Crossing Paths: My Favorite Part of Studying Abroad

When I began to consider studying abroad, I felt so lucky that one of my best friends, Becca, was also planning to study abroad at St Mary’s University in Twickenham, England. The idea of crossing the ocean for a semester seemed so daunting to me at first, and having the security of another friend there with me helped to ease so many of my nerves over how I would manage settling into a new school and country. However, what I found over my four months in England was that there was absolutely no reason for me to be nervous about making friendships and fostering new relationships during my semester abroad. In fact, now that the semester has ended, I can truly say that the greatest aspect of my time abroad was the people I was surrounded by.

Becca Dawson and I at Logan Airport on the night we flew to Heathrow Airport and the two of us in Kingston, England.

Meeting New Friends

As I had heard many times as I prepared to study abroad, the friendships I would forge with the British students and fellow international students at St Mary’s became so important to me over the course of the semester. Through time spent on campus and the social scene in and surrounding Twickenham, there were lots of opportunities for us to grow closer and form friendships with St Mary’s students. Some of my favorite moments throughout the semester were the get-togethers and laughs I would have around Twickenham and on campus with the international friends I made. While a majority of the people studying abroad were from the states, I also met people from all over the globe. One of the friends I got to grow close with, Soraya, traveled all the way from Australia for the spring semester! It was such an incredible learning experience to be constantly surrounded by peers and friends from different backgrounds. The ability to constantly compare cultures and norms and share our personal experiences helped to expand my horizons and made me so much more knowledgeable about the way of life in different countries. 

Signing the wall at Abbey Road with friends I made this semester, and our last night together at our favorite place to get food near campus, London Kebab.

Visits from Friends

In addition to forging friendships with international students, I created lifelong memories with friends from home during the semester. In February, my friend Jennie, a fellow Salve student studying abroad in Berlin, visited Becca and I for a long weekend in England. It was so much fun meeting up and comparing our experiences studying abroad and discussing the differences and similarities between life in London and Berlin. In March, Becca and I’s roommate at Salve, Libby, came to visit St Mary’s for Spring Break. During the Salve Spring break week, St Mary’s was visited by six additional Salve students, and the twelve of us had so much fun throughout the week, it felt like our own little reunion! I quickly learned how much fun it was playing tour guide and showing my friends around my favorite spots in the city and finding new places and experiences that we could explore together. To end out the first half of the semester, my childhood best friend, Delaney was able to visit St Mary’s for the week as well. In 2022, the two of us traveled to London together for the first time, so it was a lot of fun being able to do some day trips around England together since we already got a chance to explore the tourist sites in the city together. 

Visits from my friends: Jennie, who spent the spring abroad in Berlin, and from Libby who came during Salve’s Spring Break.

Reconnecting with Old Friends

While Delaney was in England, I received a message over social media from a friend we went to elementary school with but hadn’t seen in over eight years. I learned that our friend Brey was now living and studying in London, and we immediately made plans to meet up while Delaney was visiting so we could have a proper reunion. It was so much fun catching up with Brey and learning about his life living in London and contrasting our experiences in American and English universities. Luckily, I met up with Brey and his friends again before returning to the states, and reconnecting with an old friend after so many years was one of the unexpected highlights of my four months in England. I realized quickly how friendships seemed to appear in unanticipated places, and I am so thankful that life in London allowed me to be introduced, and in this case, reintroduced, to people that helped to make my time abroad so filled with fun and adventure. 

Delaney, Brey, and I reunited in central London over eight years since Brey moved away from our hometown.

“The Salve Girls” at St Mary’s

While I had briefly been introduced to Fiona, Julia, Maeve, and Taylor at the pre-departure meeting and on campus in the fall of 2023, I had no idea how close the group of us Salve students would become through our shared experience studying abroad. From walks to our favorite spots in Twickenham together, to late-night tube rides home to St Mary’s campus, to West End shows and museum trips, to flights around Europe, laughs in the dining hall, and the ever-enriching experience of living in a new country together, I have never grown so close to a group of people in such a short amount of time. And while I expected to make friends with St Mary’s students and have to part ways with those international friendships, I had entirely overlooked the fact that I would be able to foster friendships that would travel back home with me. The six of us arrived in England as three little groups of two, but we have left as an inseparable group of the very best of friends. 

With Becca Dawson, Julia Doyle, Fiona Gorman, Maeve McCann, and Taylor Ross during our first week in London.

To anyone planning to study abroad, I urge you not to stress over the idea of making new friends or feeling alone in the study abroad process. So quickly, I watched as the international students, including myself, became so bonded over the shared experience of leaving our home universities and countries to come to London and see what this incredible city had to offer us. While at first, it may seem like a daunting task to leave behind the many friendships made at home and at Salve, there are so many future friendships to be made abroad that are waiting for you. Whether it was British students I met in my classes, international students I chatted with in the dining hall or dorm halls, meeting the visiting friends and family of my friends, or even the friends of individuals I was able to reconnect with, the amount of people that I was able to connect with far surpassed my expectations and helped to make my experience abroad so fulfilling. Whenever I am asked about my favorite part of my semester abroad, I say without hesitation, “the people.” As we were dubbed by our friends at St Mary’s, my friendships with “The Salve Girls” will last a lifetime, and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to study abroad for allowing our paths to cross in such an enriching way. 

Leah S is majoring in English Communications and Political Science with a minor in History, and studied abroad at St Mary’s University London, Twickenham, England.

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