What It’s Like to Study Abroad During Political Crises

What It’s Like to Study Abroad During Political Crises

The top 6 things I noticed as I studied abroad in London.

London is truly an amazing city. It’s a city of gray skies, royalty, amazing theater and art, beautiful sights, endless food options, and some of the best chocolate ever. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have just spent the past 6 months one of the most wonderful city in the world.

As much as I’ve missed Cornell, being in London was a change I welcomed in my life. For 6 months, not only did I have no prelims to worry about or toe-numbing weather to be caught in, but I also got to be free in a new environment.

Upon returning home, there were still so many things still pouring in my head. Was it the best time of my life? Yes, I’d like to think so. It felt completely like a dream. I spent a majority of my time outside of studying just exploring the city I called home, meeting the people who offered to show me what a lovely place London can be and helped me make it a home and learning about their brilliant culture. Did I miss home? Yes, I did. More so as the days went on, but I made sure to keep up with American news outlets and with politics so I would know what to expect when I came home. In addition, I was sure to keep up with UK politics so I would know how my peers reacted around me. Did I feel in danger at any time? For the most part, no. Despite living in a city subjected to three terror attacks in the span of three months, I had felt safer than ever because I knew that despite being a stranger to this land, London was looking out for me. I felt safe, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t cause for concern.

One of the best things I felt I could do to digest the realities of my time in London and wake up from this dream was to write it all down: how did it really feel to be in London while their government and American government were dealing with new crises and situation?

1. The British are much more aware about American culture and politics than you may think.

Even as I was just learning about who exactly Theresa May was and what the Members of Parliament (MPs) did, (and exactly why there were MPs in London but Scottish MPs still in Edinburgh who weren’t part of the English Parliament...) my flatmates were already in the know. I’m imagining this has more to do with the United States’ current position as a global superpower, but I was surprised to find my flatmates protesting against Trump’s policies and other cabinet members’ positions when I had no grounds for comparison. Of course, their knowledge on American politics made it easier for me to bond with them and further explain the way events would play out--especially when during the Women’s March in London and during the protests on Trump’s travel ban.

2. You will be expected to be the point person for the American perspective.

Even for those who may not be as aware of American politics, you may still be expected to offer explanations or opinions regarding American politics. For the most part, I was never the one to bring up our current President in conversation. But if he would come up, I’d be met with frequent eye rolls, complaints, and worries about the future--the same as I’d experienced back at home. Even though I considered myself as being in a safe, liberal environment, I couldn’t explain the politics or respond further in political conversation than “I’m not sure, but I can tell you I didn’t vote for him.” I attribute this trait to my acclimation to the politics of my hometown, where politics is very divisive-- I spend most of my time listening to others’ opinions defending Trump rather than trying to argue against it.

3. Although in a different country, you get to see your country through a foreign lens.

Seeing American politics through another country's point of view is an interesting experience. Not only is there the degree of separation, but you get to see how American politics affects the world, not just you. Trump’s presidency did not just mean politically correct culture was dead in America, but that it was dead in places others wanted to see it. Trump’s stance on the travel ban was not just about America’s stance on the refugee crisis, but it also encouraged the European dialogue on ordeal, and whether the current method was commendable or unacceptable. It not only became about Trump, it also became about Theresa May and their “special relationship,” specifically how she still has not yet publicly denounced Trump.

4. You became an honorary member of your host country by engaging in their concerns.

As I stated before, during my time abroad I became engaged in British government practices. I learned about the Parliament, the duties of the Prime Minister, the previous PMs, the Royal Family, and a lot of other information I did not know of before. Most importantly, I learned about Brexit and the General Election in depth. I remember being approached on the street in Oxford and asked if I had registered to vote. Though I was glad to have left England before the election could take place, part of me still regrets not being able to vote and contribute to the Labour Party’s cause. Perhaps if I had voted with the other over-18 population in Britain, Jeremy Corbyn would’ve become PM or an Independent Party seat would be given over to Parliament. I’ll never know.

5. You’ll be a point person for your family and friends as to how bad global crises are.

Despite feeling completely safe on my East London campus, I still received text messages and phone calls from family members and friends who’d seen the news, reacted, and wanted to know if I was okay. The Manchester attacks happened four hours away from London, and the Westminster and London Bridge attacks were less than 20 minutes away from me by tube. Not only was I okay and safe from harm, I was nowhere near any of the attacks. Though not devoid of sympathy for the victims, I felt completely detached from the attacks. I can only attribute this to feeling the same way I do at home--when violence breaks out or a shooting happens, what is the first thing we do if we aren’t in the immediate area? Message our loved ones and carry on with our lives. And this is exactly what I did-- I kept calm and carried on with my finals, my writing, and my adventures. I didn’t worry because London gave me protocols to use in the event of danger. London had trained and efficient police officers who knew how to calm crowds and assure the safety of each of its citizens. I’d love to have that same feeling of safety because I couldn’t guarantee that feeling would stay with me once I returned back to New York.

6. Despite how hectic things were getting, part of you will miss being in your home country and wish there was more you could do to help.

After I had returned to New York, I felt like I was returning to an alien nation all over again. Once again, I had new customs to adjust myself to, a new home, and new adventures to live day by day. Except none of it was new--I had experienced them all before. They had only become foreign to me over time. As cliche as it was, London really did feel like home, even more so than New York did. Even as I was flying back on my plane, I kept the desire to come back once again, and see those resilient people I had come to know through happiness and through crises. I had to return home and let go of situations that weren’t mine. Gone were terrorist attacks and General Elections, in were the Presidency and the American politics of today. In the end, I figured I would miss London, but now it is New York that needs me to stand up for her.

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.

Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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When Words Are Not Enough

Sometimes you just need to be.


Life is a roller-coaster of ups and downs. We all desire easy fruitful lives where no one ever dies and no one ever leaves. Instead, we suffer through hardships and great trials that test our faith. These conflicts often leave us worn down and feeling helpless. This is the time when words become a languid breeze, going through one ear and out the other. This is what you should do when words are not enough to satiate the pain you hold in trembling hands.

Focus all your energy into just being. No one expects you to get over the tragedy that occurred in your life, so don't force yourself. Just eat, breathe, and sleep until you feel up to doing normal tasks. Whatever circumstance that has stolen your breath and turned your life upside down won't go a week in a couple of days or a week. Wounds like yours don't go away instantly; instead, they take time and nurturing. Sometimes it's best to keep a sore covered but in some circumstances, know that seeing someone is okay.

These tragedies you face are real, and they try to break down the very substances that make you who you are. Counselors and therapists can help you make sense of the burden you carry. There are many reasons why you might be hesitant to see a therapist, but if the burden you carry becomes too much, a therapist can help you lighten that load.

Know that what you are going through is real and it is tough, but you will make it out on top. You are a survivor and a success story. Every single bad thing that has tried to tear you down hasn't succeeded, and this will be no different. Trust me, your story is not over.

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