Junior year at my university means one thing: study abroad. I had planned since my senior year in high school that I would escape the U.S of A, and land myself in Accra, Ghana for at least a semester. I (almost) shed a tear when I was accepted to the program. I would finally get to visit the Motherland, and immerse myself deep in a culture so completely different from my own for the first time. On top of that, I would be going with no friends, family, or classmates.
Then Ebola broke out. A few months before I was set to leave, the program was cancelled. There would be no 10 plus hour flight. There would be no learning of the native Twi language. There would be no long trip in which I would discover a more meaningful reason to existence.
Instead, I was granted permission to study abroad in Newcastle, a city in northern England, about a seven-hour drive from London. Although it was not the experience I was looking for, I still decided that I would still enjoy it, and milk it of every advantage I could.
As I boarded my flight, it still had not hit me that I was going to be in the same country that graced the world with the likes of the Spice Girls, David Beckham, and of course, One Direction. It was not until my layover in London that I realized that I had just hopped on a plane and crossed the Atlantic Ocean. This would be my new adventure for the next 6 months.
Four months in, I still had not made the trip back to London. I did however book a week out of my university’s month-long holiday to the capital. By the time it came around, I was already a pro at navigating cities and metro systems, having done so in Paris (in French I might add), Rome (although small), and Athens (which still is an alien language to me). By the time I had returned to England, just the familiarity of the language gave me the confidence to set off alone in what would be the most life changing week (cliché, I know) of my life.
Perhaps my best advice to anyone in a new city would be to stay above ground. While the subway is fast and cheap, one experience is enough. Grab a bus, or take a walk. While it took me two hours to reach the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, taking the bus was the turning point in my trip. The sun was shining for the first time since I had arrived in England. People were relaxing in the numerous parks I passed. I had my headphones in, and was listening to my favorite artist. Everything was picture perfect. I had found my way there by my independent self, and I had not a care in the world, except that I knew I would one day have to leave.
Upon leaving, I couldn’t stop thinking about how and when I would return. I’ve researched job opportunities, airline tickets, the visa process, and even did some apartment hunting. With only one year left until graduation, I am preparing myself to head out as soon as possible.
They say when you go abroad, you have the time of your life. You embrace the culture and learn new things about yourself you never knew. You become independent. Although I had fun times, without that trip to London, I don’t know if I would be able to say that about my time abroad.
I have learned that life’s biggest surprises come from the most random of opportunities. I often wonder how different my life would be if I had gone to Accra instead. Why am I so infatuated with the city of London? I would say the hustle and bustle of the city completely mesmerized me, if I were not from New York. There is something special about that city in particular. You can’t always get what you want, but if you don’t know what’s out there, you can’t be too sure of what you really want. For me, that’s London.
Originally written in June 2015.