Why did you choose to go to Worcester, England for study abroad?
I chose to go to England because I felt it would be the closest thing to America while getting out of North America. I was a bit afraid to leave my comfort zone, but I did just that immediately after arriving in the UK. But it was good for me. I was thrown into this new experience and am a better person for it.
What was your biggest surprise on arrival in England?
How difficult it was for me to understand British accents! Also, people had difficulty understanding me. I was shocked by that.
What did you learn outside of the classroom?
I definitely learned how to be independent.I became confident in myself in a way I had never felt before. I was able to live on my own, I could budget, I could go grocery shopping for myself, and I knew when to stop spending money. I definitely came back a whole new person in that sense. I’m a lot more trusting in myself, I’d say. Now I feel I am able to move to Boston for City Year and Providence (Rhode Island) to attend Brown University and be alright on my own. Once you live in a different country, let alone continent, on your own, you can go anywhere and feel at home. It’s what you make of it.
What is the biggest change that you have noticed about yourself since coming back?
Like I said, I’m very independent now. I am moving to my first apartment next week, and I’ve really learned how to budget this summer in order to save money due to my time abroad. I also think my self-esteem has shot up about a million percent. There is something to be said about moving to a different country and being able to feel at home in just a few short weeks. Once I started to become comfortable with my surroundings, I was able to explore more and learn about my new city and country. With that being said, I definitely came back more cultured.
I think the absolute biggest change for me was coming home and watching my grades start to soar. School in England isn’t necessarily more difficult, but it is drastically different. Somehow, I wound up in higher level classes than I should have been and I actually pulled through. I came home and was consistently on the Dean’s Highest Honors. I graduated cum laude and got into grad school. I think a lot of that confidence in my abilities came from my time spent in Europe.
Why would you recommend study abroad?
It is a fantastic way to learn about a new culture. You’ll never be able to comprehend a culture as much as you would if you live there. I was thrown into a world of biscuits and tea – no more bagels and iced coffee for me. So many things I thought I would dislike, I ended up loving. I came back home to America and missed my life in England. I can share stories with other people who have studied abroad and now have the confidence to pack up and move to, say, Scotland if I wanted. I sincerely feel it makes you a stronger being in every sense. You just come back better, to put it simply.
Lauren is working for City Year in Boston and has been accepted to Brown University’s Master of Public Administration program. She plans to start her graduate studies in 2014.