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Study Abroad Memories: From London, With Love

It’s funny, the things that I remember years later. The little snapshots that pop into my head whenever I think of London.

I remember sitting, my legs propped up on my bags in front of me, in a waiting area in Heathrow.

I remember having to lug those 2 giant suitcases over four blocks of bumpy London sidewalks (I had not yet learned the importance of packing light), because our street was too small for the bus to maneuver down.

I remember a bunch of us pouring into the local pub on one of our first nights there, giddy with excitement and lingering jet lag.

I remember meeting my flatmates and having a bonding night, complete with pajamas, cider and getting-to-know-you laughter.

I remember the wind from the approaching Tube train blowing my hair back. I remember the bustle of changing trains at Green Park during rush hour, and getting frustrated with the “tourists” who seemed to move in slow motion.

I remember our meeting spot, by the Eros statue in Piccadilly Circus, and the ache of tired feet after a night of dancing. I remember sprinting through the Tube station, trying to catch the last train. And, when that failed, I remember shivering in the cold of Trafalgar Square, waiting in the darkness for the night bus that would take me home.

I remember my classes (barely).

I remember strolling down a side street, swinging a bag of groceries from Sainsbury’s, gazing up at the grey London sky and feeling, at that moment, perfectly happy.

I remember the friends I made. We still keep in touch, though now it’s just through occasional posts on our Facebook walls instead of daily chats in the pub.

And I remember being back at Heathrow airport, months after I arrived, crying as I waited for the plane to take me back. It’s hard to say I was going home, because in those 4 short months I felt like a tiny flat in Swiss Cottage had become my home.

And that’s the best thing about living (and studying) abroad. You realize you can adapt to anything, and grow to love it. Your definition of home, and your understanding of the world around you, expands. It wasn’t one momentous, life-changing moment, but the simple day-to-day experiences, that defined my time in England.

Share your thoughts on living/studying abroad, and check back next week for some tips on how to make the most of a study abroad experience!

Photo by Paul Martin Eldridge via

  • Cassandra P Gutman

    I am studying abroad right now! I got to England in early January, and I leave at the end of April. It’s absolutely crazy that all of the things you listed above, I am experiencing. Right now I want my classes to disappear, but it is such a wonderful experience! (And you gotta love Sainsbury’s!)

  • Adriana Gowing

    I miss London so much it makes my heart ache.

  • Krystal Rhodes

    This post makes my heart sad. I’ve been studying in London for the past 7 months, and only have 3 left. Every day the fact that I have one less day in this amazing city with all of the experiences you just described looms over me. I think I’m more scared to go back to the states than I was to ever move here. These fears stem from re-assimilation and leaving behind great friends, but mostly the fear of never being back here and racing friends to the last open seat on the tube, scoffing at the ‘tourists’, and so many of the little things that make up every day. I only hope I can remember on that morose that as I sit at my gate in Heathrow surrounding myself in puddles of tears, that I’m not leaving behind anything, I’m gaining a whole new perspective on life. <3 London.

  • Alex Flores

    This makes me so heart sick and nostalgic – I’d give anything to be back in the LDN.

  • Livi Flynn

    I spent last year in Barcelona, and I have so many similar yet completely different snapshots – it was definitely just the best year of my life, I would give anything to be back there again!

  • Olivia Miller

    I studied abroad in London almost 2 summers ago and I miss it terribly. You’ve captured such lovely moments that makes me miss it even more. All the museums, the parks, the Sainsbury’s trips! *sigh*

  • Emily Hatfield

    I studied abroad for three months in Italy and it was the best time of my life. I met people who are my best friends still, learned so much about life and myself, and have so many good memories. Not to mention I’ve become a study abroad snob since I went to 13 countries and get offended when people get it wrong. Maybe that’s just me? I just cherish every single thing about my time abroad. Thanks for this. All of my study abroad memories are forever captured on my blog for anyone interested.

  • Marigold Augustus Peabody-Sareen

    This post makes me miss home (Cambridge). That street is my favourite there!

  • Katie Dailey

    I loved this post, not only because it’s true, but because I was a part of those memories. And I laughed out loud at the barely remembering class part, but I’m sure you remember a certain someone’s contributions to classroom discussion. Living in London was one of the best times of my life, and it’s amazing how it still impacts my life and worldview 12 years later (wait, am I allowed to admit it was that long ago?). Swiss Cottage was the perfect place to call home, and I think I still have my Sainsbury card. When I stopped into Waitrose a few years ago, I thought, “Hey, this store isn’t as expensive as I thought it was when I was 20. What was I complaining about?” But that was in comparison to NYC grocery store prices instead of my little hometown. How things change. But, hey, I hope to see you soon and not just on Facebook! Great job, Steph!

  • Alyssa Susannah

    This is exactly how I feel about London. I fell in love with the city almost immediately, and as much as I wanted to come home to see friends and family, I wanted to stay in London forever! It’s a beautiful city because it’s so alive! I miss the Christmas outdoor market/fair in Hyde Park and all of the open-air markets around the city. Even if I couldn’t buy much, it was wonderful to be around all of those people and see all of the wonderful things people were selling! Portobello Market was wonderful, and I wish I could have seen more of Notting Hill and the surrounding area…I hope I can go back soon.

  • Chelsea Harrison

    I studied for a summer in London as an undergrad…then I went back on a 6-month work visa after graduation…then I went back for Grad school for 2 years. For those of you facing the end of your trips, don’t be sad! It doesn’t have to be the end. I am going back to London for the Olympics this summer and can’t wait. Just think of it as a home away from home. A lusty goal I have is to retire there…go to the National Theatre once a week, drink Ribena, eat pasties and visit old book shops to my heart’s content :)

  • Lindsey Gallagher

    Studying in Seville, Spain was one of the best decisions I ever made and one of the most memorable, exciting experiences of my life. So many great memories!!

  • Megan Nicholson

    Seeing this picture, or any picture, of the phonebooths in London, all I think about is how badly they smelled like piss! I just haaaad to get that iconic picture though…

  • Tori Hanson

    There should be a blue phone booth between those red ones.

  • Andrea Medina

    I too studied abroad in London, back in the Summer of 2010. I still think about the city, my friends, and all the wonderful experiences I had while living there. I truly can relate to everything in your post, so I wanted to thank you for sharing your experience!! It definitely was one of, if not THE, best experiences of my life. I’m going back this summer for the Olympics, and I truly feel almost as if I’m going back HOME :) Even though So Cal is my home, haha. Cheers!!

  • Darby Archbold

    I spent a semester in Dublin and it was the best experience of my life. I miss it dearly! I’m so grateful that I was able to have that experience and am sad for my friends who never will. It’s totally true that studying abroad makes you so adaptable. I felt that it made me grow up really quickly. The only downside is that once the travel bug bites you, you want to always be going somewhere new. Unfortunately right now my wallet is unable to make the jet set lifestyle possible!

  • Sadie DeCoste

    I’ll be spending next year in Italy. I’m so flustered with emotion sometimes – nervousness, fear, whimsy, excitement and curiosity. I just want to be there, already immersed in their culture and language. Just 6 more months to wait.

  • Bryony Bates

    Lovely post – shame the picture’s of Cambridge, not London…

  • Caroline Yoon

    I studied abroad in my motherland, S. Korea, for 5 months, and those were the best 5 months of my life. I learned so much more about myself, my family, my culture and history. I met so many great people, and I miss them all terribly. I definitely cried on my way back to the States. Home is where the heart is (I know, so cliche!), and my heart is in Korea. I haven’t been able to go back since then, but I’ve been trying every year. But this year, I’ll actually be going to London for the Olympics, and I can’t wait for the experience! It’s not Korea, but it’s been a dream of mine to go to the Summer Olympics and London! 😛

  • Emily Harris

    I’m in Amsterdam right now til July. I came here alone to study and so far, it’s been nothing short of spectacular. I absolutely love the way you phrased it. “You realize you can adapt to anything, and grow to love it.”

    It’s true. And as much as it saddens me to know I’ll have to return “home” in a few short months, I’ll adapt and make the most of my time there too. Although, I know this is probably one of the best experiences of my life and I am savoring every moment. Except this one, when I’m reading blogs instead of exploring. 😉

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