Semester Abroad, Global Correspondents Girl Meets World: London Edition

October 25, 2022
By Tarah Paul, College '24

Goldsmiths, University of London

Tarah is one of the Semester Abroad Global Correspondents writing and sharing her experience abroad during the Fall 2022 semester. Follow along with the group of correspondents on our blog and look out for their images on the @pennabroad Instagram feed.

The Tube is a Train. Chips are fries and Crisps are chips. Trousers are pants. Prawns are shrimp. A sub is a hoagie. CityMapper is the new Google Maps.

I’ll start off and be honest by saying I was in denial about leaving. As much as I try to accept change, it can still bring me anxiety due to the uncertainty that’s tied with it. I was comfortable in Philly. I had my routine. I knew how to make my class in DRL from 39th and Walnut in under 12 minutes if I had to. I knew when would be the right and wrong time to walk on Locust Walk. I knew which dining hall would have the best food on a certain day. I had everything figured out. 

In London, I knew nothing. I also knew that coming to London, I would know nothing and I did not like that. As a proud Type A planner, there were not enough YouTube videos in the world to prepare me for the journey I was about to face. I knew that things would be different. I knew there would be cultural differences I wouldn’t understand at first and words that have different meanings.

However, being here has felt like a reset in more ways than one. I’ve felt like I’ve had to teach myself how to adult again. What does adulting mean? To me it means being able to problem solve and adjust to different situations. Being by myself in another country, I had to fly by myself and carried my luggage on my own as well (with the help of a very nice Uber Driver Jimmy who I will forever be grateful for). I also had to get bedding, kitchenware and other things by myself too.

London Street

While my parents are 3,000 miles away, I was jealous of the luxury some peers had of having their parents fly in with them and help them move in.

One thing I will say to those who may be facing the same situations as me soon: take courage. Your future self will thank you for it. The beginning isn’t easy, but everything does get better.

Using the tools I’ve gained from living in Philly has made me feel more resilient and ready to adapt to whatever is thrown my way. One thing I thank myself for that while being here I haven’t been afraid to ask people questions. I actually take joy in my “touristy inquisitions” and asking the people I meet what their favorite places to eat are. What’s the best thing to do on a Saturday here. Where the best parks and markets are. It has honestly made my experience better because I use those recommendations.

In addition, it has made me more comfortable to be in London. I not only use their suggestions but I in turn make the same recommendations to others and use what I’ve learned to inform people who are unfamiliar with certain areas as well. Navigating London has gotten easier. The cultural differences that I was unsure about at first, I’ve grown accustomed to and added to my knowledge. London doesn’t feel like a foreign city that I have no relation to, but a city where I am facing a surplus of new world experiences. And who wouldn’t want that.

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The Semester Abroad (SA) program offers undergraduate students the opportunity to study in a new global community through extended study for a semester or year. Penn Abroad partners with top institutions around the globe and collaborates with Penn’s undergraduate schools to offer programs for students across academic disciplines.