Studying abroad comes with a multitude of nerve-wracking stressors, such as packing, traveling without your parents and being thrown into a completely different culture. But the thing I was most nervous about was having to live with 14 complete strangers.
After having a not so picture-perfect freshman dorm experience, I was extremely worried about what it’d be like to live in the same building with all of these other people I’d never met before.
A little backstory: My experience in JMU’s freshman dorms wasn’t horrible, but I struggled because I didn’t make any friends in my building. My roommate was able to find a group of friends in our hall within the first week of moving in, while I felt that I hadn’t yet clicked with anyone. Later in the year, I found my group of people, but none of them lived in my building. Most of them lived off campus, so I rarely saw them during the weekdays.
Since that experience was so fresh in my mind, I was worried I’d have a similar experience this semester and that it’d make everything else much less enjoyable. I began to really struggle with that thought as the program start date inched closer, and I’d convinced myself I wasn’t going to make any friends during the semester.
Luckily for me, I was wrong.
It might be because there’s a smaller group of students this semester because of the pandemic. Usually, there are around 30 students who travel to London each semester, and this semester, we’re half that size. This has allowed us to all go out together as one large group, and we’ve all got to know each other really well because of that.
In my apartment — or, “flat,” as the Brits say — there are five of us living together. In any other situation, five girls in one place would be an absolute nightmare, but we’ve all gotten on so well. We all enjoy the same things, cook with each other, sit in the living room and chat about our days, go grocery shopping together and laugh a lot. I don’t think I could’ve gotten a better living situation.
Everyone else in the building is great, too. Many of us want to travel to the same places, and we all enjoy going out and drinking together, which really helps break the ice. I could genuinely hang out with anyone here and have a positive experience. All of us want to continue to hang out when we get back to JMU.
While the experience has been amazing so far, living with five other females does have its difficulties. For example, we have one shower to share, and our fridge is tiny when five people go grocery shopping throughout the week. The dishes also have a tendency to pile up, especially because we don’t have a dishwasher. I wouldn’t choose to have four other roommates, but considering the circumstances, things could be worse.
Feeling so close to everyone after only being here for a few weeks has already made this experience so much better than I could’ve imagined.
Even the adults we have with us are fun. Our faculty member in residence, professor Tom Benzing, who teaches ISAT 112, is wonderful and has tried very hard to relate to all of us. Our program coordinator, Kevin Chamberland, is the best: He’s already gotten to know all of us so well and genuinely cares about how we’re all doing.
There couldn’t have been a better group of people for this experience. The way we’ve all clicked with each other is something I definitely didn’t expect, but I’m extremely happy that everything worked out the way it has.
Contact Avery Goodstine at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more content on Avery’s study abroad experience in London, stay tuned for the “London Eye” column every Friday, and follow the culture desk on Twitter and Instagram @Breeze_Culture.