How One Summer Abroad Transformed My Life

Aug 2, 2019 10:22:00 AM / by Hannah Woodruff

For Hannah, studying abroad has made the world feel more like home. It's opened many doors for her to check off what she set out to do, and as a result it's lit a fire in her to carry on with the awe-inspiring changes in her life. She tells us what it's been like adjusting back to living in the US and what she misses most about Europe.

Around 1:00 PM Eastern Standard Time, I disembarked American Airlines Flight 755 and rolled my carry-on suitcase down long hallways and through queues at customs in Philadelphia International Airport. After six weeks abroad, I was—of course—glad to be home; I had missed my friends and family as well as my quaint small town and air-conditioned bedroom. However, London had begun to feel like home to me as well. There, I had settled into a comfortable yet exciting rhythm. Often, it began with a commute on the London Underground, which was almost always hot, loud, and crowded but no longer the unnavigable labyrinth I had first thought. I had many of the Tube lines and the streets above memorized, and I loved investigating new museums, markets, and other nooks all across the vibrant and historic city. Since returning to my life in America, I’ve often found myself reminiscing about some of my favorite places, people, and—yes—even foods abroad (what I wouldn’t give for a proper scone).

Reflection Tea Time.jpgAfternoon tea is definitely my favorite meal of the day, and I miss it so much! Those scones you see on our second tier were so delicious, and they are traditionally served with jam and clotted cream.
This picture was taken at Bea’s, one of the more affordable venues with gluten-free options! 

Reflection Tower of London
Here’s one of my most touristy pictures with one of the Yeomen Warders at the Tower of London. If you ever get the chance to go, you have to go see the ravens! According to legend, if all the ravens were to leave the Tower of London, it and the city of London would fall.

Reflection Kensington Birds
Did you know that there are green parakeets in Kensington Gardens that will land on you? I sure didn’t, and I was so surprised! I made these two lovely friends during a class walking tour there! 

As you can imagine, much has changed back home in my absence. Little things—my herbs are taller and leafier, overflowing their troughs; unheard inside jokes circulate my friend group; a new cafe is preparing to open downtown. Even my bedroom has been rearranged. Like basil, parsley, and the terrain of my small town, I too had changed and grown; thus, while a bit disorienting, it was also refreshing and reassuring to return to a familiar space that had also experienced such a change.

In Act I, Scene II of The Tempest (a play we read in my Shakespeare and London course), the spirit Ariel sings a song about Ferdinand’s father, poetically describing a transformation of bones to coral and eyes to pearls before saying: “Nothing of him that doth fade,/ But doth suffer a sea-change/ Into something rich and strange.” These words have really resonated with me. Throughout my time in Europe, I too have grown and transformed. Because of my study abroad experience, I have developed my skills as a writer and a professional through my habits, coursework, and CAPA blogging. I have also noticed a great deal of personal growth. Since studying abroad in London, I have become a more confident, independent, well-traveled woman.

My good friend and CAPA Instagram TV vlogger Clare Weigel, wanted to see Magdalen College at Oxford University, and we were not disappointed by the beautiful courtyard! 
(Photo by Clare Weigel)

Reflection The Hub
Here I am looking through the telescope on top of Camera Obscura in Edinburgh. You can see The Hub rising above me in the background.
(Photo by Clare Weigel)

Reflection Skye Rocks
I am not exaggerating when I say that the Isle of Skye is the most beautiful place I’ve been in all my life. I cannot wait to go back!
(Photo by Clare Weigel)

Reflection Bath
On one of our CAPA excursions, we went to see Bath, which was so adorable that I just had to visit twice!
Here’s a view of Bath Abbey from inside The Roman Baths.

Furthermore, I’ve decided to continue making changes in my life, and I think the most important one is this: keep exploring. In my experience, it’s easy to become overly accustomed to the familiar, to the point where you start taking it for granted. You think you know all it has to offer or perhaps you stop caring that you don’t know. This leaves little room for your surroundings to surprise you, for new feelings or observations to strike you. It can leech any place of its magic, even such a place as London. That’s why one of my new goals is to keep exploring with the open mind and eyes of a newcomer, excited to see what’s out there.

Millennium Bridge
I bought a pair of Luna Lovegood’s Spectrespecs on an impulse, and I have not regretted it since.
They turned Millennium Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral a pretty shade of lavender.
(Photo by Clare Weigel)

Brick Lane
There’s a lot of street art around London, especially in Brick Lane!

Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, is absolutely adorable. Here are some baskets of hanging flowers outside of the traditional homes you can see there. 

While I saw so much in my six weeks, I didn’t see everything I meant to in London. However, places like Brixton, Windsor Castle, and the Natural History Museum are just more reasons to return someday. I chose to study abroad in London for the cultural and educational experience, but I also chose London because I’ve always dreamed about moving there. In a way, these six weeks were a trial run to see whether or not I was capable of making such a move and adjusting to an entirely new place on my own. I no longer doubt my capability, and I certainly don’t doubt that I belong there. I will return to London someday, hopefully as a working professional, if not a citizen of the United Kingdom.

Reflection Tower BridgeI walked across Tower Bridge too many times to count! It has some awesome views of the Shard and the Tower of London, and no picture can do justice to that bright blue paint!
Photo by Clare Weigel)

Reflection Abbey Road
As a Beatles fan, I just had to see Abbey Road. I may or may not have been humming “Across the Universe” before this picture was taken.
(Photo by Clare Weigel)

Reflection Stonehenge
CAPA also arranged for us to see Stonehenge, one of the greatest mysteries of the world!
Did you know that there are also sheep that roam about the outskirts of this man-made wonder? 

Studying abroad has opened up the world to me. It has given me many new homes in all the places to which I traveled, from my base in London to the Isle of Skye in northern Scotland and Paris in mainland Europe. Perhaps more accurately, studying abroad has made the world feel more like my home, all of it, both familiar and unfamiliar. I would highly recommend the experience to all, especially those considering London, England.

Reflection Bodleian LibraryI will miss England so much, but I will return someday soon! Maybe then I will be able to see the inside of Bodleian Library at Oxford University.
(Photo by Clare Weigel)

Reflection Harry Potter Platform
Getting my picture at Platform 9 ¾ almost makes up for never receiving my Hogwarts Letter. I gave it a running start, but sadly the barrier had been sealed off. Oh well, there’s always next time.
(Photo by Clare Weigel)

Reflection Paris
I finished up my summer abroad in Paris, France. My travel buddy, Nina, captured how happy I was to have such a wonderful life-changing experience. 

Thanks, Hannah!

Hannah Woodruff


Hannah Woodruff is an official CAPA blogger for summer 2019, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. With a double major in English Literature and English Writing  at University of Pittsburgh, she is studying abroad in London this semester.

Hannah's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.

Learn More about the CAPA London Program

Topics: London, England, International Education