I'm a student at the University of Portland in Oregon and this program is the one UP advocates for us to utilize. It's worthwhile to listen to the advice of the study abroad department, considering over half of the UP students participate in one study aboard program or another during their time at UP.
Amanda DeRego has travel in her blood. She's from a small town in Hawaii, but has ancestral ties all over the world and loves to see the places that her family started.
Why did you choose this program?
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
The help from UP was enormous, telling us exactly what forms we needed, where to access them, how to fill them out properly, and were always on hand to help us if we had further questions. They made the whole process straightforward and comprehensive.
Since I was in London for a semester of school, as well as doing an internship in my time there, I had to get a formal work visa. The UP study abroad department helped me with this as well, not just informing me that I needed visa, but which one would be best, when to start the process of obtaining it, and how best to go about the whole thing. I just had to make sure my flight tickets were for the correct days and have all the necessary paperwork on hand when I arrived in London.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
- I have always loved to travel and had been wanting to participate in study abroad programs since I was in middle school. I had already been away from home for two years by the time I went to London and so had already dealt when any homesickness. This allowed me to fully enjoy every single moment to the utmost.
- Before going work and save like never before, it is SO worth it.
- Phone plans are fairly reasonably priced and worth getting.
- Know yourself, if you need and like your down time be sure to give yourself some. It can be hard to take a break because you are aware you're only there for a short amount of time, but taking that time for yourself is important.
- Plan ahead to some extent, but also be flexible. You may think you have your dream list of locations you HAVE to go see, but that might change if you reach out an get a local's perspective. Get a local's perspective, you won't regret it.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
An average day... Well, I'm not sure I ever had an average day. As soon as I had thought I had settled into a routine, something changed a bit. Which I loved - I dislike anything that's too routine. But an average week had me commuting 45 minutes to an hour on the Tube from Harrow to go to classes near city center in London Monday through Thursday. On Wednesday and Thursday, I would finish classes around 1pm and head to my internship about 20 minutes away. I would spend a full day at my internship on Fridays.
On the weekends, My friends and I would travel and explore other parts of England. Sometimes I would finish my internship and head straight to the train station to meet my friends in whatever place we had chosen that week; other times, I would start out early Saturday morning. It was absolutely lovely and I wouldn't change that pattern at all.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
This one is difficult for me because there wasn't anything that I really did worry about or fear. I suppose that, before I got there, I sometimes worried that Londoners would just look at me and judge me for a "stupid American." Or during the summer, when I was working like crazy to save up for London, I wondered now and again if it would be worth it.
Neither of these were particularly strong or constant and practically vanished as soon as the plane touched down on the runway at Heathrow airport. It's a big city; not everyone is extremely pleasant or polite, but I also never felt negatively judged while going about my life in London. It's a big city, it's easy to blend in and difficult to truly stand out.
Is there any other advice you'd like to share with prospective travelers?
Travel. It's so much cheaper and easier to travel in Europe as compared to the US. And it can be stressful, but try not to stress over it. The number of great stories and memories that my friends and I have because of misadventures is incredible. Almost every single trip we took included some amount of misadventure. None of us knew each other before meeting in London, but we built solid and lasting friendships because we took those trips together and, when things went not according to plan, we all went with it and made the best of it. Life happens, things go wrong, but that's no reason not to live it and kind of just roll with the punches. (Or however, that saying goes.) I hope that your time abroad is as incredible and unique to you as mine was to me.