London experience deviates from assumptions

Study abroad may not be what is expected.


Courtesy of Victoria Perez

Alison Hartzler, Writer

The Biola London program is a unique opportunity offered to Biola students that opens a door to countless possibilities — traveling to different countries, diving into new cultures and meeting vastly diverse people.

Countless possibilities

Traveling to a new country and being surrounded by completely different cultures can be daunting. However, the thrill from having the opportunity to go to these new lands and learn such a variety of ideas brings on a new level of anticipation.

Leading up to this fantastic adventure, the focus of most of the students’ minds is the number of countries they may be able to visit. Coming from colossal America, the vast variety of countries so close together in Europe is too tempting.

“I wanted to see the world. I wanted to get as much under my belt as I could,” said Gianni Buonvicino, junior cinema and media arts major, looking back on his time before his trip.

Adjusted expectations

Students, such as senior psychology and sociology major Lauren Helsley, quickly learned to adjust their expectations.  

“My big hope for the semester was to travel everywhere, but I realized pretty quickly how unrealistic that was,” Helsley said. “I found myself focusing less on where I can go this week and more on who am I going to spend time with.”

While the temptation to sweep over as many different countries and cultures as possible is understandable, the real experience comes when the people placed in that new culture and the people of the culture itself start to have a unique effect on each other.

“I’m glad I didn’t leave [the city] more, because I would have missed out on things going on around me, and I wouldn’t have been able to connect as much with the people,” said Victoria Perez, junior English major. “I do miss that, but more than anything I miss the people I met there, and the friendships I formed.”

A challenging transition

Returning back to “normal” after such an incredible experience can prove more challenging than one thinks.

“Even though Biola is so familiar to me, it felt like a completely foreign place. I had changed a lot and I had learned a lot about myself, and I grew as a person. So coming back, it was kind of strange,” Perez said.

The memories made on this trip are so valuable to the students who made them. More than anything, they want to show how deeply the relationships they made while in London affected them. Yet, communicating this proves to be its own challenge, according to Helsley.

“It’s weird trying to talk about the experience with people who weren’t there, in the sense that it’s a hard thing to convey. I lived these three months of my life and now I’m back to the same old, same old,” Helsley said.

Even though leaving a country and people that have become so dear in order to return to an old environment and trying to find a place to fit in again can be challenging, Biola London alumni agree the pain is worth it.

“Go with no expectations,” Buonvicino advised. “It’s hard to get disappointed with the experiences you come back with.”

According to Perez, creating those deep friendships is important even though the impending separation is inevitable.

“I met people I cared about deeply, who I still talk to on a daily basis. When you make those kinds of friends it’s important to remember to prepare for how hard it will be for coming home,” Perez said.

Helsley noted all of the memories and experiences created from a semester abroad are unforgettably valuable.

“Everyone should go, even if it’s not London. Studying abroad as a whole is such an eye-opening experience and really helps you learn a lot about yourself in such a short amount of time,” Helsley said.

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