WHOA – Anahi Mendoza

February 12, 2021

Portrait of a person

Studying abroad has been a goal of mine since high school when I first heard about it through some of my favorite teachers. Though I did not have a concrete idea of where or when to study abroad, I knew that college would be a great time to do so. However, despite the excitement that came from possibly living and studying abroad as a Latinx, first-generation student from a low-income household, the experience was also a bit nerve-racking. Nonetheless, I really felt that this experience would be a great one, and after discussing the option with various mentors, fellow peers, and my study abroad advisor Ashley, I decided to apply. The application process began during my sophomore year, with the program itself taking place Winter/Spring of my junior year.

The process of applying was time-consuming and at times very fast-paced, but I found support in not only my study abroad advisor but also peers who had gone through the process. In particular, I was worried about the cost, given that London is a very expensive city to live in. Thus I made sure to look into scholarships and financial aid options. Ultimately, though I was not awarded any additional scholarships, my financial aid package and loans were enough to help offset most of my costs. After weighing my options, the cost, and other personal factors, I felt that study abroad would be one of the best experiences I could have during my undergraduate career. Soon enough, I was on my way to London!

When it came time to leave for London, I found myself feeling excited and a bit worried. Though this was not my first time abroad (having traveled to Mexico and Paris in the past) this would be my longest trip away from home.. However, since my study abroad experience was through the University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) at the University of London, Queen Mary, I had a network of other UC students attending universities in London at the same time as me. During my first week in London, I met other UC students studying at my university, and soon we were exploring the city, getting lost on the tube, and deciphering the English lingo together.

Even with other UC students by my side, adjusting to English culture took a bit of time. Though there are no language barriers, there were times where I found myself unsure of how to proceed in situations due to the difference in mannerism and culture. For example, getting asked about my nationality or adapting to dry humor. Over time,  I slowly adjusted to the culture and people because I made a concerted effort to interact with those around me, especially my flatmates and classmates, making small talk at first which blossomed into friendships and opportunities to meet more people. Other resources I utilized were the clubs and events that the school hosted, as these allowed me to mingle and chat with other students while partaking in fun activities or simply experiencing the culture. As I began to be more involved and outgoing, I began to feel like I fit into this new environment and was able to enjoy myself and learn more about the culture that surrounded me.

One of the biggest challenges during my program was not the people, country, or culture, but the COVID pandemic. Keeping an eye on global updates while still partaking in class was a lot to juggle. However, my professors abroad were extremely helpful and understood that I was in a tough situation given that at any moment I could be asked to return home by the UCEAP team. The host university also did its part in terms of moving classes online, making it easier to complete my courses remotely.

All in all, despite not getting to complete my study abroad experience in London, I do cherish the memories I made while there. I still keep in touch with people I met while abroad to discuss the fun times we had together and catch up on what we are up to nowadays. I am also thankful for the experience because I feel even more confident interacting and connecting with people from all over the world, and from all walks of life. 

I had always believed that studying would be a once in a lifetime experience for me, and I can now say that it truly was. To be able to immerse myself in a new culture, explore London, visit Spain during a holiday, and make amazing friends and memories is something that I achieved because I took a risk. I would say that if anyone is even considering applying to study away, they should do it. There are so many opportunities waiting for you, and no matter what happens, the memories you create will be great ones.