Stepping outside my comfort zone for a dream trip to London
Maria De Los Angeles Forero, from Colombia, studied English at Kings London for five weeks this winter, and also became a Social Media Ambassador. She reflects on her London adventure from start to finish, and offers advice for anyone considering studying abroad.
A dream trip
That is what it is. Is my first trip abroad real? Yes! Completely. It is exciting but at the same time terrifying, to learn what they do not teach you at home or at school, to learn to live by your own means, totally outside of your comfort zone. It is impressive, it takes your breath away and does not give you the opportunity to think clearly about what you should do and what will happen after that. Complicated, right? But despite the setbacks, it is worth every second, every scare, every tear and every drop of sweat. It's 100% worth it.
The first thing you should be sure of is that NOTHING IS SECURE, nothing. Seriously, no matter how many hours you spend planning it, NOTHING COMES AS YOU EXPECT. So sometimes the least planned, the most spontaneous, is what best comes out. And you may think, is it really? Is she crazy?
Well, based on my experience, if you plan everything and then it comes out totally different, you will have a mess in your head, because it can ruin more plans that you have in mind. Nevertheless, if you go alone with ideas in your head of where you want to go or what places you would like to visit, it is better to be spontaneous and say, "Well, now what?" (Of course it is good to reserve certain attractions with a little time, you know, to avoid the line). The point is, you must prepare physically and psychologically for the change.
Second, try that the suitcases that you prepare from your country of origin are not super heavy, since the gifts for the family (ALL the family) can bring you problems if you take too much and your suitcase is at the limit of its weight. You will have to buy an extra suitcase and pay for it, or throw away some belongings, so try to travel light and leave the least relevant at home. Believe me, your favorite CDs and your super heavy books will be safe and sound in your home. Of course, bringing a pair of headphones and a book for the flight is not bad.
Now, enough boring advices, let me show you how was my trip. This began in Paris (actually first arrive at Barajas, but it was not exactly an adventure, BORING connections). There I was waiting for a friend, who has been living 4 months there — lucky me, because despite French study and I could defend myself, your brain goes into a kind of shock and you feel that you do not know anything about another language, only about yours, and that would be a miracle.
Anyway, when I was in Paris I felt free, as if I had been born to travel — to know, to get lost in the crowd, from the Louvre to the highest point of the Eiffel Tower, to enjoy it and live it. After three days, it was time to start what would be the greatest adventure of my life, to study abroad.
Arriving to London
So, the main thing is arriving to your destination. Fortunately, I booked a taxi because I did know anything about transport from London. I arrived to Kings Cross and then the taxi took me to the wrong place. I was freaking out, but the mistake was in the number of the house, from 221 to 223 — it's a heart attack of difference.
Meeting your family
Of course the first day is scary, your first thought is, "Are they serial killers?" (just joking) or "Are they like my family?" But i have you the answer, and it's no. They are not like your family but it doesn’t mean they are not good people, that will have you in their house as one of their family members. It's crazy but they would appreciate you as one of the gang. I am so lucky because I have been staying with the best family that anyone could imagine, they are fabulous, welcoming and really crazy (in the good way).
The first day of school
It reminds me the first day of college. You arrive to a place where you don't know anybody, but the hardest part is that you have to talk in a language that is not yours completely, so you have to work on your social skills and your English at the same time. It's crazy but it's nice. And if you are lucky, you will find someone that can talk your same language (like me and my first friend at school, Antonia). Also, the fact that you are going to be in touch with 100% British people is kind of exciting because it’s a different culture and different accent, so is challenging.
The friends that you make on this kind of trips maybe or maybe not are going to be forever, but I promise you that the time you spend with them and the friendship you built with them is going to be pure, strong and valuable in many ways. They are going to be your family, your brothers and sisters (maybe a grandpa to the olders). My advice here is that you have to take advantage of that, appreciate every single person you meet, and of course nourish your soul with new cultures and new ways of understanding life.
I've been here since December 31st, so my time was limited and for that reason since the first day I wanted to visit everything. Of course the first place was Beckenham (it was my home so I needed it) but after that everything was different. My first visit was with the school, I went to a London Walk, which was amazing and it teached me how to find myself in that huge city.
From that day, every weekend I traveled to London and the main attractions and museums that the city offers, and the rain could not stop me!
I visited the National Gallery, the London Zoo, the Madame Tussauds museum, the Sherlock Holmes museum, the Arsenal Stadium and even visited Oxford (all were visits proposed by Kings) and much more. But perhaps, what I found most beautiful was the London Eye. Since that day was my last day in London, and I got out of the city with a wonderful 360° view of all the splendor that this beautiful city can offer.
Now, saying Goodbye
The most difficult, in the end, are the farewells, especially of people who were your family, for whatever time, and that will always be in your heart.
My last day with my friends was painful and fun, since they were my support while I was away from home, and actually we are all now a family and we have to fight against oblivion and time, not to allow ourselves to forget.
But I think that everything we live in a cycle, and that cycle of knowing them has already closed, but that does not mean that in the future we do not find ourselves in another cycle.
And finally, the return trip. Always forget how exhausting it is, get up early, prepare the last details of the suitcases and go out again, to a journey of more than 5 hours, with connections, running, finding the gate, etcetera.
But in conclusion, I would like to say that this experience is not only to learn English, to make friends or to know a completely different country. It is also to grow, learn to be more independent, to be more daring and brave, and to be less ignorant in the sense that we know more people from so many places and we know so much about the history of the world, which allows us to open our eyes and realize how valuable it is to live, remember, travel and learn.