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It’s a Small World After All

It’s a Small World After All

When I was a high school senior trying to pick a college, a very important factor for me was a good study abroad program. I’ve always loved seeing new places and was set on spending a semester abroad. It’s a big reason why I chose Loyola. However, after further contemplation I knew I didn’t want to study on a foreign Loyola campus. I think it’s fantastic that Loyola makes it so easy to study abroad at one of their campus’s, and I was jealous when my roommate (currently studying in Rome) had one application while I had four. However, if I was going to study abroad I wanted to go all in. I’ve been at Loyola for two years, and I’ll be there for another year and a half come spring. Why not experience a completely different school system and attend a foreign institution? Thanks to Loyola’s incredible international program, my options were limitless. I could go anywhere. After looking into a lot of different options, I decided on England. Why? I’m a massive Harry Potter fan for one, but I’ve also always wanted to see England, experience the culture and the history, and hear the accents in person.

Also they speak English.

I’m not ashamed to admit that a big factor in choosing England was the absence of a language barrier. By not studying at a Loyola campus, I’m immersing myself completely into a different school. I took French through high school and took a year of Italian at Loyola, but my communication skills in both languages are very limited. If I was going to spend a semester abroad I didn’t want any difficulties communicating. After spending two days here, I knew I made the right choice. I’m totally and completely in love with London and its culture. I’ve always been a fan of big cities, and London has about the same amount of people as New York with ten times more history. While planning for my trip, I expected the culture to be similar to the US with a few little differences.

I was right. To an extent.

I went to the same public school district from first to twelfth grade. My first year at Loyola, I was surrounded by freshman that didn’t know what they were doing any more than I did. Coming to London, I’ve never felt more out of place in my life. The flat I rented is four other people traveling through USAC, so when I’m home I’m surrounded by Americans that are in the same position as me. However, as soon as I leave the American bubble of my flat, I’m very clearly foreign. After three and a half weeks here, I’d like to think I’m no longer an obvious tourist wandering the streets, but every time I open my mouth I’m very identifiable as American. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I’ve never been so conscious of my accent. I’m still thrown off when I get compliments on my accent because I’ve always considered the British accent to be appealing and the American accent to be viewed as annoying and loud. You always want what you don’t have I guess? (Side note: I’ve also been repeatedly mistaken for Australian, which has left me and my American flatmates baffled because I’m the only one that seems to get this comment.)

The accent is the dead giveaway of my international origin. However, after observing and having discussions with some classmates in London, there are quite a few small cultural differences that I didn’t consider. Slang, for example, is a big one. When I hold the door open for someone, I don’t get a “Thank you”, I get “Cheers!” Rather than ask “How are you?” Brits tend to ask “Are you alright?” which throws me off because my first question is “Yeah, why? Do I not look alright?” One of my personal favorites is the difference between pissed and pissed off. If someone is ‘pissed’ here, they’re drunk. If they’re ‘pissed off’, they’re angry. Apparently not as interchangeable as they are in the States. Similarly, spelling is another difference that seems small until you have to write a paper. While taking notes in classes, I’m trying to get in the habit of spelling ‘victimization’ as ‘victimisation’. I’d rather not lose marks for little spelling mistakes that aren’t actually mistakes to me!

Crossing the road proves to be difficult some days. I find myself looking both ways the entire time I cross because I forget which direction the cars are coming from. (Side note: You wouldn’t get hit by a truck here. You’d be hit by a lorry.) Jaywalking isn’t actually a thing here. You cross the road when you please, no one will stop you. You just have to be smart enough to not get hit.

To conclude this rambling blog post, I’ll say I’m definitely settling here. The UK is different (obviously), but similar enough to feel at home rather quickly. Starbucks tastes different. McDonald’s tastes different (Sorry Mom, I’m still eating fast food. At least I’m eating it less?). Chipotle gives you a LOT less in their burrito bowl (so, a normal serving size probably). My accent is obvious but I’m extremely thankful I speak the language fluently because I’ve met some really incredible and fascinating people while abroad, and I’m so very grateful we can understand each other fully. However, though I’m happy in an entirely English speaking country, I’m very much looking forward to traveling to other countries (the Netherlands, Italy, and hopefully France or Poland) where I’ll be fully immersed into another different culture with different languages. I’m eternally grateful to Loyola and to my family for providing this opportunity to get to experience so much. I’ve learned more about the world and about myself in these last few weeks than I have my whole college career, and I can’t wait to keep exploring!


Ferris Wheel

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