Studying abroad… while studying abroad! An international student perspective from London.

Hello, my name is Shifa and I am studying at Knox College in Illinois. I am a Math major with double minors in Fine Arts and Economics.

I have lived in Pakistan most of my life and decided to study in America for my Bachelors. During my first year of college, I did not even think of going for a semester abroad, since I thought I was already abroad and did not want to get through a second phase of culture shock. However, after learning so much while living alone, having some great experiences and hearing great things about London from my friends who are studying in UK universities, I decided to ‘study abroad while studying abroad‘.

While walking to class, I sometimes wonder about the difference in my surroundings and how it makes me feel compared to going to class at Knox in the US or going to school in Karachi. In Karachi, my Mom would drop me to high school in a car, probably getting stuck in traffic before reaching school. Schools have boundary walls with barbed wire for security reasons and we had to be inside the school gate before 7:30 am. I was surprised when i saw that the universities in the US did not have boundary walls or gates. My walk to class at Knox was completely different where the campus is very green and the town has no high rise buildings. My earliest class at Knox would be at 8 am. Whereas, in London the student housing and the academic buildings are scattered in the city between houses, hotels and museums. The big city aspect about London somewhat reminded me of home but its different that there are much more people walking to school or work than travelling by cars. My earliest class at FIE is at 9 am which I do not mind at all. Moreover, it is absolutely amazing living, studying and walking past Victorian style buildings. I feel it is difficult to rank any of these experiences because they all have their own special place.

Another major thing that always makes me home sick is Pakistani food. Desi food was not readily available in the small town of Galesburg where Knox College resides. Sometimes it is sad when you pass by KFC or Mc Donalds but cannot have the fried chicken or BigMac because it isn’t halal. I eventually got used to it by adding sriracha sauce to everything I ate including morning eggs. However, London has been great to me in this aspect. I think this is one great factor about studying in a bigger city consisting of a lot of diverse communities. I have come across many places which serve South Asian Cuisine and many of the fast food chains also serve halal food. I was so grateful and happy to be able to eat KFC and Shake Shack in London. I also just went to Dishoom yesterday which has serves mouth-watering Indian cuisine. I was surprised at how full it was that we had to wait an hour for a table. Clearly it’s not only the Desi people who love South Asian cuisine.

I will continue to write blogs about my journey in London highlighting why I am glad about my decision to study abroad, once again!


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