Valley Overseas: Expecting the Unexpected

Welcome to Valley Overseas. We’ll hear from students exploring new lands full of strange customs, seemingly impenetrable language barriers, and Euro-trash. They’ll dish out the good, bad and the ugly of living in a home-stay, and the tales of discount airlines. From mixed-up vocab to drool-worthy people in fantastic fashions, let us show you the experiences of a lifetime.

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There are many reasons why people choose to study abroad. Most of us go in hopes of finding something we’ve been looking for— adventure, passion, nightlife, education or history.

In the short week that I’ve already spent here in London, I’ve noticed that what we actually find is a bit more unexpected—that is, ourselves.

My last week has been spent making new friends, exploring new places and tasting new foods. To say that the majority of my time abroad so far has been a mix of unfamiliar experiences would be an understatement.

In my mind, study abroad is like an experiment, where thousands of broke college students are dropped off in the world’s greatest cities and challenged to make of it what they can. My classmates and I often joke that our time here is similar to the Hunger Games or Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest.’ Without the familiarity of Penn State to protect us, it’s every man for himself. There are no RA’s on the first day to help you make friends or dining hall staff to prepare your food. Essentially, you’re on your own to make everything from dinner to decisions.

What I’ve described may sound intimidating, but seeing as though I’m having the time of my life, they’re only small obstacles. It’s because of these experiences that I already sense I’m beginning to grow. Getting lost on the tube, something I would normally find discouraging, reignited my independence, and every day I’ve become more confident in my abilities to trust my instincts and fend for myself.

More important than my logistical whereabouts though, have been my emotional ones. Being in a new place has helped me rediscover some of my greatest passions, like art and history.

Given free time to explore London, I’ve noticed I’m drawn to museums, monuments and royal parks. While I’m not exactly sure how these interests will play into my self-proclaimed “discovery,” it’s exciting to know that my time abroad will help me feed my forgotten passions.

The obstacles we face in life, some of which I’ve already faced this week in London, require searching for things we think we’ve lost. For me, this often means my sense of direction, but also, my sense of self. With a little bit of exploration though, I’m confident I’ll always find my way.

Photo provided by Carolyn Hamm