Alexia Walker is a Junior at the University of Florida in Criminology and an FIE scholarship student. She recently completed a study and internship program in London for Summer 2021 and has returned home. Below is a reflection on her time abroad.
I had a surprisingly hard time writing this. I struggled to find a theme for this blog that would adequately express something real about my time in London on the FIE study abroad/internship program. After sitting on it for days, I finally decided on what I wanted to say- you won’t regret it even when you think you will. I admit, the program was crazy expensive. So much so that my family and I struggled to find the funds to attend. The visa process was long and complicated and the flight time was longer. On top of that, it was in the middle of a pandemic. I had reservations at every stage. I wondered whether everything was worth it. COVID-19 played a large part in those reservations because it completely changed the way the program was meant to be experienced. London had many restrictions that I knew would limit me from fully engaging with the city. All these concerns were valid but by the end of the program, there were no regrets. All those reservations I had before, they stayed behind on the plane when I landed in London.
I thought I knew what I wanted from the program when I started it. It was all about the internship opportunity that I was being given. I wanted to make the best of it, to learn as much as possible and get some sight-seeing done on the side, of course. And it was great. The internship was an amazing experience, and the knowledge and skills that I gained were invaluable, but my best experiences were not in the office working on legal conferences. They were on the streets of the city, taking in as much as it had to offer. Riding the tube alone was one that I would never forget. I remember clutching my Oyster card, trying to figure out whether the next train was the right one. I almost turned around three times because I was sure I would end up lost on the other side of London and be forced to share a cardboard box with a homeless dog. Yes, I may have let my imagination run a little wild, but that was just how nervous I was. Regardless, everything worked out, and now I can confidently say that I am an expert at riding the tube. In a similar way, I had many new experiences in London that only served to enrich my life. I walked streets that had history embedded in each stone and met ethnic people with so many stories to tell. Each experience taught me something new about myself and helped me to step outside my comfort zone. I’m not the same person that I was when I left the U.S., I am better in a way that my perspective have changed to be more engaging with the environment around me, and that growth is more than I could ask for.
As I said before, there were no regrets and everything that I had to labor through to get to the program was more than worth it, and FIE had a large part to do with it. They provided a safe and welcoming environment to live and learn. The faculty and staff were kind and welcoming and did their best to help us along. The classes were fun and engaging and I got to know some of the best people I have ever met. Living on the same floor, we become close were quickly and they were a large factor in how much I enjoyed my time in London. I thought I would feel alone in a strange city, but I wasn’t, and I am grateful to them and FIE for providing this opportunity. So, yes, I had many concerns about the program, and I thought I may regret it, but I’m glad I didn’t let it stop me because it was one of the best experiences of my life.