I spent the night of January 1st on a flight from New York to London, ready to begin a months-long experience that I was both incredibly excited and incredibly nervous about.
Admittedly, my first few days as a study abroad student weren’t easy. I had never been far from home—I was born in New York City, and I’d grown up in the suburbs around it before returning to the city to attend Columbia University. My surroundings were always familiar, and my family was always within reach. Moving across the ocean by myself was scary and new, but I knew that I wanted to learn and grow from being far from home. So I did my research and applied to the school that I admired the most and that I felt suited me best—King’s College London—and I embarked on my first experience living away from home with the turn of the new year.
I definitely felt homesick during the beginning of my time abroad. But London is so full of movement, excitement, and beauty that it was easy to get past those feelings. For the first few weeks, I distracted myself with a flurry of activity: I reached out and got to know both my fellow study abroad students and my full-time student flatmates, I attended KCL sponsored events, I walked through and admired some of the many free museums throughout London, and I visited all the touristy landmarks I knew: Tower Bridge, (the sadly scaffolded) Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace. I tried fish and chips and my first English breakfast, as well as the food from all over the world that was scattered throughout London.
These new sights and experiences reminded me of why I had chosen London as my study abroad location: the city holds so much culture and history, and it has something for everyone. It’s similar to my home city in its fast pace and multiculturalism, but different in its longevity, its structure, and its spirit. Though I had already expected London to be an incredibly global city, I was still surprised by the magnitude of diversity I encountered here: I heard different accents and different languages everywhere I went, and saw different skin tones and features everywhere I looked. In my classes, too, full-time King’s students hailed from all around the world, bringing different perspectives and backgrounds to the table.
Even in those early days when I was homesick, London quickly felt like home. Because the city houses so many different people and cultures, but still retains its distinctly British history, I knew that I, too, could find my place here while learning and growing from a new environment. That knowledge was both comforting and exciting, and it made my first few weeks of settling in so much brighter.