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Looking Back: A Year After Studying Abroad in London

March 25, 2020
by CEA CAPA Content Creator

Hello! My name is Deborah Salami, and I’m a senior at the University of Illinois at Chicago (in honors). In the summer of 2019, I made the exciting decision to live my dream of exploring London, and decided to study abroad at the University of Westminster in central London. Wow! I can’t believe it’s been almost one year since I studied abroad in London, England. (Pictured above: This photo was taken on July 4, 2019. We had a boat party celebrating the end of the course on the Thames River. In the background, you can see the London Eye.)

During the process leading up to my travel, I had great help from my university's study abroad office, CEA Study Abroad advisors, and encouragement from my family. Before embarking on my journey, I reminded myself, in the words of George Washington Carver, “Education is the key to unlock the golden doors of freedom.” I love this quote because I believe education can take me anywhere across the globe as long as I desire it. During my time in London, I took advantage of various opportunities presented to me. I wanted to share my experience and provide some tips for encouraging any students looking to study abroad.

 We took an excursion to visit Stonehenge (June 22). I learned that every year on June 21, many visitors come to take a look at the beautiful view of the solstice sunrise.


Taking up the opportunity to study abroad in London is a dream come true. I took a psychology module at the University of Westminster because I have never taken a psychology course and I was willing to learn about the field. This module covered topics on Myth and Method of Psychology, which is something I found fascinating. After taking the module, I was astonished about the new topics I needed to research to understand more about what is accepted within the field and what is still a myth. I participated in a debate and throughout my research with my team, finding content to support my main point was crucial. Moving forward in my career to study law, I will continue to employ all the skills I acquired during this course.

Furthermore, living alone in a different country was very different. I learned to be judicious in my spending, especially when the exchange rate in London was higher. I had to adapt to communicating with family and friends back in the States due to the time difference. My life overseas as an international student was full of adventure -- I look forward to having more Sunday roast dinner after my summer in London. Regarding time management, my previous experiences as a Resident Assistant (RA) and as a Pearson Campus Ambassador prepared me in handling situations and living well with international students. Lastly, during my time abroad, I had the privilege of making connections with friends from all over: Australia, London, Hong Kong, California, Washington, New York, Wisconsin and many more. It was the experience of a lifetime of which I am eternally grateful to God, my parents for their unwavering support and to the staff of CEA and UIC Study Abroad. You are all wonderful :) 

 A sunset view from the 10th floor of my room in "Marylebone Hall" of the city of London. I wake up and sleep every day to a beautiful view. 


Tip 1: Don’t Be Shy

Yes, you’re a freshman all over again, but his time around it's in a different country and with different people. Of course, things are going to be different and you will have awkward moments -- which is why being shy wouldn't get you far. When I arrived at the airport in London, a chauffeur was present to pick up several other study abroad students and me (we arrived at similar times). When I met the other students, it turned out they are all from the U.S. I felt a bit comfortable, but no one said anything to each other. From my face, you could see the excitement I had that I am finally in London. Finally, all the CEA Study Abroad students were together -- oh my! I was very sweaty, and realized I was the only African American from the program. I was uncomfortable but I needed to cheer myself up, so I started introducing myself to the other students, and I could tell they were as nervous as I was; I wasn’t alone. That was the beginning of new friendships. Saying hello, genuinely, to someone can go a long way. It is the first step to overcoming shyness or nervousness.

 Part of the session included a trip to the countryside to visit the Queen. Here, I pose with my CEA friends in front of the Windsor Castle entrance. This is the same entrance the Queen uses to exit the palace. Although she was home, I was too shy to say hello :) 


Tip 2: Become a Tourist!

Coming from a big city myself, Chicago, I often feel like a tourist because there is always a new place for me to explore. When I was in London, I made up my mind I didn’t want to sit at home, sleep and just watch movies, so every day after class, I went to explore the city with my classmates. Traveling was fairly easy because we all had an Oyster card, which was used for taking public transportation such as the train and bus. Our Uni was on Oxford Street, which was the center of attraction in Central London (Zone 1). We explored almost all stores and restaurants there, from the Nike store to the smaller gift shops. Every week, the CEA program organized weekend trips to various tourist sites. I made sure I didn’t miss out on any of these attractions (covered in the program cost).

 On June 21, I rode on the Santander Cycles bike, a London self-service bike you can find around the city.


One of my most memorable days in London was when I visited the countryside. We started off by seeing Stonehenge to the 2,000-year-old Hadrian’s Wall. Then, we toured beautiful Roman baths in the city of Bath. Later, we visited Oxford University. To top it off, we went to say hello to the Queen at the beautiful Buckingham Palace. Lastly, we had a beach day at Brighton Palace Pier and took a stroll at the Royal Gardens at Highgrove. Being a tourist is certainly never boring, so let out the adventurous spirit in you, don’t miss out on an amazing time outside or indoors learning the beautiful culture of the country where you are studying.

Deborah Salami is a CEA alumna who studied abroad in London, England, during Summer 2019. She is currently a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

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