The Beginning of a Semester in London


The first few days of studying abroad in London include a cruise on the Thames and exploring the amazing city. (Courtesy of Jamison Rodgers for The Fordham Ram)

Bon voyage, New York! Last week, I packed my life up into, surprisingly, only three suitcases, crossed the pond and commenced the adventure of a lifetime with the start of my fall semester abroad in London. 

The start of a new school year is always a time filled with many different emotions. For some, excitement ranks highest among those swirling mass of feelings. For others, there is a sense of sadness as the glow of summer winks out. I was always more of the former as a return to school signified a return to a routine that seemed to, inevitably, get lost in the lazy, hazy days of summer.

I still feel that excitement as I start my semester abroad — excitement over meeting new people, exploring new places and learning new things. I am looking forward to the courses I am taking abroad, some of which the subject matter is only offered at the Fordham London Centre. All of the welcome week activities, including a boat cruise down the Thames River, a traditional Sunday roast dinner and an exhilarating scavenger hunt throughout the city of London, has allowed for new friendships to form and generated even more excitement for the semester ahead.

At the same time, I am transported back to the emotions I felt as I commenced my freshman year of college. I am in a new city learning a new set of cultural norms and expectations. Even without a language barrier, it can feel as though things are being lost in translation as you adjust to culture shock. 

The study abroad experience requires a lot of different qualities — patience, flexibility, spontaneity. Not all of these come naturally, but they will be fostered and bolstered during this experience. You will have the time of your life, but there is no doubt that the experience is an adjustment. I have compiled a few recommendations as I navigate the adjustment process for others to utilize to help ensure a smooth transition. 

First, get to know your neighborhood. The faster your new environment feels familiar, the faster it will feel like home. Scout out places to be your regular, walk around to acquaint yourself with the area, become familiar with the public transportation around you. 

Second, go to all the orientation week activities. Aside from these activities helping orient you to your new environment, they will also help you meet other people in your program. I know it can feel daunting to sign up for an event without knowing if someone you know will also be in attendance, but this is one of the easiest ways to meet people. Everyone in the program wants to meet new people as well so try not to let the nerves overpower your inclination to go.

Third, bring a hobby or activity that you like doing back home over with you. Whether this is a sport, a creative endeavor or something else, try to see if you can continue it in your new home for the semester. This is also a great way to meet people with similar interests whether there is a local group you can join or others in your program that share the same hobbies. 

Fourth and finally, if you know anybody that has traveled through or lived where you are going, pick their brain for any recommendations and insider tips. These can be tips on anything — how to travel on the cheap, best sites to see and restaurants to eat at or how to navigate the public transportation system. 

The advent of this column is to share about my experiences abroad as well as any tips and tricks I pick up or things I wish I knew before leaving. These are the recommendations I have complied thus far to ensure you make the most of your time abroad. 

To that end, I’ll leave you with the lesson I learned this week. I am notorious for overpacking whenever I travel and it seems that packing for a semester abroad in London is no exception. Trust me when I say that you do not need to bring every pair of shoes you own. You won’t wear them all, and all they will do is take up space you don’t have to begin with. To aid in this endeavor, don’t be like me and start packing more than 12 hours in advance of your flight. Until next week, cheers Rams!