A Different Kind of City

As someone who makes being from New York her personality, I was extremely excited to take on a city environment for my study abroad program. While I had convinced myself that the adjustment in London would run smoothly, I was defeated my first night when I ate dinner at McDonald’s because nothing in the grocery store looked familiar, and I felt overstimulated. While it sounds really silly, it was that moment when it hit me that I was not in the United States and wouldn’t be for months.

Like any study abroad student will tell you (and if they don’t, they’re lying), there are some things no orientation can prepare you for. Whether that is getting used to seeing drivers on the left, remembering that the eggs are not in the fridge at the supermarket, not understanding what particular phrases mean in public spaces, or missing the sun because it hasn’t been out in days, culture shock comes in waves- and in ways you don’t really think about. While I do not necessarily have to navigate a language barrier or a host family, I have tackled other forms of difference and continue to do so. From learning to ask for “plasters” instead of bandages or asking someone if they are in the “queue” versus in line, I have learned to adapt differently. Concepts of race and class are also in contrast to those in the United States. In one of my classes, we learned that social class is seen as a more significant mark of a difference than race is and how important engaging in political conversations is to the British.

Beyond all of this — and this is what you do hear from study abroad students — this experience has been enriching. As corny as it sounds, my program has been exposing me to new things. Besides traveling around Europe for the first time and learning to live independently, my program has allowed me to gain insight into professional life abroad.

I am currently in London through one of Wesleyan’s partner programs – the Boston University London Internship Program. Through this program, you spend half of the semester taking two courses, and the other half taking one alongside a full-time internship. What does this look like? During the first five weeks, I took two classes: The Waste Land: British and Irish Writing Since 1900, and British Journalism, Culture and Society. The classes were a bit intense initially, considering they were four hours long each. Navigating Boston University has been a culture shock, and I appreciate Wesleyan’s learning community more, especially the class sizes. Now that I am starting week 8 of my program, I am just taking a course called Historical Fictions: Retrospection in Contemporary British Literature on Mondays and spend the rest of my week as a Marketing Intern for an app called Grabbd.

Grabbd is a social networking app for people who love visiting new places or trying new foods. Users can make new lists of places they want to try (whether museums, restaurants, etc.), read reviews, and connect with others with similar interests. I like to tell my friends that it is Pinterest for places, and the cool thing about it is its social aspect. As a student studying abroad, this app is convenient as there are suggestions for free or budget-friendly things to do. Some popular lists on Grabbd are “Free Things to do In London” or “Day Trips in Rome.” The app works globally, so if you’re reading this, you should download it and follow me!

While I just started my internship, I have been enjoying it so far. My manager and I discuss marketing projects, and I usually conduct in-depth, comprehensive research on various places/channels. She has given me insight into building relationships with other businesses and how to execute on-brand messaging across multiple platforms to meet diverse goals. I am looking forward to continuing to learn more. Overall, the most important thing I have learned while abroad is to care for myself. While I constantly think, “when else am I going to be in Europe?” or when I make travel plans with my friends, the “yolo” mentality can be exhausting. Being tired all the time is not fun! With news about the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria and events in my personal life, it has also been necessary to make space to check in with my friends, family, and most importantly, myself. Studying abroad is what one makes of it, but you can’t do that if you’re not at your best. One of my closest friends on campus always says that it is essential to “water” yourself. Though I often felt like she just said that to skip class, turns out she has a point. Shoutout to Crystal for reminding me to nourish my body as that is my forever home. This is something I will definitely keep in mind as I embrace my last fifty days in London.

Gissel Ramirez ’24, studying abroad in England with the Boston University London Internship Program, gramirez@wesleyan.edu