My Experience Studying Abroad: Gerontology in London

After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of South Alabama in 1984, l learned of a study trip sponsored by the University of Mississippi. I could stay in London for five weeks and learn about how the Brits were managing their aging population. The U.K. was ahead of the demographic phenomena that was about to impact the United States, their population was rapidly aging. I wanted to pursue more education in Sociology, yet had never even been on an airplane. Universities today often have a smorgasbord of travel-abroad programs. The University of London still offers programs. Go on one. You will be glad you did.

To make the most of your study-abroad experience, before getting on the plane, research outside activities you don’t want to miss. I purchased travel guides about London and the surrounding area a month prior to my trip. With the internet, your research can be free of charge.

Second , use your student status to get discounts on new experiences. For five weeks, while staying at a dormitory of University of London near Euston “tube” station, I not only learned about hospices, adult daycare centers, population shifts, power struggles between age cohorts, but I also ate, traveled and was entertained like a Londoner, using my student id to snag discounts. Theatre! Piccadilly Circus! The tubes! The British Museum! Double decker busses! Not to mention day trips to Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, the Roman baths, royal parks and St. Paul’s Cathedral, special excursions up by the college.

Third, know how to get around. While my fellow classmates were sitting in a jet-lag induced stupor, I was buying a pass to the “tube,” London’s underground subway system. I pocketed maps and began to plan adventures. Busses and rail are other popular options in London.

Back home, Mary Lou Retton was capturing the heart of Americans during the Los Angeles Summer Olympics. But, determined not to waste a moment of my time in London, I refused to watch the telly. The restrained, shabby chic of the city had captured my heart. The camaraderie at the pubs, high tea, the exquisite Indian and Italian food available off campus made up for the boiled mushrooms and Weetabix served at the cafeteria for breakfast. Almost thirty years later, I consider my study abroad experience as one of the best decisions I ever made.

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