The last 5 and half months have been nothing but incredible. While taking a full semester of classes at Queen Mary University of London and working towards my Biochemistry major, I had the opportunity to travel to 15 different countries besides England (Slovakia, France, Italy, Monaco, Iceland, Ireland, Poland, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain, Luxembourg, Germany and Austria), all while meeting some incredible people throughout. However, more than the astounding architecture of the city and ease of travel to other countries, yet despite the lack of seasoned food, it was the people that I met that made London a lovely home away from home. After this experience, I can say I am beyond lucky to have the best people in my life wherever in the world I may be.
Each place I traveled to taught me something new, from fun facts to life skills. For example, if you pronounce “ahoy’, like a pirate, you are saying hello in Slovakian. As far as life lessons go, a waiter in Greece taught me a saying that essentially translates to “People are not like French fries. They cannot be liked by everyone”. All cuteness aside though, one thing that became glaringly evident was the power of being a US passport holder. Despite waiting in line with people from all over the world when re-entering the UK, I found that when I reached passport control, slim to no questions were asked of me in comparison to others entering from other countries. In this situation, I became aware of such a massive advantage my identity grants me, as well as slightly perplexed. It’s a large responsibility, and rightfully or not, it is clear that US passport holders are held to higher expectations than visitors from other countries.
While London was more reminiscent of the USA than some other places I traveled to, like Poland and Slovakia, it was actually more different than I initially imagined. While the language was pretty much similar despite some cheeky slang words (the four-letter C -word is actually a term of endearment), the biggest discrepancy I found was the outlook on life held by the British. The Brits are not as stressed out as I would say the average American is. They are not always in a rush; In fact, most of my classmates were often at least a couple minutes or later to lecture. They take the time to enjoy their surroundings and their peers. I was and continue to be incredibly heat-warmed by the unexpected hospitality and loyalty of my “mates” from the UK. It is such qualities and mindset that I hope to continue adopting here at home as I truly believe it has afforded them many benefits that we do not reap. For starters, from what I have learned from my flat mates’ parents (both practicing physicians), depressants and stimulants are not nearly as prevalent on university campuses in the UK compared to the USA. In fact, some of my friends did not even know some of such commonly prescribed drugs even existed. While I wouldn’t go as far to say that “America was a social experiment gone wrong” as one of my British friends that I met in a pub at 1AM has said, I will say that there are a lot of good examples set from our friends overseas that we can learn from. I am beyond thankful that such an experience has provided me the opportunity to learn first handily some of these lessons which I ultimately believe has bettered me both personally and professionally.