As I sit here on my 6 hour flight on Air Canada to Toronto, all I can really do is reflect on my experience in London. The 8 weeks have gone by so fast and I really haven’t had time to think about what kind of experience I have had. But first I’ll start out by rounding up the last week in London.
It was a very laid back week since I had seen pretty much everything that I wanted to see. On Monday, we were invited to a get-together in Hyde Park to play soccer and to just be in the park. Our program had made a bet with another department of the program (the Boston University part) for a soccer game to be played. No one from Iowa has much experience, so other people from our program ended up playing. After watching the soccer, I took a sandwich down to Westminster around 10 p.m. I took a seat across the river from the London Eye and ate half my food then took the other half and sat at the park just across the road from Big Ben and Parliament Weird knowing that this will probably be the last time I see these for a long time.
On Tuesday, the twins, Megan, and I took a few bottles of wine to Primrose Hill. The nice weather brought many people there for the night. I heard Colbie Caillet being played by a radio, an American musician, so I asked how they heard of her since she is not big in England at all. The guy and girl told me to invite my friends over, so we talked with them for an hour or two. They were both from north London, but the girl attends Leeds University. Friendly people.
Thursday after work, my coworkers invited us interns out for drinks since it was our last day of work. We went to a local bar with 6 of so others. It was fun being with them outside of work, and I wish we had done it earlier to get to know them more outside of work.
After my travels back to Chicago, I must say that I am tired of airports. Flying from London to Heathrow turned into an extra long flight. The weather was bad in Toronto, so we had to land in Ottawa and refuel. We sat in the plane for about an hour and then finally headed back to Toronto. We landed at the exact time that my connecting flight to Chicago was taking off. After checking with the airline, we found that there were no more flights going to Chicago that night. Instead of getting an expensive hotel, Mark and I slept in the hotel airport. Definitely not the most comfortable option, but our flight left at 7 a.m. the next day and we woke up at 4:30. We ended up getting back to Chicago at 8:30 a.m. Central time, about 30 hours after I had left London the day before at 9:00 a.m.
It is definitely good to be home. I am enjoying the time to relax and the hot weather. The first day back was as hot as the hottest day we had in London all summer.
Some final thoughts on my experience:
The stereotype of Americans being loud is absolutely true. Europeans in general are very quiet even when just having a conversation. I had a hard time hearing many people because they spoke so softly. On the subway especially, Americans are loud. Rarely do people talk on the subway, but Americans always seem to be screaming over the noise of the train. I could often pick out people who were Americans just by how loud they were.
After living in another culture, I can truly appreciate the American culture and also look at what I do not like about the American culture. I had nothing to compare the American culture to before this experience, so I can now look at what is great about the American culture. I had never been overly patriotic about my country, but I can now see how important supporting my country can be. London is a city with people from probably almost every country living in it, so people take great pride in their country’s culture and sports. The soccer Euro 2008 opened my eyes to how passionate people are about their country. But I guess it just takes a moving to another country to make them truly appreciate their own country.
I have learned that having initiative and decision making skills are some of the most important skills to have. When trying to travel with a group of six or more people, someone must take charge. If no one takes charge of the group and offers initiative, nothing will really be accomplished. I have learned that most people do not like to make decisions for others, so you will get a lot of “I don’t cares”. When this happens, you will find yourself just standing on the sidewalk and getting nowhere. If you have someone generating ideas, suggesting them to people, and encouraging them to act, the main goals will get accomplished. This applied to sightseeing around London, Ireland, and Barcelona. Obviously, these skills are as equally applicable in the workplace, and I plan on using these in the future.
In just eight short weeks, I have made many friends here. I have made many good friends from Iowa and have met people from North Carolina, California, Texas, Illinois, Ohio, Washington, Auburn, Louisiana, Alabama, New Hampshire, Turkey, France, Italy, England, Africa, Spain, China, Canada, Ireland and more that I probably can’t think of right now. Meeting people from all over the world has in itself been self-satisfying and worthwhile of my trip.
This has been the best experience of my life. I’ve learned more in these eight weeks than I ever thought I could. If you have never been to Europe, please do yourself a favor and take a trip out there as soon as you can. It’s a whole new culture than what you are used to and you will learn a lot just by going over for a week or two. If you know someone who is still in college or not yet entered college, please encourage them to study abroad. It is the best experience they will have throughout college and will not regret it. I have never heard one person say that they did not enjoy their time studying abroad. So please, take the opportunity while you have it.
Thank you everyone for reading my blog throughout my trip. I have really enjoyed writing it, although my updates have become less frequent the last few weeks. I hope everyone has enjoyed reading along, and I will hopefully be seeing everyone soon.