Reflections From Across the Pond

Helena Haynes
January 31, 2022

When people asked me if I was nervous before coming to London, I always confidently answered, “No, of course not!” Although this was partially true, there was definitely a big part of me in denial about some of the anxiety I had before arriving. I consider myself to be a very independent person, so I was never concerned about navigating the city or finding things to do when I wasn’t doing schoolwork. I was, however, worried about adjusting to classes, making friends in my program, budgeting, and making travel plans for my time abroad. I kind of assumed everything would be fine once I got here, but I do have to admit that making the adjustment took me a few days. Now that I’ve been here for about two weeks, I’m glad I felt those initial growing pains. 

My time in London so far has been a complete whirlwind. From getting used to using the tube to talking to as many people as possible, I’ve really been trying to immerse myself in this new city. Even though I knew London was huge, there’s so much more to experience than I could have ever imagined. Despite being worried about making new friends, I’ve found that it’s been much easier than I thought it would be. To be honest, it kind of feels like being a freshman again. You really have nothing to lose by asking someone to hangout with you, because everyone is looking to make friends who they can explore the city with. I’ve also noticed that locals and British students are usually very welcoming and willing to talk to you. Making friends who live in your city that are not in your program is so rewarding and it gives you a different perspective than talking to other Americans. 

When I started my classes last Monday, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved the course topics. I was worried about how hard it would be to sit through two and a half hour classes, but for most of them I barely even noticed the time because of how engaging the lectures were. I’ve always been incredibly interested in British culture, London, and the UK in general, so I picked classes that aligned with these interests. Back at Penn State, I’ve only ever felt excited by my major and minor classes, so it’s refreshing to be so engaged with outside courses. I’ve only gone to each class once now, but I especially love my British Youth Culture class and my Architecture of London class. The architecture class takes us to a new place in London each week, which I think will be such a fun way to see the city while also learning more about the buildings and history around us. 

I’m sure that down the line I’ll be able to speak more to this, but budgeting here in London is SO important. In my first few days here, I tried not to focus too much on money and instead tried to soak everything in and have fun. I don’t regret doing this, but I do have to say that looking at my bank account now is painful. I’m working on getting into a reliable routine with budgeting food, extra expenses, and travel, but it’s definitely a work in progress. I just recently booked trips to Paris, Lisbon, and Dublin, which my flatmate and I were able to do for cheap by using trains, cheap airlines, and hostels for accomodations. Hopefully later in the semester I can provide some better tips, but for now just know that getting a Pret coffee subscription is a lifesaver… 

Reflecting on the past two weeks, I’m feeling so incredibly grateful to have this opportunity. I know this is an experience I’ll look back on for the rest of my life, and I’m truly appreciating every second of it. If you’re planning to study abroad, live in the moment and take it all in. I know that in a few months when I’m back home, I’ll be glad I took those solo walks around the city and spent time journaling about my experiences. Book those trips you’ve always dreamed about, step outside of your comfort zone, and try to learn as much as you can about the culture around you. You won’t regret any of it. 


Helena Haynes

<p>Hi there! My name is Helena Haynes and I’m a third year student at Penn State University majoring in Advertising with minors in Information Sciences &amp; Technology and Digital Media Trends &amp; Analytics. I love being involved on campus with things I’m passionate about, and I’ve had the opportunity to serve as President of the Advertising/Public Relations Club, Research/Strategy Co-Lead for our advertising competition team, and as a Print Writer for VALLEY Magazine, a life and style magazine here at Penn State. In my free time you can find me cooking, watching Sex and the City, or spending way too much time on LinkedIn. I’m so excited to be studying abroad in London this semester and I can’t wait to explore the city and learn more about the culture. I hope you follow along on my journey with me!</p>

2022 Spring
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