Finding My Home Away From Home in London

Dec 6, 2021 9:30:00 AM / by Andrea Arias

Andrea takes stock of her semester abroad and writes about culture shock and the reverse of it, as well as how studying abroad challenged her to take on the best of everyday life in London.

Hello everyone who is new here and welcome back to those who have stuck around! My name is Andrea Arias and I am a senior at James Madison University. I am a theatre major with a concentration in theatre education. This fall semester, I am studying and interning abroad in London. 

Watching JMU homecoming game on Halloween

Caption: Watching James Madison University's homecoming game on Halloween.

Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock

When preparing to study abroad, my classmates and I were warned that we would experience culture shock. While everyone’s experience is different, I personally don’t feel like I experienced culture shock when coming to London. I think this is because I had plenty of preparation time to make sure all my documents were in order, classes were scheduled, and I had an idea of what I was going to pack, so I was able to spend the whole last month before studying abroad preparing to be in London for a semester.

Something I haven't been prepared for though is going back to the United States. I know for a fact that I will experience that culture shock going back. I say this because I have gotten so used to being abroad and living my day-to-day life here as a senior in college, that having to go back to my university, James Madison University, and finishing my last semester there is going to take some getting used to. It almost seems bizarre that I have to go back to my “normal” life; a life I am used to. I’ll have to adjust to the people, the environment, climate and weather, the slang, time difference, accents, education system, and transportation system. It’s crazy that I feel that I’ll have to adjust back to living a life I’ve been familiar with my whole life. Even down to the tips you give at restaurants will be a slap in the face, since service charges are automatically added to bills here and you don’t tip like you would in the US.

Thames River Cruise

Caption: On the Thames River Cruise.

Reflecting On My Semester with Less Than a Month Left

With all the opportunities given in the program, the excursions, events, classes I’ve taken, and the impactful work I’ve been able to do in my internship, the whole experience of studying abroad has felt surreal. I didn’t believe people when they said it would go by quicker than the blink of an eye, but time really has flown. As I near the end of my study abroad experience, I’ve been taking some time to reflect on some of my favorite moments throughout my semester here. 

I could go on forever with an endless list of all my favorite places and moments from this study abroad experience; but by far, the one place I will forever remember will be Russell Square, the local park right next to my apartment. The day we moved in, the first place my classmates and I went was this park, where we stood in a circle and all introduced ourselves and what we were looking forward to the most. This is where I found myself countless mornings; at ‘Tropea’ the coffee shop inside the park. Tropea’s coffee is by far my favorite coffee I’ve ever had. This park was where I first went on my run, because I wasn’t comfortable enough with running around the city since I wasn’t familiar enough yet. Russell Square is what I associate with London, and part of what I can now call my London home.

Cafe Tropea

Caption: Cafe Tropea inside Russell Square.

Why YOU Should Study Abroad

Studying abroad has made me a better person and has helped me find my passions and goals within not only my career, but myself and the people I choose to surround myself with. It’s shown me how to be a more well-rounded person. I have grown throughout this study abroad experience more drastically than I could have ever imagined. I recommend everyone study abroad if given the opportunity, because it does challenge you every day to become a better you through classes, internship opportunities, and the culture overall.

Thanks, Andrea!

Andrea Arias

Andrea (Andy) Arias is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2021, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. A theatre major from James Madison University, she is thrilled to be studying abroad in London this semester.

Andrea's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.

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Topics: London, England, Predeparture & Study Abroad Preparations, Local Culture