LONDON — This week marks the end of my stay in London. As I begin to pack and study for exams, I’m reflecting on what I’ve done this semester and how living in another country for four months has changed my perspective as an American and a citizen of the world.
I will undoubtedly miss eating my weight in Digestives, Cadbury chocolate and Haribo Fangtastics, as well as walking through Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus and the various serene parks, gardens and squares throughout London. Spending my money on Oxford Street and Camden Market will also be pastimes that I’ll miss, though they were detrimental to my finances.
And how could I forget traveling around Europe! That was pretty awesome.
Ultimately, studying abroad was such a wonderful experience because it presented me with a challenge that I hadn’t encountered during my time at Binghamton. The challenge wasn’t living with seven other individuals in an apartment, learning how to cook, remembering what day to recycle or trying not to get run over by a double-decker bus.
The Semester in London program proposed the challenge of seeing the world differently — seeing it through the eyes of a people and a country with an extraordinarily different history and set of convictions from those of my homeland.
And I eagerly accepted that challenge, unaware of how intrigued and curious I would become by Britain’s culture and history.
Museum visits, theater trips and weekend trips to places such as York, Whitby and Bath not only helped generate curiosity, but also satisfied my interests by piecing together the various aspects of British life so that I could understand the development of the British culture in which I was engaged.
I visited places I wouldn’t have thought of going to in New York, including a mosque and a war museum. I watched plays that I may not have seen in America, which made me examine the cultural relations amongst different ethnic groups in Britain and how those relations differed with the same groups in the U.S.
I learned about the history of various religious and ethnic groups in Britain and even had opportunities to learn firsthand how it feels being British with different cultural backgrounds. I was able to juxtaposed their experiences with my own, as an American with a Caribbean heritage.
In those moments I was able to grasp British culture and hold it up against American culture. I loved the moments in which I was able to comprehend certain trends and cultural beliefs, because it meant that I was involved in the place I was living.
Each day was a new opportunity to learn something new, not only during class, but by walking through the streets, going to clubs and pubs and having conversations with locals. I remember having a conversation with a hair stylist, when I learned about the British school system. Apparently, cheerleaders and school spirit aren’t exactly as popular here as they are in America.
I walk away from this experience perhaps not an expert on the world, but more conscious of the people who are in it, along with their customs. Studying abroad has given me the chance to reassess not only my place in the world as an American, but also examine and acknowledge the different ways in which other people perceive the same issues and concerns that Americans have.
Taking global studies courses can only do so much to expand one’s knowledge of the world that lies beyond the American realm. Having the world as your classroom, on the other hand, makes all the difference.