NYU Student standing on a sidewalk in London.

“My semester abroad was the best four months of my life.”

This is a line that I’m sure many of us have heard. Whether it be from a close friend or from a post on the NYU Memes page, this sentence is one that has been uttered time and time again. And so, it’s only natural that we assume that most students come back from their NYU study abroad experience, enlightened and revitalized. However, I am not most students. 

From the moment I decided to spend my sophomore spring term at NYU London, I felt torn. Between thrill and terror. I’ve always loathed change, so making this choice was a shock to those who know me well. But when the opportunity to not only study in London but to work there presented itself, I knew I had to take it. 

However, looking back on it now, there are definitely a few facts I wish I had known before deciding to study abroad at NYU. That’s what I’m about to share with you. 

1. It Feels Like First Year All Over Again

While adjusting to any new environment has its challenges, going abroad was definitely on another level. The moment you arrive, it all feels new and exciting but also quite nerve-wracking. I didn’t really know anyone going into this experience, so I saw this as an opportunity to make new friends. But in order to do so, I had to take those dreaded first steps again. The infamous: 

“Hi, my name is Heidi. What’s yours? What year are you? What are you studying? Where do you call home?”

Then repeat.

The fresh faces coupled with the unfamiliar atmosphere were a lot to take in. As a result, I often found myself feeling drained by the end of each day. 

2. It's Very Easy to Isolate Yourself

This will depend a lot on what global site you choose to go to, but for London in particular, I found that it was all too easy to isolate myself. NYU London is one of the larger centers, so I actually didn’t meet a lot of the people who were there.

If you are interested in meeting a lot of people and have more than one option for housing, I highly recommend picking a dorm that’s close to campus and is directly owned by NYU.

I chose a residence that was further from campus and only offered single rooms, making it much more challenging for me to meet other NYU people in the building. In London the majority of students live in Byron Court, which is also where all the off-site events leave from. 

3. Just Because the Native Language Is English Doesn't Mean You Won't Experience Culture Shock

I picked in London because I’d always wanted to go there and because I knew it was a prime location for my area of study. The fact that British people speak English was just an added bonus. But while I anticipated that picking a native English–speaking country would make the transition smoother, I found that difficulties still manifested themselves in other ways.

Being a Korean-American from an area with a lot of East Asian representation, I was surprised to find that I stuck out quite a bit in London. While the city has a good amount of South Asian representation, I noticed that the only people who looked like me were other international students. This may not seem like a big issue; it really wasn’t at first. However, as the semester progressed, I definitely took notice of it more and more during my more questionable interactions with some of the locals. 

4. The Homesickness Hits Harder

I was a boarding school kid, so I’ve been away from home for school since I was in the eighth grade. Having to be independent is something that’s not unfamiliar to me. And yet, I was shocked by how homesick I felt while I was in London.

Perhaps it was a mixture of missing home and missing my life back in New York. Or maybe just knowing that home was a lot further away than a four-hour flight was disheartening. I think I just longed for a sense of familiarity.

5. NYU Study Abroad Really Isn't for Everyone

This is arguably the most important fact I want to speak on. While I definitely don’t regret studying abroad, I can easily say I would not do it again. My time in London is something I’ll always be thankful for, but my biggest takeaway from the experience was that I am my happiest in New York.

It’s very easy to get caught up in all the glamorous stories people share about their time abroad. But ultimately, it’s a personal choice, and your NYU study abroad experience time will not look exactly like anyone else’s. If going abroad is something you want to do, you should do it! You truly will never have an opportunity like this again in your lifetime so take advantage. 

However, if you feel pressured or are afraid of missing out, don’t be. You can make plenty of amazing memories right here in New York City. Everyone thrives in different environments; pick the one that’s right for you.