Shaina Maciejewski doesn’t have any negative things to say about her experience in London this past semester. Even when pushed about the challenges of studying abroad, asked about what she found most frustrating, Maciejewski couldn’t find an honest answer.
“I’ve changed here,” Maciejewski said. “And that’s a good thing. My adaptability has improved, and my confidence, too…I’ve learned that I can take care of myself and I don’t need to be scared of everything.”
So with the semester winding down and the holiday season upon us (The Sound of Music on replay), here is a simple list of a few of Maciejewski’s favorite things (cue Julie Andrews singing about bee stings in an Austrian valley).
Shaina Maciejewski’s Favorite Things About London
Big Ben/Westminster: “When you get here, like, first get here, and see Big Ben and Westminster…its just like, ‘oh my god. I’m in London.’”
The Tower of London: Over 900 years old, this enormous place is a hub of British history, and Maciejewski loves it.
“I spent like five hours there, “Maciejewski said. “There’s so much information and so much stuff to take in. We got a guided tour from one of the Beefeaters, which was great. That was definitely my favorite tourist attractions.”
Markets: Maciejewski has purchased food, souvenirs, and a whole lot of other things at the many markets in London. She likes them because they feel “a little less touristy.”
“And they all have different vibes and themes,” she said. “Camden’s food market is so ethnic, and Portobello Market is where the rich people live, so it is all antiques and beautiful things. There is so much to see, and it’s all just real people, doing their jobs and doing their shopping.”
Public Transportation: Maciejewski was very nervous about whether or not she’d survive on London’s “tube.” However, she ended up doing much better than she thought she would.
“You get a hang of it really quickly, and it’s a great way to get around. Everything in London is organized, and it really helps you get adjusted. Getting good at something so day-to-day is a huge part of starting to feel at home in a new place.”
Classes That Require Field Trips: “Two of my classes involved field trips around the city,” Maciejewski said. “In one, every other week we go to places I never would have otherwise visited. It’s just really local stuff. And in the other one we go see a show every other week, which gives us a great taste of the London theatre scene.”
Maciejewski said that classes like this make the actual academic experience of studying abroad more worthwhile.
Her New Schedule: In London, Maciekewski believes she’s mastered the “work vs. play” balance far better than she ever did in Durham.
“I have started doing my schoolwork differently than I did at UNH. I explore the city during the day, and then stay up late doing my homework at night. At UNH, I did the opposite. But I’ve been able to accomplish so much more this semester by changing it up.”
London Culture: “My favorite part of this experience has been the weekends I stayed in London and explored the city,” Maciejewski said, adding that the multicultural setting which London provides is incomparable. “Combined with all of the museums and shows and movie premiers,” she said, “there is always something to do, something to see.”
And these are only a few of her favorite things. (Julie Andrews continues…)
In the end, if there was only one bit of advice Maciejewski could give to a prospective student, it would be to go abroad as long as possible.
“Even if you’re scared, try to do the full semester. I went to Costa Rica this summer for six weeks, and just seeing how different I feel and how different my mentality was between Costa Rica and London, it is totally worth facing your fears and coming for the full semester.”
“When I was in Costa Rica and I didn’t like something, I was like, ‘oh I am going to be home in a couple weeks, so it doesn’t matter,'” Maciejewski said. “But in London, I’ve had to really get used to things I don’t particularly like.”
However…Maciejewski couldn’t put her finger on anything she didn’t particularly like!
Maybe her experience in London has made Maciejewski better at accepting the things she cannot change…or maybe she really couldn’t find any negatives about her experience.
Either way, her final message for prospective students is clear: “Don’t be scared…just go.”