Entering our fourth week here in London, the first wave of excitement has worn off, and we’re starting to envelop ourselves more and more into the culture. Just by existing here, we’re experiencing another government at work. Whether it’s utilizing the underground trains, National Health Services strikes, or even visiting one of the hundreds of museums of London, we’re faced constantly with the effects of both local and national government.
One of the things we will definitely take away from this trip, whether in this election cycle or far off in the distant future, is the ability to look at our own political issues through the lens of having lived under another government. Barring some very specific examples, no matter what the topic of discussion is, we can all refer to the three months we spent in England and give a more thought out argument as to why we are for or against something. This makes us better voters and better suited to participate in the democratic process.
Another benefit is that we have access to the Student Central building, which is a building with study areas, restaurants, rooms in which clubs can meet, and even a pub! The best part is that it’s open to any student who is studying in London, so it’s not just those people at UCL. Being in London, which often boasts that its inhabitants speak over three hundred languages, creates an unspeakably diverse crowd of people who not only can, but want to participate in an often boisterous discussion of international politics. This not only allows us something to compare our government to, but an ever wider range of ideas from people who have either lived here their whole lives or have traveled here from all over the world.
This is obviously just one of the many, many benefits of choosing to spend the semester abroad, but it has the potential to be the most important. The changes may not be very drastic, or even immediately noticeable, but the fact that we’re going through this will make us more well-rounded people.