Monday, May 31, 2010

Cheerio London!

Looking back on the past four months of my life, I cannot believe how much I have experienced and grown. I do not look at the world the same way I did when I first started my semester abroad.

The experiences have enriched my life in multiple ways, stretching my horizon as far as the eye can see. My comfort zone has changed completely. In a way, I believe I gained so much more independence, more than I had ever anticipated. My life in London is completely different from the life I had growing up in the US. I am more comfortable with myself, especially with traveling and exploring by myself. I know exactly what I can do, thanks to the multiple experiences I have gained. The London Underground, aka the Tube, will always be one of my favorite means of transportation. It is a symbol of my newly found independence. When I was on my 10 hour flight back home, I thought about how I was going to be able to continue the lifestyle I had adapted to. Honestly, it really is not easy to figure out. The public transportation system in Colorado compared to Europe stinks.

The cultural shock affected my perspective of people, their lifestyles and ideals. Granted, I did embarrass myself in front of suave Europeans. But, I definitely learned how to listen and learn more about cultures and people. It is truly amazing how much there is to see in the world and how many people there are to meet. Every person I met along my journeys across Western Europe has affected me, whether it was in a small or big way. I am thankful for each person because it helped change my life. Brit-speak eventually became a language I easily understood and actually applied to my everyday language. I think I have absorbed a bit of the British accent, I can say a few words with a flawless accent and I am quite proud of that fact!
Academically, I struggle in the beginning. Regents College (pictured above) tends to fall into the British methods. The British education system and methods are quite the polar opposites compared to the American version. Basically, the Brits like to have 2-3 hour classes once a week and assign at least a gazillion pages to read for the next class. Each class is based on lectures that expand from the readings. Luckily, I did not have these complete British classes. My classes had the British mindset, but I was not assigned to a weekly gazillion pages reading assignment. However, my professors did not do what American professors tend to do: review our reading assignments and discuss. They expanded off of what we were expected to read. I did not do well assimilating into this education mindset. The grading system is also completely different. A 70 and above is considered an A, if one were to get a 80 or 90, it is considered perfect. When I got my first paper back with a 75 on it, I freaked out a bit. My professor found this funny and explained that my paper was essentially an A. Thankfully, I was able to work my way through to the end and I did just fine.

Above is a river within Regents Park, it is one of the rivers I saw everyday. I enjoyed watching the beauty grow through the winter into spring. The animals clearly prefer spring over winter. Below is one of the many squirrels that live in Regents Park. They are massive and psychotic, but definitely fun to watch.
You know you are in a royal park when you see one of the royal gates at the ends of the park. The gates symbolize the majestic reign of the monarch family.
The last few days in London were somber. I did some last minute sight seeing and walks around Regents Park, one of my favorite London spots. When I returned from Switzerland, a few of my friends remained in London and at Regents College. Sadly, I had to say goodbye so soon because they were leaving the following day. Since school was out and the dorms were being filled by summer school students, I was not able to stay at the dorms for the last nights. Thankfully, two good friends of my family opened their home to me. Mark, a friend of my dad from high school and his wife Melissa were absolutely fantastic.

Angel in the Fields was one of the many pubs my friends and I enjoyed meeting up and hanging out. It really is a one of a kind pub. I miss it.

When I returned back to the US, one of the most common questions asked were "Which country is your favorite?" I know that I have said so much about each place I visited and each time I said that I loved the country more than the last one. No matter where I went, the grass was always greener. Even though I went to so many fabulous places and spent hours exploring in each place, there is no way to see it all. Don't get me wrong, I am beyond grateful for being able to experience everything I experienced in the past four months.

Above is one of the roads the lead to Regents College and Regents Park. I frequented this road nearly everyday. Below is one of the last pictures I took of London, the bridge is Tower Bridge, one of the most iconic bridges in the world.

Four months in Europe, that's all it took. Four months in Europe changed my life, my perspective of how the world works and what makes it spin round and round. I can only wait until my return to Europe. I hope it is sooner, rather than later.

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