Have you ever gotten that “study abroad letdown?” You know, the feeling that comes after the initial excitement of the first weeks has worn off, after orientation is over and you are back in your normal routine— except, you aren’t. While many people assume studying abroad is fun and exciting 100 percent of the time, you find when you get there that it is more or less like being at home. Only you don’t know anyone, you don’t have a job, and you don’t belong to any organizations or clubs. Suddenly, many of your responsibilities have vanished, and you are left thinking, “So… what now?”
I was one of those students who felt that I wasn’t truly studying abroad. I felt like a tourist in my new home, and eventually realized that I would never be able to call London my home unless I could integrate into the culture. I voiced these concerns to one of my professors, and he was able to help me find an internship at a nonprofit organization called St. Ethelburga’s Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, where I helped solicit donations.
The center, which is located in the heart of London, provides a space for people from all cultures and backgrounds to come together and work through differences. It was perfect for me because, as a freshman, I was trying to adapt to college itself— let alone integrating into a new culture. My internship provided a laidback environment through which I could interact with Londoners every week.
I never once expected that I would intern at a nonprofit during my first year of college. It seemed too difficult, something I should wait until sophomore or junior year to start thinking about. But the experience truly gave me a feel for British culture— way more than shopping on Oxford Street would have. I was able to learn about the different cultures that exist within London and how they interact and mix. My coworkers helped me steer away from tourist traps by recommending local restaurants and events to attend. We spent our lunch breaks comparing American and British politics and having tea together. Through my internship, I felt as though I really belonged in London, and wasn’t just another American overextending her stay.
After my semester in London, I was able to use my experience to gain a Co-Curricular Learning Certificate. This is a certificate that many freshmen (and upperclassmen, for that matter) do not know about, but can definitely boost your resume. The CLC can be achieved through Arcadia’s study abroad programs when you spend 15+ hours specializing in any topic. It can be by attending rugby games and learning about British sport culture, studying street art, or volunteering— anything that shows you have mastered an aspect of another culture. I highly recommend to everyone who studies abroad to complete this certificate. It not only shows that you concentrated in an area of study during your semester abroad, but it is a great way to discover more about the country you are studying in.