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Don’t cry over lucky charms

Filed in Blog, United Kingdom by on June 28, 2019
by Hope J.

My first night in London, I cried. I had been looking forward to this experience of a lifetime for months and months, but my first night, I was sad. After some bad weather and travel complications, I had finally arrived in London late and without my luggage. I’d missed my scheduled car, paid for a second one and barely made it in the check-in time window for my program. I went on a tour of my neighborhood in the pouring rain, then tried to keep myself awake until the evening so that my sleep schedule wasn’t completely “rubbish,” as the Brits would say. I walked to a nearby grocery store and struggled to find any sort of familiar breakfast food. They didn’t have Raisin Bran or Lucky Charms, my two favorite cereals. I went to bed at 10 p.m. Back home, my family and best friends were still in the middle of the workday, so I wasn’t able to talk to any of them about my first-day struggles. I was worried at the thought of not being able to communicate with the people I love the most throughout the summer who would be operating on such different schedules. I worried about never seeing my luggage again. I was overly tired and mad about Lucky Charms. Of course, all of these things were silly. I had worked so hard to save the money to come here, and it would turn around pretty quickly. But for a second, that first night, I had the thought: What have I done? I was in a place with no friendly faces, alone and exhausted.

My first week in London, I was on a high. After I had adequate sleep (my mom always says that lack of sleep makes me way too emotional), I felt like I was on cloud nine. I made friends quickly with a group of four other students from various colleges (Indiana, Iowa, William & Mary, etc.), and we started exploring our home for the summer. I took so may pictures, spent way too much money (which I did cry about later on), and couldn’t stop thinking: “I can’t believe this is my life for the next two months.” London is a beautiful mix of modern and historical, with so much to do and see – quite different from my tiny central Illinois hometown of 10,000 people. I was living a dream and overwhelmed at the possibilities.

My second week in London, I was a bit frustrated. Cultural differences started to appear, and things you didn’t expect might arise. I am interning and taking a class, so when I go to work for eight hours every day, I’m immersed in a completely different work culture. For example, I’ve found that work-life balance here is super important, and there’s a lot of relaxing and chatting going on in the office. In my past internship experiences in the U.S., I’ve always felt like I needed to be doing something. Staying busy is important. Companies here are much more relationship-based than many U.S. companies that are task-based. When U.S. companies prepare a presentation for a potential client, they are probably working on impressing them with ideas and solid proposals. However, in the U.K., the relationship comes first. The company and potential client may get dinner first and get to know each other on a personal level before even mentioning business. As you can imagine, things take a lot longer here. I was initially frustrated with the slower-moving environment. And though I’m still in an English-speaking country, there are so many differences in the words we use and the way we speak. When I went around the office asking for an eraser, I learned that it’s not an eraser here, but a rubber. I have learned a new word for something at east once a day. I was having trouble finding grape jelly anywhere for a PB&J. It doesn’t exist here. I was bummed about that, too. But when I asked some of my coworkers about jelly, they thought I was searching for what we call Jell-O. I had forgotten to call it jam.

Adjusting to all of these small changes takes more effort and energy than I had imagined. My third week in London, it finally started to feel like home. I started using the tube without directions. I found the best microwave meal in the world. I made friends in my program. I felt comfortable at work. My class helped me understand the cultural difference and process them. The city of London energizes and excites me more than any place I’ve been before. I’m already dreading the day I fly home. And now instead of being upset about not being able to find my favorite American foods, I’m worried about how to get my microwave meal or new favorite candy bar back to the states. I’m only about halfway through now, and I’m sure many more adventures (and emotions) are in store for my next month here. The most important thing to remember if you are planning to study abroad is that you will experience most, if not all of these emotions, and maybe all at the same time. It’s okay to let yourself feel those emotions. Work to process and understand them. Embrace them, learn from them, let them help you grow.

Eventually, I found Lucky Charms. They are in certain grocery stores, but instead of with all of the other cereal boxes, they are tucked in the candy aisle. I guess they’re unhealthy enough to be considered candy here. So, what I want to convey is – you should go abroad, and then once you get there, go on walks on your own, embrace every moment and all the emotions – the good ones, bad ones, challenging ones. Learn and grow. And try not to cry over Lucky Charms.

A female student stands in a glass tube high above a river on the edge of London.

My first month in London has been so many things: rewarding, challenging, exhausting and invigorating. Let me walk you through just a fraction of some of the emotions you might feel while studying abroad.

 

About the blogger

Hope J. is studying abroad on the Global Mizzou Internship: London program in London, U.K.

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