Courtney Manning is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2017, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Convergence Journalism major at the University of Missouri-Columbia, she is studying abroad in London this semester.
In her last post, Courtney shares her top 10 tips from studying abroad, and how she's changed since arriving in London.
I am currently sitting in Heathrow Airport awaiting my flight back to America. I’ve stayed in the U.K. a bit longer than most of my friends on my trip, and it doesn’t feel real yet that I’m actually leaving London. I am so comfortable with my life here now that I almost can’t imagine leaving. At the same time, I am excited to see my family, my pets, visit my friends at Mizzou and see what the summer has in store for me. Living in London for a semester has been one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I hope that I can live here again post-grad. Here are my top 10 takeaways/tips from my study abroad experience:
1. Alone time is wonderful.
I’ve made so many new friends on this trip, and while I’ve loved every moment I’ve spent with them, I’ve also learned that wandering around your city (and/or traveling other places) alone can be quite therapeutic. One of my favorite things to do on this trip was to look up a place in London that I wanted to visit, whether it be a landmark, a café or a piece of street art, put in my headphones and enjoy getting lost and seeing different parts of the city that I never would have seen otherwise. I am very much a “people person,” and at Mizzou and at home I am rarely ever alone. It was nice to take some time to think and relax by myself on this trip.
2. Take advantage of every opportunity.
Every single one. Even if you’re tired. Even if you’re nervous. It’s unlikely that you will ever have these incredible opportunities ever again, so make the most of life and be adventurous! Sure, our internships and classes got tiring at times, but my only regrets from this experience were the times when I turned down offers to go new places and do fun things because I was too tired. (But also don’t feel guilty for staying in and getting some sleep- that’s very important so you remain healthy enough to do these fun things!)
3. Watch the sunset and the sunrise.
This was one of my favorite things to do in London. I loved waking up early to sit on Primrose Hill or Parliament Hill or going to watch the sunset by Big Ben after work. This gave me some nice time to sit quietly and think and enjoy the beautiful place in which I was so blessed to live. Highly recommended.
4. Realize that studying abroad does not mean vacation.
Sure, every single day in a different country is fun and new and exciting, and you get to take really fun weekend trips and maybe have an amazing spring break, but you still have to keep on top of your studies, take your internship seriously (if you have one) and get enough sleep, eat well and exercise. A semester is a long time, and treating it as a really lengthy vacation will only do you harm in the long run. That being said, still have as much fun and experience as much as you can!
5. Life isn’t perfect anywhere.
My mom has always told me, “Wherever you go, there you are,” since I was a little kid. This has rung incredibly true on this trip, as I’ve realized that no matter where I live, my life will never be perfect. Sure, London is one of the most amazing places in the world in my opinion, but that doesn’t meet I won’t feel mad or sad or stressed or have some really bad days while there. I’ve learned that you just have to accept that your life (and everyone else’s) will never be flawless. You just have to try to make the most of every day and really take time to appreciate the good things that happen to you, no matter how big or small, and stop feeling guilty when you have a bad day in a place you’ve always dreamed of living in.
6. Consider studying abroad in the fall, too.
Especially if you’re going to be living in London. Something all my friends and I agreed on that made our trip harder was the fact that we came to London in the winter when the weather was terrible and seasonal depression was very common. Now that we’re leaving, the weather is beautiful most days! The weather has definitely made it harder to leave. While you should try to study abroad at any time you can, just remember that fall is an option too!
7. Make as many connections as you can.
At your internship, with your professors, your peers, the random people you meet in coffee shops or while going out- make (genuine) connections with everyone. This can help you so much later in life!
8. You might feel like you’ve changed- a lot.
This was something that surprised me. I genuinely didn’t think, coming into this, that I would change as much as I have. I feel like a completely different person now with all I have learned and all the experiences I have had. Accept the change, and let it make you a better person!
9. Constantly look around.
Living in Camden Town, a place full of street art and interesting people, taught me that if you aren’t always looking around you, you’re going to miss a lot of things. I can’t tell you how many times I discovered tiny hidden bits of street art or funny stickers on light posts because I was always trying to find new things. Take as many pictures as you can, too. You won’t regret it!
10. Be grateful for the friends you’ve made while studying abroad, but be grateful for the friends you have at home, as well.
Although I missed my friends from home a lot while I was on this trip, I definitely put our group messages on mute and got annoyed when they constantly texted about things happening back at Mizzou. Over time, though, I realized that they were texting me so much because they really missed me and wanted to keep me in the loop of things happening back home! That’s something to be grateful for.
Courtney's journey continues every Wednesday so stay tuned.