When Jen studied abroad in London during Fall semester 2013, she felt at home surprisingly quickly (considering it was her first time living in a city) and set out to explore her new environment. Below, she shares her thoughts on being back home again, talks about the many ways in which she was able to better understand London because of her classes and remembers fondly her favorite meal abroad - bangers and mash!
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
JEN RITINSKI: My name is Jen Ritinski and I’m currently at junior at the University of Delaware. I chose to study abroad in London, since I have wanted to visit the UK for as long as I can remember! As an Art History major and an International Business Studies minor, London was the perfect environment to enhance my studies. In the future, I hope to have a career in the field of art business, working in a gallery, museum, or auction house. In addition to traveling, I also enjoy dancing and going to the beach.
CW: Which MyEducation event was most memorable for you and why? How did your participation in this event change your understanding of the city?
JR: The MyEducation event I loved the best was the trip to Camden, which is in north London, early in the semester. I loved seeing such a different side of London, where the crowds of people and street musicians added to the great atmosphere. We visited Camden Lock Market while there and I sampled all different types of food and bought some great souvenirs as well!
Photo: Camden Lock by Stephanie Sadler
CW: Give three examples of ways in which you were able to tie the knowledge you've gained in your CAPA classes into the way you understand your host city.
JR: One of the classes I took addressed the media in the UK and discussed how important both the print and online media are to the culture. We discussed privacy laws and visited the headquarters of two newspapers to learn about them firsthand. It was interesting to hear this perspective about the news, and we compared the ways this was both alike and dissimilar to American culture.
My International Business class also explored various business practices and how companies have to consider the cultural implications of an area when attempting to expand a business abroad. We discussed examples from the US, UK, and other European nations as well. Our class attended a conference where business owners talked about their strategies for success.
Applying the knowledge we learned in class was most evident in my Art and Architecture course. We learned about particular artists and eras in class, and then visited exhibitions that featured works by the artists we had studied. It was a great way to connect and understand what we were learning, and it was by far my favorite course!
CW: What were your first impressions of your host city? How did these change over the course of the semester?
JR: I was definitely overwhelmed my first few days in London. Adjusting to an entirely new area, coupled with the fact that I was jetlagged from the flight was challenging. But after a few days, I honestly began to feel at home there as I explored more places in the city. It was almost surreal visiting the iconic London sites, such as Big Ben, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, and Tower Bridge. As the semester went on, I became even more comfortable exploring London and visiting some of the more obscure neighborhoods.
Photo: Big Ben from South Bank by Stephanie Sadler
CW: What changes have you seen in yourself since you began your study abroad program? What has your experience taught you about yourself and the world around you?
JR: As much as it sounds like a cliché, I have absolutely changed as a person since the beginning of the program. Educationally, I have immersed myself in the fine arts culture by visiting countless galleries and museums, honed my writing abilities in various classes, and improved my time-management skills. On a personal note, I have become confident, independent, and more broadly aware of the world. As London is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world, I feel that I have learned about so many different cultures and I’m eager to learn even more!
CW: How do you imagine that your experience abroad will change the way you approach your environment now that you are back home? How do you think it will change the way you approach your studies?
JR: Now that I have returned home, it feels strange to be back. I had become comfortable in the routine I had in London, so there was certainly an adjustment period. One change I have noticed is that I feel more confident and willing to explore new places. As far as my studies are concerned, I think that I will now look at certain subjects with a global perspective, and I will continue to utilize the time management skills that became essential while abroad.
CW: When you think of your host city, what first comes to mind when you hear the following:
Sight: The cars driving on the left side of the road.
Sound: Being told to “Mind the Gap” when entering and exiting the Tube.
Smell: A fish and chip shop down the road from my flat.
Taste: My favorite meal whilst in London, bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes)!
Texture: Wet, from all the rain.
Photo: Mind the Gap by gmacfadyen
CW: What were the biggest challenges you faced in adapting to your host country? Most rewarding moment?
JR: For me, the biggest challenge was planning my budget accordingly. I knew I wanted to travel to other places during my time abroad, so it definitely took some prior preparation to make that possible. It was helpful to make a weekly budget for grocery shopping, as well as taking advantage of activities or places that featured student discounts. The most rewarding moment was when I was able to take the Tube by myself for the first time and not get lost. I had never lived in a city prior to studying in London, so I was worried about this aspect. Fortunately, the Tube is very easy to use and it became a daily routine that I loved.
CW: Tell us about a book or film that inspired you to study abroad. How did what you watched or read compare to the actual experience of living and studying abroad?
JR: When I was younger, I watched the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap and was fascinated by the scenes in London. I was even more excited to learn that CAPA was located in Kensington, because the houses in the neighborhoods look so similar to the ones in the movie. As I began to explore London more, I came to realize that it has so much more to offer and has various areas that are all unique.
Photo: Greenwich by Stephanie Sadler
CW: Describe an area of the city that surprised you and tell us what it was about it that you didn't expect. How did this change your perceptions of the city as a whole?
JR: I didn’t get a chance to explore Greenwich in southeast London until the last week of the program. But I’m so glad I got to see it before I left! While it is most well-known as the location of the Prime Meridian, Greenwich also has a large market, a maritime museum, and small-town environment. What struck me most about Greenwich was how different it seemed from the fast-paced environment of central London. I loved how neighborhoods could feel so different, yet still be relatively close to each other. London certainly has a lot to offer, and I feel as though I only scratched the surface during my time there!