London Calling: 3 Ways to Elevate Your Study Abroad Experience

In the summer of 2019, I made the exciting decision to live my dream of exploring London and decided to study abroad at the University of Westminster. During the process leading up to my travel, I had help from my university’s study abroad office, CEA Study Abroad advisors, and encouragement from my family. Before embarking on my journey, I reminded myself, in the words of George Washington Carver, “Education is the key to unlock the golden doors of freedom.” I love this quote because I believe education can take me anywhere across the globe as long as I desire it. During my time in London, I took advantage of various opportunities presented to me. I wanted to share my experience and provide some tips for encouraging any students looking to study abroad.

Tip 1: Don’t be shy

You are going to feel like a freshman all over again. You will have awkward moments and that is okay. When I arrived at the airport in London, a chauffeur was present to pick us up. I didn’t know what to expect. When I met the other students, no one said anything to each other. I was very nervous and sweaty and to top it off, I was the only African American student from the program. I was uncomfortable and I knew I needed to cheer myself up. So, I started introducing myself to the other students. Turns out I was not the only one nervous. That was the beginning of my new friendships. Saying hello to someone can go a long way. It is the first step to overcoming shyness or nervousness.  

Tip 2: Ask questions

Asking questions does not make you look stupid. In fact, you become more knowledgeable when you are willing to ask. On the last day of class, my professor said to me, “Deborah, never stop asking questions!” Never be shy to ask questions and do not feel intimidated. You might be helping the person next to you without realizing it. I had to ask multiple questions before I knew the right steps to take as I embarked on this journey. Utilize Google, friends who have studied abroad, and advisors. 

Tip 3: Become a tourist

When I was in London, I made up my mind that I did not want to sit at home, sleep and just watch movies, so every day after class, I went to explore the city with my classmates. We visited almost every store and restaurant on Oxford Street, from the Nike store to the smaller gift shops. The program offered excursions and I made sure I did not miss out on any of these attractions. Being curious and open to new adventures can help you to grow as an individual and create wonderful memories. 

Living alone in a different country can be challenging. I learned to be judicious in my spending, especially when the exchange rate in London was higher. I had to adapt to communicating with family and friends back in the U.S. due to the time differences. Regarding time management, my previous experiences as a Resident Assistant (RA) and as a Pearson Campus Ambassador prepared me in handling situations and living well with international students. Lastly, study abroad connected me with friends across the globe: Australia, London, Hong Kong, California, Wisconsin and many more. It was the experience of a lifetime.

Pearson Students: Where is your dream study location? Share in the comments below!


Deborah Salami is a recent graduate at the University of Illinois at Chicago where she completed her bachelor’s degree in Criminology, Law, and Justice with a minor in Management Information Systems. She is also an alumnus at the University of Westminster. Deborah is a proud Gates Millennium Scholar. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and traveling. In Deborah’s junior year in undergrad, she founded an organization at UIC, CLJ Student Society, also recognized as the only CLJ’s department club. For two years, Deborah served as UIC’s Pearson Campus Ambassador and she loved it!


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