Living and working outside of the United States was a long time dream of mine. When I arrived on the St. Norbert campus, I began researching the many possibilities. During January of my second year, I flew to London to participate in the Foundations for International Education program with other American students. We went to class, explored the city, traveled all over Europe, and, most importantly, interned at companies throughout the London area. My internship sent me to Twickenham, just outside London, to learn marketing in a real life setting with the Harlequins Rugby League Team’s marketing department.
Before my trip to England, I was accustomed to traveling alone. In high school, I flew to Washington D.C. to participate in the National Young Leaders Conference. However, it was a strictly supervised week of mock Congresses and touring the historical sights. In Europe, it was not possible to call home or a chaperone for help handling dirty hostels or wrong turns into bad neighborhoods. My parents, saints and miracle workers though they are, could not sit with me among the homeless sleeping at the Venice train station while waiting for the 3 a.m. train, at the Accident and Emergency with a 103°F temperature, or during a knife fight on the bus in Peckham (the Bronx of London).
There is an innate sense of accomplishment that comes from living on your own. During my last week working for the Harlequins Rugby League, I described in my journal how much I both loved and loathed the idea of returning to the States. “I’m going to miss everything about this life – even the combined subway, train, and walk commute. It’s an easy routine to grow accustomed to: rising for work at 7 a.m., working eight hours, commuting home, and grabbing a pint with friends before going to bed ready to do it all over again. There’s a spirit about this city that makes it all worth it.” I was glad to come home to my family and friends, but I resented the knowledge that these experiences could not be accurately described or shared with them.
London was my first experience living alone in a big city. It was equally exciting and terrifying. The crowds of people rushing through the terminals were of all nationalities and backgrounds. No two people shared the same history or life experiences. It was exhilarating to find myself among them – sharing stories at the pubs and cheering on the local teams. City life can be daunting, but I loved it immediately. London opened my eyes to new experiences and changed my perspective. Life no longer followed a single set path, but rather wound around inelegantly dependent on mere whims. City life opened my eyes to this and helped me embrace it.