Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Chris Gardner gave the keynote at the Spring 2024 Commencement.
Class of 2024 Graduates With ‘Permission to Dream’
Anna Holstein, Staff Reporter • April 29, 2024
View All
Griffin Miller tallied four strikeouts in four innings.
Ragin' Cajuns Ravage the Herd
Ben Cower, Student Repoter • April 24, 2024
View All
Walk For Hope Flyer

Courtesy of Phi Alpha
Walk for Hope to Shine Light on Suicide Prevention
Baylee Parsons, Copy Editor • April 19, 2024
View All
The Parthenon on Twitter
Chris Gardner
Spring Commencement to Feature Inspiring Speaker
Sarah Davis, News Editor • April 23, 2024
View All
Check won the javelin throw with a distance of 36.26 meters.
Track and Field Trounce James Madison Invitational
Wade Sullivan, Student Reporter • April 20, 2024
View All
Peter Canellos speaks on the life of Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan.
Amicus Curiae Focuses on Harlan
Sarah Davis, News Editor • April 18, 2024
View All
The Parthenon on Twitter

Bex Abroad: The Other Side of Studying Abroad

Bex+Abroad%3A+The+Other+Side+of+Studying+Abroad

Reader, I think it’s time for me to come clean. I have made a few mistakes in this journey abroad. It also has not been the easy transition I have told Instagram it was. 

I think it’s important to talk about the other side of studying abroad, because it really is a big deal. It is a huge amount of changes in a short amount of time. There is a lot of support from the Study Abroad Office before going, and there is a lot of support from your exchange university when first getting here. When you’re reading this, I will have been in England for exactly one month. I am certainly no expert, but let’s talk about the ups and downs. 

My first big mistake was packing. I brought two large suitcases, a backpack and a tote bag purse. Packing was stressful; when I landed in England, it was 92 degrees, so I needed to pack to transition from midsummer through midwinter. I brought too many clothes, for sure. I brought a few things that I hardly wear at home, and if you can’t imagine wearing something once a week, I would recommend not packing it. However, my real packing mistakes came in the miscellaneous stuff I brought.

I packed a backpack–not the one I used as a carry-on, which is my travel backpack, but a school backpack, a little leather bag that I love. It’s the perfect size for weekend travel and has come in handy, but it took up so much space in my suitcase. Here’s the thing: they sell cute backpacks in England for the same price that I paid for my American backpack. 

Story continues below advertisement

I ended up paying $200 at the airport because both my suitcases were overweight. I have already bought a third suitcase to travel home with because I had absolutely no room in my suitcases for souvenirs, which I have already acquired. I didn’t bring a “fancy” dress, and was invited to a fancy night out at the theatre which required a cocktail dress. I didn’t bring a scarf or an umbrella because I ran out of room due to my vacuum-packed stuffed animals, which they also sell here!

I know that comfort items are important, but I went overboard. I brought a lot of printed out pictures, one art poster and a mini Marshall flag. I have found that having these pictures and having a few things on the wall have brought me infinitely more comfort than having my three stuffed animals, my fairy lights and a backpack I bought from Amazon.. I wish I had been more critical when packing clothes, bringing enough clothes that I could be comfortable in any season but only bringing things I love and want to wear often, and had focused less on recreating my apartment in Huntington. I could have saved $200, not had to buy a third suitcase for the things I gather here and had more of the necessities like umbrellas and a third pair of shoes (I only have tennis shoes and Crocs and neither work for a night out at the theatre). 

My second mistake was my start date. I remember at one point knowing that Week of Welcome started Sept. 11 and that classes started Sept. 18, but in the stress and excitement, I just forgot. So, I dutifully came to England on Sept. 4, landing Sept. 5, and I was meant to go to an orientation on Sept. 7. I was jet lagged and slept through it. I woke up on Sept. 11 ready to go to school, only to see on my school calendar that I had no appointments that day. 

I ended up going to see my friends in London for a week, but if I was in a country where I didn’t know anyone, I would have just sat in my apartment, maybe going out once or twice to explore. I would have nothing to do but stress, miss my friends and spend money. I have learned to not only double-check dates but triple, and maybe even quadruple, check dates and times. 

This leads me not to a mistake, but more of a realization: packing your life and moving to a new country, even for a short time, is scary and hard. I am having so much fun here; I go to London every weekend, I enjoy my classes and am already learning a lot and Cambridge is beautiful.  I am truly enjoying exploring the local pubs and historical landmarks. But there have been some major changes that took me a while to adjust to.

An unexpected feeling is the sense of “other” I feel. In classes, everyone speaks in a different accent, a lot speak a different language, and there are social norms and customs that I don’t understand. In my Podcasting class, when asked about favorite news and journalistic podcasts, everyone brought up the BBC podcasts, not the NPR podcasts. They call elevators “lifts,” they call chips “crisps,” and they call French fries “chips.” I knew these things from TV and Twitter, but experiencing them in real life has left me really feeling like an American in a different country. 

Objectively, this feeling of being “othered” is an important feeling to have. America is not the center of the universe, and experiencing other cultures and societies is an exciting and educational moment that has already changed me and made me feel more worldly and traveled. It is sort of like when you go to a different state and no one speaks with a southern accent– just magnified by, like, a million. 

I really miss campus. I have a weekly FaceTime date with a few friends from home, but when I call at 5 p.m. here, it’s 12 p.m. in Huntington, so, as I end my day, they are just beginning it. I was extremely lonely my first week here as I was working through jet lag and understanding time zones. I miss my church, and I miss being involved on campus. I missed my last WMUL Car Bash, so seeing pictures and articles about homecoming was hard for me. 

It is hard to hold these two feelings in my heart and head, that I am so happy and grateful for this study abroad experience, and I miss home and campus so much. I wanted to tell you all about this so you all know the highs and lows of studying abroad and can make informed decisions. I don’t regret doing this, and I also don’t regret doing this my last fall semester before graduation. As much fun as I am having and as many new and exciting things as I experience, I have an equal and opposite sad or lonely experience. This is the nature of studying abroad, and I think I will be a better person for going through this in the end. 

I miss you, Huntington. See you in 89 days, Marshall!

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Parthenon
$85
$500
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will help continue the work of independent student journalism at Marshall University. If you benefit from The Parthenon's free content, please consider making a donation.

More to Discover
Donate to The Parthenon
$85
$500
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Parthenon Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *