Mind the gap: Crossing the pond to study abroad

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Julie. I am a junior this year, and I am spending my semester in England. Currently, I’m writing to you from the bed at my homestay in Teddington (yes, this a is a real place). I am located approximately 30 minutes southwest of Central London (by train). London is as amazing as people describe it to be and better. It will exceed all expectations; you have my word.

This column is going to be real. I will tell you the positives and negatives, dos and don’ts of studying abroad and traveling the European continent. Promise.

I have always dreamed of living in London. It stems from a deep love of William Shakespeare and The Beatles. Both have had significant roles in my life, so I got really lucky. And I ended up here: St. Mary’s University Twickenham of London (also a real place).

I am currently in the settling in period. You all remember the day you showed up to campus and had time to find your way around. You had the chance to explore Dubuque and are constantly doing so. Well, that’s kind of what I’m doing.

Unfortunately, I am only here for about four and a half months, which means that I have to fit the four years other students have in college into four months.

It’s more difficult than you might imagine. Not to mention the meaninglessness of a dollar here. If you plan to travel to England, make sure PLAN is the operative word.

On the other hand…

This is England. This is all of Europe. I have a whole continent at my fingertips…thanks to mobile phones and easy to book plane tickets. Two nights ago, I planned my first trip. Amsterdam. It’s important to do a lot of research before you go. When it comes to planning, book your flight and accommodations as far in advance as possible. The earlier you book, the cheaper it will be. I just re-read that, and I sound like my mom…or a travel agency, but it’s all true.

Traveling is a learning experience. Expect to get lost, and be thankful for whatever you see on the way. It could be your favorite part of the entire trip. Be open to people and ideas. Remember that you probably won’t know these people forever, but you will be traveling with them. No matter what, it’s not about who you are with, but where you are. Forget what people tell you because this is a time for you to be truly selfish. I know. It’s not what your parents would advise, but they won’t be there holding your hand.

It’s time to grow up real fast. Studying abroad will teach you so much. I have learned more in the past two weeks than in my first two years at Loras. Traveling, whether it’s to another country or to visit your friend at University of Missouri, is good for the soul.

So if you want to study abroad, or just live vicariously through my stories of triumph or tragedy, follow me.
Keep jet-setting with Julie!

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