Studying is the least of my abroad experience—and that’s how it should be

March 6, 2020

I was at a bar on a Wednesday night when I realized that I might have a problem. Not with alcohol—though I’m sure I left some unconsumed—but with my head. I no longer felt stressed. Two weeks into my abroad experience and the normal cloud of anxiety that hung from my shoulders had disappeared. 

That cloud is a popular phenomenon among students like myself. In 2015 the American College Health Association reported that nearly one of every six college students had been diagnosed with or treated for anxiety, and a 2016 study found that, among other factors, academic stress can predict depressive symptoms.

So while some might blame the cider for my sudden relaxation, my newfound zen can be directly linked to my lighter course load—half of what I take in Boston. Studying abroad in London is correctly known among college students as more of a university-sponsored vacation than an academic enterprise, and for that strictly unstudious reason, being a student in London is far better than sticking to Bruins territory.

While I’m not recommending abandoning a college education altogether, escaping the pressure cooker that is Brandeis University has done wonders for my mental health. With stress and anxiety on the rise in college students (according to Harvard’s own anxiety advice page) studying abroad is a great opportunity to spend your precious free hours with friends, rather than becoming one of the library trolls that so viciously guard the private study rooms in Goldfarb. 

My lighter course load also means I have time to engage in cultural experiences impossible to find in the States—and for a fairly reasonable price. While London may be around eight percent more expensive than Boston, partially due to the absolutely astronomical prices of the Tube, London nightlife is far more vibrant than Boston—a city I’ve seen completely shut down before midnight. 

On that Wednesday night, when I realized I could stop pretending I knew how the Celtics were doing, I spent less than five pounds on drinks at Imperial College’s bar. While it wasn’t a Mayfair club—which in my experience only allows women below a size two onto the premises because of a lack of sufficient square footage—it was a wonderful night out for significantly less than my daily budget. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  

From comedy clubs with entrance fees as low as one pound, to free museums, to discounted university course fees, it’s possible to save money despite the higher cost of living. While other countries like Norway may offer fully free university courses, even for noncitizens, London has the advantage of being a city full of vitality, and of course, a city that employs the English language (along with some very strange slang).

So if you can, ditch the Brandeis bubble and come abroad to London. I’ll be here to welcome you with a Union Jack, a Douglas Adams novel and an absolute refusal to talk about Boston’s sports.

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