Hi everyone! My name is Michaela Farmer, and I am a junior at the University of Rochester majoring in Financial Economics. This semester I have had the most wonderful opportunity to study abroad in London!
These past weeks have been a whirlwind – from beginning my internship at a credit union, meeting classmates from all over the world, to travelling around London and the Scottish Highlands. London reminds me of a cross between Boston and New York City. It has a quaint, cleaner feel with cobblestones and intricate public transportation but also the hustle and bustle of dense crowds migrating in every direction under the bright billboard lights or in the glow of an early fading sunset.
Some of the things that have been particularly interesting are the cultural adjustments and my experience of positive self-growth. It can be something so simple as different terminology – tissue = napkin, toilet = bathroom, small plate = saucer – to being conscious of not making direct eye contact or talking on the tube or paying before I eat instead of after. And yes, crossing roads has been just as difficult as it was day one, even though the road has paint on the ground telling me which way to look! I learned pretty quickly that, unlike in the States, pedestrians have almost no right of way in a crosswalk unless there is a blinking lamp post but those seem to be too far and few. Although London clearly takes pride in its cleanliness (sidewalks/streets are mopped and litter is picked up by hand), there are very few garbage cans. Interestingly enough, this is due to the government’s fear of bombs being placed in them during the World Wars.
But by far the best cultural difference I have experienced is the scenery that London offers. There’s Tate’s modern art, the historical sculptures of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the colorful houses of Notting Hill, the pristine sunset overlooking the city on Primrose Hill, the chance to be Harry Potter on the Millennium Bridge, and everything else in between. Whether it’s nature, historical, theatrical, under a roof or sky, there’s something for everyone. I feel as if everything is at my fingertips, and all I have to do is reach out.
And this reaching out part has given me a sense of self-fulfillment and independence. Because, everything I do, with and without my flat mates, is something that I did – something I researched, planned, made, enjoyed etc. All the times I have travelled, including a lot of activities done in the States, I never had to initiate anything. Experiencing the complexity of planning a trip, figuring out how to budget weekly meals and expenses, or even finding certain products in stores is a learning journey. At college in Rochester I was exposed to some “adulting” as I lived off campus, but through the struggles I was never really proud of myself because I always compared myself to those around me.
However, my experience abroad has already taught me to be able to be proud of myself – proud of making a burger with an over medium egg, cheese, tomato, rocket, and avocado or navigating the tube and airport independently. That, being proud is something that can come from within and doesn’t always have to be validated or given to me. To be proud of all of the things I have accomplished so far. To take a moment to relax, and forget about all of the academic, social, and career pressures that we, young millennials, face today. To admire, appreciate, and to be grateful for what we have and to enjoy what surrounds us.
Michaela Farmer, University of Rochester (London, Spring 2019)