Today marks a week of being here under the gorgeous gray London sky. From the moment we stepped off the plane, we saw an endless stream of some of the greatest tourist attractions in the world. We’ve taken tours of monuments recognizable all over the world like Salisbury Cathedral’s tallest spire in the United Kingdom and the mysterious boulders that make up Stonehenge. We took a bus tour of Central London and got to see the outsides of even more famous places: the often mislabeled Tower Bridge, the even more mislabeled Elizabeth Tower, the grandeur of Buckingham Palace, and the giant dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The experience thus far has been, as they say here, lovely!
Then Friday night came around and my classmates and I went our separate ways, all knowing subconsciously where we would see each other next: class. Some went partying, some just went to quiet pubs, some went sightseeing and shopping. The one thing no one mentioned in the litany of weekend activities was studying. I went to visit my oldest brother who has lived in London for a decade now. Until this week, I had never come to see him. My brother, his girlfriend, and their friends took me out for a welcome-to-London dinner. They chose an American themed restaurant just in case I had gotten homesick in three days. After that, we went to a craft beer pub on the South Bank and had a few pints. We finished up our night with a few drinks at the Arts Club, which had such notable members as Charles Dickens and Claude Monet. This night kicked off a fantastic weekend of fun but Monday was right around the corner.
My classmates and I all learned our lesson about studying in the following week. In our starry-eyed wonder, we forgot about the “study” part of study abroad. Now, this obviously isn’t all inclusive. I’m sure some people read what was required, but anyone who thinks they can land in another country for the first time and immediately put their nose in a textbook is just lying to themselves. I’m the oldest on the trip and have traveled to other countries before and even I fell victim to the pure excitement of this bustling city.
Studying and living here will teach us not only British literature, and Western Civilization, but also small differences in the everyday lives of different cultures like looking to the right as opposed to the left before darting across a busy London street. However, I believe one important thing that we will all come away having learned, if not mastered, is balance. This is one of those intangible perks of participating in a program like this and it is a skill that can be used for the rest of our lives. Even the most irresponsible among us will find a balance between the excitement of being in one of the greatest cities in the world and the discipline of having to explicate different scenes from a Jane Austen novel.