How to Embrace Your Study Abroad Experience in England

by Katie Pietras

Even after you've arrived in England for your study abroad program and gotten over the jet lag, being in a new country can still be a bit overwhelming, no matter how much you’ve prepared beforehand. So take some advice from study abroad alumni, know what to do to adjust after you arrive and you’ll be embracing new experiences with ease in no time.

Students dressed in formal clothing in England

Katie with her A Capella group in England

1. Get Involved 

Don’t just show up to campus for lectures and exams while studying abroad in England. Try to get involved in the social scene on your new campus, since most students end up spending four or five months there, or even a year. Joining a society is a good way to meet other students at the university, especially if you want to meet people who are actually from the UK and not just other international students. The people you meet in societies or groups will have similar interests, but will most likely have completely different backgrounds allowing you to expand you cultural understanding of the country. Even better, local students will be able to give you advice on the best places to eat around your university, cool places to visit, or just general advice on how to survive in your new academic environment.

2. Travel

You should definitely take advantage of the opportunity to travel around the rest of Europe while you’re studying abroad in England. It’s incredibly easy, and affordable, to spend time in mainland Europe when you have things like RyanAir, youth hostels, and amazing public transportation systems. You could even spend your spring break in Italy and stop in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and France on the way, all in one week.

Don’t forget that there are many amazing places to be seen in the British Isles as well. A week in London won’t be enough time to see all the sights, and you can’t study abroad in England without at least catching a glimpse of Stonehenge. Try planning a weekend trip to Dublin or a day trip to Cardiff. There are wonderful travel opportunities everywhere!

Countryside in England

Typical rolling green countryside in England

3. Don’t Stress Out

Yes, you are still meant to be studying during your study abroad program in England, but don’t stress out too much. This is supposed to be one of the best experiences of your college education, and you don’t want to look back on it and realize that you spent all your time in England holed up in the library. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t study at all or that your classes aren’t important, but don’t forget to take a break every now and then.

Also, avoid stressing about money. Yes, it can get very expensive in England, or in any country where you aren’t familiar with secret ways to save money, but if you spend your entire study abroad converting currencies in your head you may have a minor breakdown. Constantly worrying about money is exhausting and it definitely won’t contribute to a positive study abroad experience, so just enjoy the experience and work off the debt when you get home instead.

4. Try New Things

When you’re studying abroad in England, you’re going to encounter some unfamiliar things. One such thing is unfamiliar foods, the important thing to remember is give them a chance! Try a cream tea, even if clotted cream does look a bit strange. Try to find the best fish and chips around by trying as many variations as possible, and definitely make sure to try Indian food if you spend some time in London. Don’t miss out on something amazing because it’s unfamiliar, that is the joy of studying abroad!

Big Ben, London, England

In front of Big Ben on an amazingly sunny day!

5. Be A Tourist

Take lots of pictures, especially the silly and kind of cliché ones. That photo of you pretending to make a phone call from one of those iconic red booths or trying to make one of the Queen’s Guard crack a smile will be great memories when you look back on your trip. Take photos of the places you go, even if you can find thousands of pictures of the same thing online. These pictures are different, because they’re yours. If you’re not inclined to taking photos, memorialize your trip in another way, like keep a journal or start a blog.

Another part of being a tourist is not being ashamed of not knowing things, getting lost, spending forever gawking at Big Ben in London, or going to the Louvre in Paris just so you can say you saw the Mona Lisa in person.

It’s your experience, so remember you can spend it however you want!