Lili's Travel Diary #1: Pre-Arrival
When I was 12 and 13, I traveled abroad twice without my parents as a student ambassador for the USA. This was the coolest experience ever, and it gave me this huge travel bug to visit more places. Sure, I'd been to the Caribbean several times with my family, but these trips made me fall in love with Europe and having the ability to make my own decisions without my parents lording over me. Fast forward a few years and I was able to get to Italy with my senior class as part of my high school's Italian National Honor Society, and one year later I was able to get to Israel as part of my birthright. The travel bug bit me hard.
I always knew studying abroad was an option, but it scared the absolute crap out of me. On all of the aforementioned trips I was at least with people I knew. It made a difference to know I was traveling and had an automatic buddy to grab late night drinks and gelato with instead of having to find the guts to walk up to a stranger and make a new best friend. The thought of having to experience my first semester of freshman year all over again terrified me.
But my first semester of sophomore year changed that. I roomed with two other girls. The one I want to focus on will be known as A (yes, I just finished having a conversation with my sister about PLL, sue me). A was determined to get abroad in the spring as part of her major. Unfortunately, it didn't happen. I think she messed up the paperwork or financial aid may have not done their job. Whatever it was, she didn't go. But I spent the semester witnessing her excitement to go to Paris, her planning to go, saving up the money to make it happen. It was absolutely contagious. I remember calling home one day and matter of factly stating I was definitely studying abroad and my parents response was simply that it was up to me to make it happen.
I no longer talk to A now. I was experiencing a very hard time in my life and she wasn't there for me, and I am a strong believer in removing negativity from my life so I did. But that desire to study abroad still resonated with me months later. I had a lot of meetings and made a lot of inquiries. Would it be possible for me to go abroad and still graduate a semester early? Yes, it was, as long as I go to an English speaking country and take at least 3 courses towards my major/second minor or drop the second minor entirely. I'm a really stubborn person and once I start something I refuse to stop, so it narrowed me down to very few universities that would allow me to take both English and Marketing courses simultaneously, but I quickly found my home in The University of Westminster and knocked out my application in under 24 hours out of sheer excitement.
And that's when my heart settled on London...one of the destinations I visited when I was 12 the very first time I traveled outside of the country without my parents. I was ridiculously homesick (literally made myself sick on the plane from anxiety) and didn't appreciate the first half of my 3 week long adventures in the UK, but once I got past that hurdle I fell in love with my surroundings. However, the London you see when you are 12 on what is pretty much a huge guided tour full of 40 kids and 3 chaperons is not the London I will be seeing now. I don't want to be a tourist, I want to be a Londoner.
And I am so ready to explore, and to learn, and to even discover myself. I may be heading there alone, but I am a different person than who I was freshman year, and I know that I'll come out of it with lifelong friends and stories worth telling for years to come.
London, I am so ready for you.