships. My flatmates in London are my roommates in Berkeley now, and the best friends that I have made in college.
Studying abroad made me realize that so much exists beyond my narrow perception of reality. I grew up in a small town and I was instilled with the belief that I would return there after college and follow a career path that my family desired for me. Now I feel quite the opposite; I have ambitions outside of my family’s hopes and I feel so much more comfortable navigating life on my own.
If you have the opportunity to study abroad, seize it! I was so close to choosing a safer option because I thought my program sounded too good to be true and that I was not cut out to live in a different country straight out of high school, but this could not be further from the truth. You will learn so much about the world and about yourself.
I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to major in, much less pursue a career in, prior to studying abroad, but my London courses definitely sparked my interests in subjects that I had never thought much into. My London Museums [class] evoked my fascination in cultural representation and the perpetuation of colonial legacies, and my R4B course harnessed my writing skills. My final research paper for my writing course was on the ways in which the media propagates misconceptions about migration in popular culture, and I am now a Media Studies and Sociology major, so I would say that my coursework in London definitely influenced my future career path. More generally, studying abroad provides a global perspective that is useful and marketable for any industry.