Ever since I was a little girl, my family was prone to last-minute planning and spontaneous getaways. Two working parents and a child with more extracurriculars than she could count (me) meant that vacation time was hard to come by at times, and planning ahead was mostly out of the question.
On numerous occasions, I have been told “pack for X days; we’ll leave tonight,” and have been in charge of finding vacant hotel rooms online from the backseat of the family car, while en route to whatever destination my parents had pulled out of thin air.
While this situation might seem like a nightmare to most people (and rightfully so), I’ve discovered that my inherited spontaneity is a huge advantage when studying abroad. Our time here is limited, and we are all painfully aware of it.
It can be very tempting to try to micromanage every aspect of your ideal “study abroad experience.” Of course, planning ahead is important when you’re taking a big trip, in order to ensure safety and to keep costs low. However, when it comes to smaller excursions, spontaneity has been my best friend.
Some of the best experiences I’ve had so far this semester have been the result of snap decisions. Just last week, I was feeling restless after work while waiting for the midterm election results to come out. So I began looking into shows at the National Theatre on the South Bank of the Thames.
To my delight, a new musical called Hadestown was in previews and had several affordable tickets left for that evening’s performance. I had been dying to see a show in the National’s Olivier Theatre, which I had toured for one of my classes, and suddenly I had an opportunity.
I bought tickets around 6 pm for a 7:30 pm performance, made myself some dinner, put on some lipstick, and headed to the theatre. I knew nothing about the show going in, and it quickly became one of my favorite musicals I’d ever seen.
One week in September, I talked one of my friends into going to see a band that had opened for a main act in a concert I had gone to over the summer. The tickets were cheap, the venue was intimate, and it ended up being such a special night that I wouldn’t have found on any “Top 10 Things to do in London” list online.
Over the weekend, one of my new friends and I took a trip to Copenhagen. We talked about it on the previous Friday, planned it on Sunday, and flew out the following Saturday morning. It was my first time travelling out of the UK while studying abroad here, and we had a wonderful time exploring a new city and culture.
On a smaller scale, some of my favorite memories of my first weeks are of the times I walked out of the dorm with only a vague notion of where I wanted to go, wandered through a different part of Hyde Park on a sunny day, or took a different route to class.
Back home in the hustle and bustle of my usual Boston University routine, I don’t have much unstructured time to explore. Finding that freedom in London has been one of my favorite parts of my study abroad experience.
Growing up as an only child, I developed a unique sense of independence on my own, but I have to credit my parents for my spontaneity. So, thanks Mom and Dad. I promise I’m putting it to good use.
Claire Doire, Study Abroad Correspondent
Claire Doire is a junior at Boston University studying Public Relations with a minor in Political Science. She hails from Middletown, Rhode Island and is currently studying abroad in London: the home of her wordsmithing hero, William Shakespeare. Back in Boston, Claire spends her free time dancing, acting, and working hard to one day become her own version of The West Wing’s C.J. Cregg.