The redundancy of terms such as “unprecedented times” and “return to normalcy” have been pounded in our heads over the past year and a half. Like many others, I was left disappointed, and quite frankly, lost, when I was forced to leave behind my college town and moved back home to my California suburban hometown. My dream internship was canceled, I longed to be surrounded by my college friends, and I even missed the late night study sessions in the library. For a year, I Zoomed into my upper division classes from my childhood bedroom, struggling to find internships in my field that were suitable to work from home.
I know, I was not alone in these experiences and feelings. Although I am extremely grateful to be safe and healthy today, I feel that in order to proceed and move past the darkness of the pandemic, it is essential to reflect on all of the feelings that they brought.
From the time I was a junior in high school, while touring prospective universities, I knew that a study abroad program was a necessary aspect that a college had to accommodate. Once I made a decision, I began attending study abroad meetings at my university starting during my freshman year. I wanted to explore every option, country, and program that I possibly could before making a decision. In February 2020, I made the decision to proceed with the IES Abroad Study London program, as it fit all of the necessary boxes for me; internship opportunities, a plethora of class options, a big city, and somewhere fitting for a communication major. Fast forward, over a year later, I am about to start my final semester of undergrad in a new city and new country, with a new environment, new friends, new challenges, and new opportunities.
It blows my mind to even believe that right now, I am currently sitting in my room in London, preparing and anticipating the first day of classes tomorrow. The stress of waiting for my student visa, last minute COVID tests and following strict protocols, anxiety of exploring a new country, and the sadness of leaving behind friends and family 5,000 miles away for 4 months is surely a mix of emotions. However, I am constantly reminding myself of the sacrifices and tribulations I have faced in order to make it to this point. Following the pandemic, I know that myself along with many others were unsure of what the future would hold. There is still so much uncertainty and change that remains unknown, so all we can do is take things day by day, moment by moment, and make the best of each and every opportunity that comes our way. This advice is what led me to exactly where I am right now—truly living out my dream in London.
Although cheesy, I truly believe that the course of pandemic has allowed me to gain new perspectives, be adaptive, express gratitude, and gain the confidence to explore my independence. I am eager and thankful to share this new journey with you all over the next four months.
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<p>Zoe Rodriguez-Willie is a senior at California Lutheran University, majoring in Communications with a minor in Sports Management. She is a Southern California native who is a connoisseur of European soccer and a major proponent of women’s sports. When she is not cheering on Barcelona or the USWNT, you may find her at Disneyland, the beach, or with her cat, Willow.</p>