From Unexpected Experiences to Unforgettable Memories: My Abroad Journey in London
Tessa Elizondo explores how she gained knowledge on different cultural traditions and views, and have made lifelong memories that not only allowed her to make connections to her studies, but have also broadened her world view.
Although all my life I’ve wanted to travel the world and experience new things, I could never imagine when or where I’d actually be doing it without the details becoming hazy. However, when I decided to take the first step and look into study abroad programs here at Southwestern, the pieces finally began to fall into place. As a Sophomore Psychology major with quite a few prerequisites to fill, I was less concerned with what classes the program contained as to where the program was located. After looking through some of the many study abroad programs that were available and thinking it over for quite a bit of time, I decided on SU London.
This program was run through Southwestern University so there were Southwestern faculty members going along on the trip which was a plus for me since I felt like it would still be similar to SU, but in a vastly different place. The department involved in this semester’s program was the Biology department. Although some of the courses I took in London are courses that are offered at SU, the way they were formatted had enriching experiences that made them entirely different. For example, I took Observing the Universe with Dr. Alexander and we got to visit Greenwich and see where the prime meridian line runs through the Royal Observatory. For Dr. Burk’s class Darwin Then and Now, we were able to travel to Down House, the home of Charles Darwin himself and see his study and famous gardens where he conducted some of his experiments. My other two courses were taught by professors that were native Londoners. One of which was my Theatre Arts in London course where every Thursday night we had the opportunity to attend various different plays surrounding everything from Julius Caesar to Hamilton. My final course was called British Life and Culture. The name says it all, in this class we learned to embrace the cross-cultural differences that we would be witnessing between British and American culture while appreciating what makes them both unique. The chance to go on these site visits and then relate them to the class content made these classes so much more enjoyable and enriching an experience.
Along with the unique academic experiences that came with my semester abroad, there were many trips that made it memorable as well. The flexible schedule of four day school weeks made it easy to take advantage of weekend trips to different sites and cities. For example, I have always been a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland and wanted to see the town of Oxford where the author took inspiration from. So me and a group of friends all got on a train, and headed over one weekend. There we saw Alice’s shop, Oxford University, and a storybook themed museum. Some of our other, larger independent trips we took happened over fall break. These included visiting the beautiful city of Barcelona, and then Paris. The adaptability of the program and the closeness of so many interesting places made it easy to get carried away with all the things we wanted to do.
Another aspect of my study abroad experience that made it truly unforgettable was experiencing a different culture in such an in-depth way. We happened to be in London during a particularly monumental time. I’ll never forget the moment we were heading into a tube station and we all got the notification at the same time that Queen Elizabeth had died. Seeing the way that people reacted afterwards with emotions ranging greatly, yet impacting everyone throughout the city, was such an intimate experience. In the days and weeks that followed, everyone came together and we watched as the line of people wanting to pay their respects stretched through miles of the city. During our time there, we also saw the change between several Prime Ministers due to political issues at a historically fast pace that allowed us to watch as different people took charge. This gave us a better understanding of the political system, paired with the experiences and knowledge given to us by our British Life and Culture professor who helped explain the processes as we were watching them unfold.
Despite all the unexpected events that took place throughout my study abroad semester, there wasn’t a day where I didn’t have something new or exciting to be able to take advantage of. This paired with the wonderful friends I made along the way made it very special to me. As a student, being able to use a study abroad experience as a way of not only growing your knowledge academically, but contributing to personal growth as well, is what makes the opportunity to study abroad wherever you may choose a truly rewarding experience.