My study abroad advisor told me that the next six months of my life would be like living in Disneyland, a place where the normal rules don’t apply, but consequences still exist.
Admittedly, this is one of the only ideas that caught my attention during my two-hour London Study Abroad Orientation at 10 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Among talks of the different electricity system, Oyster cards, and culture shock, the Disneyland reference caught my attention.
In many ways, he is right. I couldn’t ask for anything better for my spring semester in London. Having never been to Europe, I chose London so that I could easily access the rest of the continent. The practically nonexistent language barrier swayed my decision as well, although I’ve been warned some Brits’ accents might as well be a foreign language.
In addition to the great location, my boyfriend, a fellow Heights editor, and a few more good friends will all be in London with me. As my classes stand now, I am only at school Monday through Wednesday, and apparently Europeans treat education as a 9-5 job anyway, so no binge working on Sundays will be required.
Obviously, the drinking age is 18 with no open container laws, and the most lively nightlife in the world surrounds my campus, as it is located right on the River Thames. Although I haven’t gotten my dorm assignment yet, it is possible that I could have a view of the London Eye from my window.
I am even equipped with my own London guide: A 20-page, student-made document listing all of the neighborhoods, pubs, clubs, and restaurants in the London area—what the vibe, price range, and specials are for each one.
So yes, I am basically embarking on a trip to my dream world complete with friends, exotic places, and a road map. What consequences could he possibly be talking about?
I guess his point is that everything is bad in excess. It’s great that I have access to travel to another country any given weekend, but if I don’t stay in London, I’ll miss the cultural immersion aspect of my study abroad experience. Be thankful that you have familiar faces in the city, but don’t let them hold you back from meeting new people. Enjoy the nightlife, but don’t get yourself put in jail.
I tend to agree with all of this except for the first point: the negative effects of an excess of traveling. I honestly do not think there is a downside to visiting new places while I am in Europe. I am well aware that this trip will be a once-in-a-life time experience for me, and probably everyone else coming along with me, and I intend to use my time there to the fullest. There is no such thing as too much travel.
I’ve been encouraged to do as the Londoners do and live as the Londoners live, and I think that means taking advantage of the city as an international transportation hub. It would be naive to think that a native Londoner doesn’t hop on a train to Paris for the weekend, or take a cheap flight to Spain every once in a while.
This ideological dissonance between my advisor and I comes down to the classic question, “Do you want to be a jack of all trades, or a master of one?” In this situation, I’d rather be a master of Europe on the whole than a master of just one city. Throughout this entire experience, the Office of International Programs has been preaching about personal growth through gaining a global perspective, not just a London perspective.
Maybe my travels will cause me to miss a night at a classic pub or museum socializing with the British locals, but I think in the larger picture, seeing the Louvre or finding the Sicilian village where my mom’s family is from will be more beneficial to my personal growth.
I understand the importance of learning the culture in London, but I think I will be able to do that in the first few months of living and studying there. London boasts 25,000 city streets, and I am not going to pretend that I will know them all by the time June rolls around, but I am confident that I will be assimilated into the culture even with weekend excursions to Paris or Dublin.
As I prepare to step out of reality and into Disneyland for six months, I know there will be consequences, but they will be consequences that I am happy to handle.
Featured Image by Jim Trodel / Flickr