If I could summarize my study abroad semester with EPA London in one word, it would be “experience.”
I’m not sure what I expected the semester to be like as I boarded the plane to start my time abroad, but I am confident that I had no idea of just what I would encounter when I got off in London. The general things I had heard from my friends did happen; gaining perspective, taking weekend trips with friends, running out of picture storage again and again, etc. But I found there to be so many other opportunities I had never even thought of, and before long I was checking boxes left and right off a bucket list I didn’t even know I had.
The first shock I had when arriving in London was realizing how right everyone was about the expenses. London is an extremely costly city to live in, but for a couple of months as a student it is completely manageable and definitely worth it.
The first few weeks I found myself trying different budgeting techniques. I downloaded apps with cheesy names like “Fudget” and tried writing down every time I spent money. However, I quickly learned that the best method for me was tracking my expenditures on an excel document with the help of my mobile banking statements. Most of my friends here used other options, but the important thing was finding the techniques that worked best for us, and staying alert and responsible. I know this practice I am gaining now will help me to reduce my spending through the remainder of my time in college, and also help me to save for the years following.
The next experience I gained was trip planning and traveling. One of the great things about EPA is that they give you the independence to plan and execute your own excursions. My flat mates and I are self-proclaimed professionals at surfing for the best flight deals, reducing housing costs by comparing hostels to Airbnb, and making adventure packed itineraries to ensure we see the most we can out of a new city in the weekends we have. If you had told me last semester I would be traveling independently to Paris with a fully detailed spreadsheet of how to see the most sites in one day, I might not have believed you. But 10 top attractions and 50,000 steps later I was feeling a large sense of accomplishment and almost no sense in my feet.
Finally, I am receiving incredible, tangible experience from my internship placement. While studying in London I am working three days a week at the London Capital Credit Union as a market research intern, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow here.
Since starting at the beginning of the term I have seen a huge improvement in my customer service skills. I spend a lot of time at the Credit Union answering phone calls and working in person with our members. Seeing face to face the difference the Credit Union makes in people’s lives is extremely gratifying, and seeing how these baseline interactions play a larger role in the company’s goals is exciting as well.
The next area I’m gaining experience from is my internship project. I was given the task to conduct a member satisfaction survey, analyse the results and present my findings to the board of directors. From this project alone I have been able to brush up my data sample skills, greatly improve my Microsoft excel skills, practice writing data reports, and gain public speaking practice by presenting it to the decision makers of the business.
I am thrilled to see how the experience I’m attaining in just three short months will carry me through the next few years. While I’m sad at the prospect of leaving soon, I am looking forward to the next round of students having as formidable of an experience as I did.
Elizabeth Priore, University of Rochester Class of 2019, (Brussels, fall 2017)