I chose to study abroad at King’s College London for the spring semester because I believed that the program would afford me the opportunity to study in a world renowned university in the city of London. I was confident that this study abroad experience would benefit me academically by providing me with an opportunity to take a variety of theater literature, film/TV and global history classes that are currently unavailable to me at Lang, but are offered at King’s College. I was interested in the King’s College program because it is based in London and would provide me with the opportunity to live in London and fully immerse myself in the City’s vibrant art and theater scene and learn about its unique history and culture. An additional benefit to participating in this experience was also to inspire me to develop ideas for my senior thesis project by reflecting on the diverse people meet, the theater see and the classes I take. King’s College London program has enhanced my college experience by giving me a more global perspective and sharpened the way I think about the world.
Studying abroad in London has probably been the single best decision I have ever made in my life. I had begun my incredible journey in early January. I said to myself “2019 will be my best year yet,” and though I had no idea what lie ahead, I believed that it would changed my life for the better.
I arrived in London, in the early morning on January 5th, full of excitement, anxiety and high expectations. I dragged my three heavy suitcases through the massive Heathrow Airport, in search of the Uber pickup service. I finally fetched myself an Uber and was headed straight into city of Southwark, which was where my accommodation was located. I really missed this place and remembered it very well. Two summers ago, I visited London for the first time with my two aunts, my two siblings and my grandmother. We had such a blast touring the city, eating, shopping and talking to people. I loved it so much, especially because I dreamed of one day traveling to Europe. I specifically remember the first day we arrived and rode a Hop On Hop Off Bus tour that took us around and helped us get acquainted with the city. The tour bus drove us through an area called Trafalgar Square and we passed by a building with a sign in front that read “King’s College London.” I remember turning to my grandmother and saying “I’ll be studying their one day,” not knowing if I would even decide to study abroad when the time came. She smiled and said “Wonderful, sweetheart. Grandma is proud.”
I thought back to that very moment in my Uber, on my way to my King’s College dorms. It was such a full circle moment for me because that was the last trip we took together before she passed and here I was, two years later, living the dream I told her about. I really hope she is proud of me now.
Though this journey started out very tough, I persevered and I am so glad that I did. I had housing issues when I arrived, which really stressed me out and I became very sad, because I was so far away from family and friends. But after 3 weeks, I was finally starting to find my place in such a big city.
Taking classes at King’s College was a very humbling experience. Here I was, learning from some of the best teachers in England and being challenged to push my mind to greater heights, just as I am at the New School. It was a great learning environment, full of like-minded students. My favorite class was called Music and Law, where I learned so much about the business side of the entertainment industry, which I can apply to the film industry that I am going into. I had no idea how many contracts needed to be completed, in order to publish a single piece of work.
We were also joined by a series of copyright lawyers that came to speak, which was even more fascinating, because we got a glimpse into their worlds as professionals. I had never taken a law class before and I am so grateful that I did because there was so much of the industry that I was unaware of, even as an artist.
Also, randomly, on my way to that class, I met three American girls in the elevator of my university and we became instant friends. We ended up meeting for brunch later that week and had a fantastic time getting to know one another. I was so glad to have found them, especially in such a large city like London, where it is often easy to get lost. And who knew, four months later, we would have made some of my favorite memories together. I have also made so many lifetime friends from the UK, Brazil and Singapore, who I met at church and at different events around the city. It has been amazing to be able to connect with people who have had varied life experiences in different places and know that we share many commonalities. I also was able to connect with many more New School students, who were also studying abroad around Europe. Though I am an introvert at heart, very early on, I made the decision to intentionally reach out to people and foster the friendships I wanted to have here. And since being here, I have seen this chosen family of mine grow larger than I ever expected. I have been blessed with so many amazing humans that have touched my life and helped me become the person that I have always wanted to be.
I also learned how to travel by myself and how I enjoy traveling in general. In early January, I planned to visit to my dear friend in Paris, but everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. I missed my 6 am flight, but luckily I was able to get a new one. I was so exhausted, my luggage was too heavy and almost decided to not go. However, I did finally make it to Paris and had a great time. I learned such valuable lessons on that one. I learned four key tips from traveling around Europe:
- Buy a travel duffel bag and a cross body bag (always keep your passport and wallet, etc close to your body)
- Travel light (Especially for short trips)
- Do not take early flights unless you have to (ex: if you’re traveling for a short time and want to have maximum time in a country or city)
- Hostels are the most cost effective way to travel (you can get private rooms as well).
Now that I reflect on my fourth month here so far, I continue to be blown away by the way my life has changed. I have fallen in love with the city of London, such a vibrant and oddly cosy place, that has become my home. It is such an incredible city full of art and culture and food and amazing people. I have seen theater performances, visited the many free museums and enjoyed the diverse cuisines. AND I have discovered my deep love for British accents here (Might be returning to the New School with one indefinitely.) I just love it and I know I could create a life here, I mean I already have, but a life forever.
As I have said countless times to people who ask me about my experience, this was not just a study abroad experience, but one that has nourished my soul. I am so grateful to The New School for providing me the monies and the educational opportunities to be able to thrive here. You have blessed me and I can’t thank you enough. I also want to thank my new friends in London for making this a trip of a lifetime and my friends in the U.S for supporting me always. So happy to have you all as my chosen family. I am also thankful to my entire family for supporting me in more ways than I can even say and loving me through it all. You are my biggest champions.
Dreams do come true, don’t they.
XOXO, Celeste Sena