I’ve gone back and forth, debating what exactly I wanted to write for this post. I thought about giving a countdown for days until graduation (74), how terrified I am that I have to find a job now (very), or how many times I’ve changed my mind as to what I’m even doing after graduation (20+ times, bordering on obsessive and delusional really). But after thinking about all of this, and inducing a slight panic attack, I decided to just leave all those thoughts behind and say to myself, “Chill, man. You got this.”
As seniors reaching the end of our four years at Dominican, we’re suddenly thrust into adulthood, trying to find a job or applying to grad school. We have to figure out what we’re doing after Dominican. And everyone is asking us, “What are you doing after undergrad? What’s your plans? Are you applying to grad school?”
“I don’t know!” I want to scream. I don’t know and, frankly, I don’t care. I don’t care because I’ve got time. I still have 3 months left at Dominican. I have 3 months of being a senior and then a lifetime of growing up to do still. There’s so much pressure on what everyone is doing after undergrad and if they’re going to use their degree and what they’re going to do with it. If you’re going to grad school then you’re seen as doing a little better and if you already have a job lined up, well shoot man, you’ve got it made. Start working, saving money, and soon you’ll be on your own working towards a family or whatever it is that fulfills you. But I don’t care.
It’s not that I’m apathetic towards leaving undergrad or even that I’m stuck here and don’t want to grow up. I just want to live. I want to go with the flow and take things as they come. I have plans. Sure I do, like everyone else. But I want to just take my time and get sidetracked on the plans and wind up lost in some random state of being. Not knowing how I got there, but just enjoying my time where I am. I want people to stop asking me what I’m doing because I know what I’m doing, but I’m not going to accomplish it right away. I’m going to just relax.
All of us are kind of pushed into this mentality of finishing everything right now, of taking our goals and tackling them with vigor and rapidity. And I totally get that idea. I mean, when you think about it, our lives are some insignificant blip on the timeline of forever. It’s cool, I’ve read Sartre, I know what’s up. But we also have time to just live and do things at the speed we want. If we’re constantly working towards something we miss what’s around us.
So go to grad school, get a job, start working towards making a comfortable life for yourselves. I’m totally down for that. And in a year or two I’ll join you all. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy being out of college by selling cupcakes at farmer’s markets. After all, I’m all about instant gratification through baked goods and then delayed gratification through grad school.
This is it folks. My final semester at Dominican. The last three and a half years have really flown by and I can’t imagine that in less than five months I’ll be a graduate and ready to start a whole new chapter in my life. After studying abroad for a semester and then coming back to campus there was so much I had to readjust to. Instead of only a two-hour long lecture two to three times a week, I now spend the majority of my days in class. Instead of providing almost all my food for myself through grocery shopping I now have the option to just run to the dining hall or Cyber Cafe. Instead of a full flat that I share with four other people, I once more live by myself in a small room. It’s been an adjustment all around.
That being said, I must admit that I almost enjoy living off campus in my own apartment much more than living on campus. To get the full college experience I’m glad I’ve done the dorm life thing, but after living on your own (essentially) it’s difficult to go back. I think that it’s important before leaving college to try living off campus and away from your family for at least a semester. It teaches you independence in a way that living on campus can’t really do.
I don’t know if I ever felt more independent than I did living away from home in a new country. Some of you might already be experiencing that since Dominican does have it’s fair share of international students and students from distant states. In which case, good job sirs and madams, you have already tried your hand at something completely foreign to you and you have survived. And for my purposes, you are the perfect example of students who have become more independent than before you entered college.
So try it at least once. Find some friends and start looking for apartments, but make sure you have the income to involve yourself in such frivolity. If not, then study abroad in a place where you’ve never been and try your hand at living in an entirely new environment. That’s what is so great about being in college, you have the opportunity to go out and do something crazy you never thought you would do and it’s almost expected of you. So enjoy your Spring semester and do something unpredictable. And for all my fellow future 2013 alums, that goes for you too.
Two weeks and one day, that’s how much time I have left in London. Soon I’ll be all packed and on the plane home to Chicago. I’ll step off in O’Hare where I’ll be greeted by my family, who hopefully won’t be crying because then I’ll cry and look silly and won’t be able to talk because I’m one of those awful criers…but I’ll be home in good ole’ Chicago.
Oh sweet Chicago, how I’ve missed thee. Should I compose a sonnet towards your skyscrapers, your hard to eat deep dish pizza, your lake front which seems to go on forever? Or how about your diverse neighborhoods that offer hidden gems to those willing to explore, your wonderful people with their strong emphasis on the letter ‘A’ in some words, or even your somewhat reliable and always interesting public transportation system? I don’t think I’ll do that quite yet, but I promise to make it up somehow. Instead, I’ll focus one more time on the great city that I’ve been lucky enough to live in the past three months. So let’s move on to that, shall we?
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford.” Part of me just wants to kind of leave that quote there by Samuel Johnson and walk away from this post. After all, he’s said all anyone could say in a neatly eloquent sentence. I’ve spent weeks exploring the city and there is still so much I haven’t been able to do and won’t be able to do until I come back. I’ll even miss out on some things because they’re a once in a lifetime chance. How could one not want to come here? How could a student miss out on this great opportunity? I won’t be dull and talk about the greatness of Dominican and how thanks to it I’ve been able to live here, you should be able to assume that. I will however, say that to not study somewhere off campus for a semester, especially London, is a crime and to not attempt to do so is just…(insert word to aptly show my disgust here without being crass).
I don’t know what more I can say to influence students, but travel. Forget about the money, forget about leaving friends behind, forget about silly obligations (within reason I suppose) and just travel. There’s nothing worse than regretting that you didn’t take risks and just jump at the opportunities offered, especially when you were too busy overthinking everything. Study in some country you know little about, or in London where you think you’ll have no problem because they speak English too (HA! You’re in for a surprise) just because you can.
You will miss home and I won’t deny that there will be points when you think, ” what would I be doing if I were back at Dominican?” But when you’re walking along the Thames in London and you stumble across buskers playing “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” on ukuleles, banjos, mandolins,or and guitars you will be glad you went abroad. You’ll be figuring out ways to stay in that city for the rest of your life.
It has now been about 1.5 months since I’ve been in London and honestly I fall more and more in love with the place as each day passes. Living in Chicago originally I’ve been around that big city environment, where there is always something going on, and you could really never be bored. However, studying abroad in London has given me new experiences that I never thought I would get, and this includes traveling to continental Europe.
Oh, half-term break-or as Americans would say midterm break-you are a lovely reprieve from the intensity of learning and attending lectures. What’s marvelous about the break here is that it’s a full 10 days. So being so close to other wonderful countries, and having a ridiculous amount of time off, it would have been a crime not to visit said wonderful countries. So of course I did. For six days my roommate and I traveled Rome, Florence, and Paris; we stayed in dorm room hostels with strangers from around the world, ate amazing authentic Italian and French food, and also saw the terrific sights that are so recognizable from those cities.
However, once we got to these places, and towards the end of our Excellent European Excursion we realized how much we missed being in London. We loved exploring the new cities, but we missed the familiarity of walking the streets of London. In the short amount of time (because 1.5 months is a ridiculously short amount of time when you think about it) we had managed to immerse ourselves into London. We have found shortcuts throughout the streets, know the best markets to shop at for fresh produce or vintage clothing, found little cafes that have the best deals for a morning espresso and pastry, have our favorite places to get delicious tea and cakes in the evening, and of course, in typical British fashion, have established our go to pub to grab a pint at night.
So at the end of our travels, once we got off the Eurostar that took us from Paris to London across the Chunnel (or the English Channel Tunnel for all you Americans) I wanted to kiss the ground of the dirty King’s Cross St. Pancras train station. Of course, I didn’t because that’s disgusting, but I was tempted. I was tempted because it felt as if we were coming home. We were finally home. It took us traveling for six crazy days and nights to realize how integrated we had already become in London. So we hopped on the Tube to get back to our flat and for dinner we knew where to go. Our favorite kebab place right up the street where the guys know our orders and gives us discounts on their amazing falafel in pita with hummus. Man, it felt great to be home.
I’m always rotten at very first introductory paragraphs of anything. I always think, “Wow, this is pretty terrible. I just keep talking about really boring facts.” However, it’s probably a good idea to write something about myself first so you don’t just jump into this and have no idea who I am or why you should be reading this. Well my name is Cait Guerra. I am currently a senior at Dominican University where I am majoring in Political Science with a concentration in Political Philosophy. However, what’s different about this semester is instead of living in one of the residence halls, I’m actually studying abroad in London. Crazy, right? Did I blow your mind?
Trust me ladies and gents, it’s a big step for me and an amazing opportunity. I honestly never thought I would actually get a chance to spend three months living in a flat (apartment for all us Americans) with four others girls just exploring and learning all about British life.
Now we’ve only been here for about five days or so, so I honestly can’t tell you all about London, but I figured the best thing to do would be start with my first impressions. So first impressions, here we go.
Impression #1: Accents. I hate to say it folks, but when you’re in London you realize that it’s not everyone else who has an accent it’s you who has the accent. Walking down the street and hearing everyone talking the same way, you start thinking, “I wonder if they pick out my accent” or “Wow, I sound really different than they do.” It’s a bit startling a first and it almost makes you want to keep your voice down (at least I do) so you aren’t that loud American walking down the street.
Impression #2: Traffic. The traffic here is a bit different. Instead of cars all over, all the time like in Chicago they really seem to only be busy with traffic during rush hours. At least that’s why I’ve gathered. However, the bike and sidewalk traffic are ridiculous. Bikes, bikes everywhere! Everyone here seems to bike and there are bikes for rent all over the place. In the morning and evenings when people are heading to and from work it’s like Tour de France down the streets all the time. And if people aren’t biking then they really seem to like to walk. When you’re looking at a map everything seems much farther away than it actually is. Sometimes it’s even faster to walk some place than to drive or take public transportation. And that leads my to my last first impression…
Impression #3: Public Transportation. Now you might be thinking, “why didn’t you just group that in the second impression?” because, I didn’t want to. Easy as that. Besides their public transportation deserves it’s own section. It’s clean, it’s easy to use, it gets you everywhere and anywhere you can possibly think of in the city. Point blank if the Underground was a person I would marry them. I don’t want to hate on Chicago’s public transportation because it has been a reliable friend of mine for many a years. But if we could up our CTA standard’s to the ones of the Underground’s, my God I don’t think I would ever want to get in a car again. So that’s that. First impressions of this wonderful city and hopefully it’s a bit relatable to everyone in (my personal favorite city in the world) Chicago. So check back later for more stories and adventures in London.