Moving to London was like jumping into an ice-cold swimming pool: shocking, exhilarating, and terrifying. For me, it has been the experience of a lifetime, filled with exciting new cultures and humbling lessons. Here is a bit of advice that I wish I had been given before I stepped off of that airplane in August.
1. Bring your best pair of tennis shoes. Europeans walk everywhere! I promise, you will come to love the brisk morning walks to school, but for the first few days your feet may hurt.
2. Ask the locals for advice. Whether you ask for dinner recommendations or directions to a beautiful hilltop view, nine out of ten times the locals will guide you to the city’s hidden gems.
3. Try the specialty foods in the countries you visit. You learn so much about a culture through its food, and the food is usually very tasty.
4. Be prepared to be challenged and stretched. Studying abroad is a phenomenal experience, but it is filled with cultural adjustments, flight delays, and lost passports. You will definitely learn to be flexible!
5. Befriend the locals in your home city. They will make your experience much richer through their cultural insight and friendship.
6. Learn how to navigate public transportation. If you can’t walk any longer, public transport is often your cheapest and quickest option. Just make sure you know the ticket specifications and rules in each city, or you may end up paying an unfortunate fine!
7. Pack extra bags. You never know when you’ll need that extra tote for a weekend getaway. The low-cost airlines also have very specific (and tiny) carry-on bag restrictions, so it’s good to have options.
8. Never stop exploring. A time will come in the semester when you are exhausted from traveling to nearby countries, adjusting to each new culture, visiting every noteworthy sight in town, and studying for your classes, but continue to seek out new places. Before you know it, you’ll be on a plane back home!
9. That being said, you must take care of yourself, even if it means you spend a slow, relaxing weekend in your home city. Studying abroad is a semester-long sprint, so it is vital for you to be healthy.
10. Get ready to be amazed by the cultures you will encounter. It is fascinating to experience the world outside of our comfortable bubbles back home. The world is a big place, and this is your chance to see it!
Emma is a Fall 2017 SAI London student from Baylor University