My name is Amber Weinstock, and I went abroad on Binghamton’s Semester in London program during the spring semester of my Junior year. While abroad I learned many things, several of which were outside my studies; for instance, in England, English muffins are actually called ‘crumpets’, Mother’s Day, or ‘Mum’s’ Day, is in March, and London’s food is to die for (and I don’t mean in the good way that the phrase is usually used in), but the beer makes up for it!
As an English major, it ‘makes sense’ that I would study in London. Well I don’t think it’s that simple. I love English literature, and it was a privilege to further explore the history, the homes, and effect on British culture that these writers and thinkers I admire left behind. I also chose London because it’s somewhere I’d never thought I would go—especially for a prolonged period of time. My parents have never travelled out of the country, and we were always too poor to go on vacation anywhere, so you can imagine that the first time I saw Big Ben, I really saw a symbol that I had made it.
While abroad, it’s hard to hold onto your money—especially when living in London with the monstrous pound. That’s why it was so great that the program provided us with tickets to shows and plays. We saw Shakespeare performed in diverse theatrical environments, West End shows, and independent plays. Note: it’s a liberating and odd feeling in this modern day and age when you feel like you ‘get’ Shakespeare.
The biggest challenge for me was balancing my responsibilities at home and my time abroad. I had to prepare for my senior year, start to look for jobs to make back all the money I spent while being abroad, and cope with missing friends and family—especially my boyfriend. Yet, I never really felt alone living in London where something goes on every night, and there are always new people to meet. I never felt alone living in a flat with twelve girls going through the relatively same experience in unique ways.
The best thing about studying abroad is that I didn’t have feel pressure to be a tourist. Of course, I did some touristy things, but living like a local was the most rewarding experience. Studying or living abroad in general, I’ve concluded, is one of the best ways to figure yourself and the world out a little more. You’ll truly learn to what extent you want travel and exploration of other cultures to be a part of your life. Before I went abroad, I wanted to teach English in another country as a gap year post-graduation. After studying abroad, I’ve gotten my feet wet you could say, and I feel I am capable of travelling abroad again for an extended period of time. Cheesy right?
I romanticized the study abroad experience before going. I went through plenty of ups and downs during my experience, but I was happy every moment because I felt like I made it, that I was pushing myself, that I was accomplishing something—becoming more worldly. Although it’s not all tulips and tea parties, that’s probably for the better. I’ve seen enough beautiful cathedrals and plays to last me a good while, became an expert at Airbnb and travel planning, and have heard the British accent enough that I don’t think of it as much of an ‘accent’ really, but just another person like you and me, communicating.
Amber Weinstock, an English major, studied on the Semester in London program during spring 2017.