Studying abroad has been the greatest decision in my life.  As time in London continues to dwindle, and we are only a few days left before returning home, I have been reflecting on my time here.  Studying abroad has changed my life in so many little ways.  It is probably not even noticeable to anyone else except me, but it has made me appreciate everything I have in my life.  It has made me realize how lucky I am.  There are a lot of people who will never travel outside of the United States, let alone travel to 7 different countries in 3 months.  Planning out my last couple of days here I have realized I want to revisit many places just one last time before the final day of departure. Hyde Park, Winter Wonderland, Harrods, Big Ben, The Eye, Camden Market just to name a few.  It is so hard to think about leaving London.  I have truly fallen in love with this country.  Even though I am excited to go home and spend the holidays with the people I love, there is a part of me that also is very sad about leaving.  Our time here went so fast.  When we arrived, I kept telling myself “Oh, I can do that next week. We still have 4 months to explore,” but that is probably one of the biggest mistakes I have ever made.  I should have only been in my flat to sleep, and study.  The majority of my time should have been spent exploring the wonderful culture London has to offer, to make sure I saw everything.

Looking back on my experience I have been thinking about what advice I would give future candidates who wish to study abroad especially about packing, and this is what I came up with…

  • Do not over pack! Make sure to leave plenty of room for souvenirs plus you most likely won’t even end up wearing everything you bring (if you pack like I did) and you can just re wear clothes.
  • Bring some of the essentials (a BIG shampoo and conditioner, body/face wash, a towel, a pillow, toothpaste) because it will make it easier for you to have during those first couple of days settling in until you get your bearings. Also, it guarantees that you will have extra room in your bag for items you buy while abroad!
  • Bring random things you wouldn’t think to bring like a small laundry hamper, (from the dollar store!) scissors, (all my roommates were borrowing my scissors) command hooks, a couple hangers, a mini stapler, Ziploc baggies, notebooks, pens, and sticky tack to hang things on the wall.  Print out pictures of friends and family, some random that can make it through the flight to have some comforts of home.  I wish I had stuffed hot chocolate packets and mac and cheese in my suitcase too. I know it sounds strange, and seems like a lot of things to pack, but most of the items are pretty small and these are items that will be consumed which will free up space for your return home. And, like I mentioned, you really do not need as many clothes as you think you need.
  • The clothes I wish I had brought more of were sweat pants and sweatshirts, everyone I talked to had said you don’t wear them as much as you do in the States, which is true, but I would encourage you to bring at least 2 or three of each.

As I am reflecting, it is beginning to make me sad as I am remembering when I was preparing to get ready to leave, and well, now, I will soon be packing to return home. Hopefully all my souvenirs and gifts will fit!  There is so much I will miss about London from the recording of someone saying “mind the gap” on the tube, to feeding the birds at Hyde Park, and even my commute to work.  Though I am excited to go home, I am also kind of nervous.  I have a feeling returning home will be more of a culture shock then coming here because I have become more observant and really adjusted to the lifestyle here.  It is such a relaxed way of life.  They keep it simple with no stress attached.  What a great way to live! As I think about my return home, I begin to wonder if I want to live in my old environment.  Everyone is always worried about something and the stress level, well at times can get very high.  Adjusting to London’s culture was amazing, but now thinking about readjusting to my own, I wonder, will it be hard? For example, school, will adjusting to school and my studies be difficult? Over here, school was simple and relaxing. There were no nightly homework assignments to worry about, or deadlines, and during this entire semester I had only had 2 exams.  Getting back into a more demanding routine will be difficult.  To continue with my experiences, I have had the opportunity to attend 4 fabulous musicals over my four months: Blood Brothers, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, and Lion King. In De Pere, there are no Broadway types of musicals, and there is no tube to hop on to travel miles away in any direction just because I feel like it.  No longer will I experience traveling every other weekend to different parts of the world just for a weekend trip.  Now I am nervous that life will not be as exciting back home, and I will feel confined on the St. Norbert campus with not much of a variety to choose from to do or be entertained. But, at the same time I cannot wait to be back because I do miss my friends and campus life at St. Norbert’s.

Overall studying abroad has been the most amazing experience I have ever lived through in my life.  I will always remember these past four months, and I hope some day I will be able to return to London to relieve this time of my life.  I will definitely encourage anyone and everyone to study abroad no matter where they choose to study. They will with out a doubt have an incredible life changing experience.  What a paramount decision I made, and I would do it again!

Taylor Tencate is studying abroad in London, England, with the Foundation for International Education (FIE).