Lost in London: Lessons from studying abroad

Melissa Sharapata, Guest Columnist

Name: Melissa Sharapata

Year: Senior

Major: Allied Health Science with a Speech Language Pathology emphasis 


Today marks the first day of my study abroad program in London. I am taking the course International Aspects of Communication Disorders led by Michigan State University.

As the group heads back to our flat from an afternoon of exploring London, I think to myself, “I want to stay in the city longer.” So I quickly turn to my soon-to-be friend, just as we are about to scan our oasis card to enter the train station, “Melisa, do you want to stay and explore more?” To my surprise she says yes.

We leave the train station with adventure on our minds only to realize we have absolutely no idea where we are. In a city of 9 million people, it’s safe to say we are lost. To top it off, neither of us have internet to look up directions and we don’t have an international phone plan to call anybody. What we do have is a trusty paper map.

We walk across the street to Victoria Embankment Gardens, and sit down on a bench to attempt to navigate a map. We spend a solid half hour trying to map our way to Buckingham Palace. “Okay I think I know where to go,” I tell Melisa with confidence, and we begin our journey to the Palace. Our first step is to take a left on Savoy street, so we do. The next step is to take a left on Stand street, only when we look at the street signs there is no Strand street. We messed up.

“We can figure this out” Melisa says, “let’s ask her.” 

“Excuse me,” I say to the girl walking by. Absolute silence. No eye contact. We are completely ignored. “Okay! Plan B: let’s get the map out again,” I suggest.

As we get out the map and re-plan our route we realize we went the complete opposite direction of the Palace. After 45 minutes of making wrong turns and using the map to correct ourselves, we finally find Buckingham Palace. We take our pictures of the Palace and start to leave, only to realize now we have to figure out how to get back to our flat.

Spending the day in London without access to the devices that I rely on everyday taught me that it’s human nature to make mistakes and it’s okay to ask for help. Although we got ignored the first time we asked, there were many kind people that helped us that day. Melisa and I were able to rely on ourselves for the first time and we are both more confident in our abilities because of it. This was a day I will never forget because I learned a lot about myself and gained a lifelong friend. 

Study abroad was a dream of mine that was able to become a reality. I had two jobs over the summer accounting for 40+ hours of work each week in order to save money for the expenses. Another reason I was able to go was because of the Gilman Scholarship, which covered half of my costs of the program.

The Gilman Scholarship is a federally funded scholarship offered to students studying abroad. Anyone thinking about studying abroad should look into this scholarship because it allowed me to have experiences that have made a lasting impact on my life.