Before departure in my study abroad in London, England I thought what could be so different about the U.K. and the U.S.? They both speak English! The longer I was there, the more I noticed the subtle differences between the two. For the first most obvious one everyone probably knows, they drive on the opposite side of the road! They also heavily rely on public transportation. They have the tube, the famous double-decker buses, and trains. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of cars on the road, but there are even more people using public transportation. Another big difference that I noticed is that their restaurants, stores, and pubs close far earlier than ours. On weekdays their stores will close around 9 p.m. or earlier, restaurants around 10 p.m., and pubs by midnight. Another big difference is the variety of cultures. We call America a melting pot, but London indeed is a melting pot. While in London, I only met two people who were actually from London! Also, when we would go out to eat, we would see our server once when we were ready to order, when we got our food, and then when we got our check. Where in America our servers would probably check on us 5-7 times or more!
For one of our projects, we had to go to the tube and compare the differences in the advertisements we saw in London versus the advertisements in America. Some of the main differences we noticed are that ads in the tube are very wordy. They will have nearly a whole paragraph on an ad. Where in America, we are short, sweet, and to the point. We also rely a lot on visual aids to draw attention. Another large difference is they do not focus on interactive advertising as much as we do. We try to get consumers involved and interacting with us and one another. Where in the tubes they mainly used only traditional media. Our main conclusion was that London is about 5-10 years behind America on effective advertising.
My point here is that I was expecting things to be so similar to American culture, which in a lot of ways they were, but the more I explored London, the more differences I saw.
After My Experience Abroad
This past Fall in Madrid has been a crazy experience. There was good and bad, as to be expected. I really enjoyed being around a new and different culture. However, I did not enjoy my educational experience as much as my experience at U of L. The professors didn’t speak English as well as I would have hoped, but I expected there to be a bit of a language barrier at times so this was not the cause of my problems. The cause was that most of my professors just flat out didn’t teach us anything in the classroom. Then we would have homework assignments over material we didn’t cover in class. Most of the class time was spent talking about the professors’ personal experiences, instead of going over the course material. One of my professors would only go over theoretical material in class. The only stuff he would cover is basically definitions. Then, somehow, we were supposed to figure out how to use this material to solve practical homework problems that were all math. How am I supposed to solve a mathematical problem using a definition? It was impossible to do. I’m not saying this because I do not want people to study abroad because I do. It was a great experience overall, it was just the school that caused me troubles. I would advise to take classes as easy as you possibly could and do not take courses for your major abroad. You will not learn most of the material while you abroad, at least in Spain. The professors there don’t want to teach, they just want to do their research. The administration at my school, UC3M, was horrible too. At the beginning of the semester I had to get some paperwork signed to prove I was enrolled in courses at the school. I went to the international office where I was supposed to get the paperwork filled out. The people at that office then sent me to a different office. I was then sent to a different office by this second office. Then the third office told me I needed to go back to the first office I visited. I went back to the first office and talked to a different person and then they filled out my paperwork. It was just that kind of stuff that made things difficult. People didn’t want to do their job, so they told me to go somewhere else, I’ve never had something like that happen to me at U of L. After reading this it probably doesn’t seem like I enjoyed my time there, but that’s not the case. I actually loved my time there. I made tons of friends from all different countries such as Spain, Germany, UK, and Italy. I want others to go abroad like I did, but I want them to have a fair warning that their school experience is going to be a lot tougher than it is at U of L and it isn’t because the classes are harder. It’s just a different culture and almost different world. Don’t let this get you down though, you will still have the time of your life there
Preparing for Your Study Abroad Departure and Arrival
There are many things to do to prepare for your study abroad experience. It can be stressful and cause
you anxiety. Looking back now, what would have helped prepare me most for this experience is
preparing for the initial stress of arriving. Just accept that there is going to be stress/anxiety when you
first get there. You are in a different country with a completely new culture. You go from seeing people you care about every day to not seeing them for several months. You might even be the only person
you know in this new country or you may only know a handful of people. That can be quite hard to deal with at first.
When I first got to my study abroad destination, which in my case was Madrid, I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life. My landlord was late in meeting me at my new apartment, my apartment
was a bit different than I was expecting, and I had gone without sleep for about 24 hours. It was scary to say the least. The no sleep part made everything else seem 10 times worse, obviously because no one
operates well on no sleep. Everything ended up being okay in the end though. It helps to know that
several people are in the same situation as you are, and tons have felt what you are feeling at that
Get to know your study abroad buddies from U of L in the first few weeks. They will be the closest thing you have to home while you are abroad. They will also give you some comfort because they are in the
same situation as you, scared and excited for this new experience. Also, go to any youth activities in
your country. You will meet a ton of people there and it will be very easy to make friends. In Madrid
there is this group called City Life Madrid, and they help new people/exchange students meet other
people in Madrid that are interested in similar things. City Life also puts on nightlife events that were
super fun. They had pub crawls every Saturday night and an event at a night club with free entry every
Monday. I met so any people at these events and it helped my transition to my new situation so much
Also, to help reduce your stress it is helpful to knock out all your predeparture requirements as soon as
you can. Get your visa early, because sometimes it takes awhile to process. You don’t want it to be the date for you to leave and still not have your passport and visa back yet. I would also book a roundtrip
plan ticket, so you won’t have to worry about booking your return flight when you are abroad. By doing this, you can spend up to half of what you would spend by buying the trips separate. I did this and
ended up saving about $1,000 on my travel cost. The big thing is to make small goals to get prepared for your experience and knock the easy ones out first. This will make the initial experience so much better.
I didn’t realize how much studying abroad had changed me until I got home. Traveling and being surrounded by other cultures has affected how I view life back home in many ways. Each place that I visited had something unique about the culture and some sort of signature piece to the city. Being back in Louisville has made me curious as to what Louisville, Kentucky has to offer. I have never had any interest in exploring Louisville until now. I can’t help but think “if I was abroad here, what would I do, where would I go, and what would I want to see?” These questions have been on my mind ever since I landed at SDF.
I think my biggest take away from this experience is to learn as much as you can, no matter where you are. Although Louisville has never been voted “the most exciting city in America,” it is still unique and a very important city to me. We have the Kentucky Derby, Thunder Over Louisville, 4th Street Live, museums, and have been home to legends such as Muhammad Ali. Although these are all amazing things about Louisville, I have come to realize that what you find, wherever you are, will surprise you and be unexpected. There is more to this city that just the big-ticket items. I cannot wait to go explore Louisville and learn more about the culture that I have been surrounded by my entire life. I am excited to go see another side to Louisville and see what treasures I can find away from the main attractions.