I arrived in London at the start of the 2014 with exciting plans to travel, meet new people and learn. After playing in my mind for years, plans to study abroad during my third year of college finally came to fruition. London seemed like the best place to go. The city is large, fast-paced, full of energy, history, and people, and located in close proximity to the main continent of Europe. Despite differing immensely from my home in the United States, I felt quite at ease in London. My free time was spent visiting popular tourist spots such as the Tower of London, the Palace of Westminster, Shakespeare’s Globe, 221B Baker Street and Buckingham Palace. I wandered along the Southbank, read on the benches in Regents Park and mastered the quick pace of commuters on the tube. Aside from exploring my new temporary home, I was fortunate enough to travel outside of the United Kingdom. I walked through Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam, wandered along Venetian canals, dangled my legs over the edges of the Cliffs of Moher, looked out from the Pontevecchio, climbed up and down the hilly streets of Edinburgh, and strolled through the Roman Forum. Despite enjoying adventures in new European cities, I always felt excitement to return to London. After each trip away, a sense of relief came over me each time I left the airport and made my way to the familiar London underground. The city became home. I absolutely loved it. It gave me more than I could ever anticipate, but it also surprised me.
One of my main observations after living in London and working at the organisation Migrant Voice is how often the topic of immigration is discussed. There seems to be a large focus on who is ‘British’ and who is not. After having lived in London for a number of months this still struck me as odd because the American mentality differs so much. To Londoners I am American, but to Americans I am Irish and Vietnamese. At home we are proud of the immigration in our family histories. It provides a sense of uniqueness, embodying what it means to be American. In London, there seems to be a lack of acceptance towards migrants, the people who contribute to the city’s famous multiculturalism. After reading news articles from a range of media outlets for 11 weeks for a research project, my eyes were opened to the negative attitudes present in the UK toward migrants and made me feel that migrants are not welcome. London is a city full of opportunity and history. I wondered - "Why wouldn’t some of its people want to share that with the rest of the world?"
The memories and experiences I took back to the United States are absolutely unforgettable. Personally, I believe everyone should live abroad at one time or another. Hopefully, future generations of students will be able to study abroad without facing consequences of growing obstacles for foreign students and migrants. As a young, ambitious woman with endless dreams to continue travelling the world, I hope the future will bring a time of accessibility rather than the increasing restrictions I see today. I would like to live in an age where all people can move freely to escape violence, grasp opportunities for better lives, and explore. When I return to London in the future I hope every single person living here feels accepted.
Tara Higgins is a graduate of the University of Connecticut who spent a semester abroad in London during her studies. She loves to cook, travel, read and play sports.