Students in London

by Shelby Chapman, photos courtesy Shelby Chapman and Randy Reddick, Ph.D.

Chatter came to a halt. Silence filled the area. The structure overtook every inch of ground. No photo does it justice. The worn metal tinted grey, the lights mask any imperfection.

I began this trip confused, about to graduate, worried about my future, with no where to turn. No expectations were made, and no thought crossed my mind that this trip would shape my years to come.

We were not here to study in a classroom; we were here to study the world. To some it was another trip out of the country; to me it was a chance to fulfill my parents’ dream.

Watching the Eiffel Tower twinkle against a blackened sky, the reality of my parents’ dreams came into perspective. All the things they had never done, the trips they did not take, the times they chose my outlandish dream over their own, it was all to give me the opportunity to succeed.

Success was very prominent in the United Kingdom. Those on the tube ready to succeed at work, those on the street ready to succeed to their destination. Evidence in the stance, proof in the voice.

We take for granted so many things in the United States. We get anywhere with a car, they choose to ride public transportation. We get angry when McDonald’s leaves out those two fries that make an overflowing effect to the box, they chose to eat smaller portions and indulge in each plate.

Even their speech is quiet and calm, for not everyone needs to hear your words.

This May-Mester was full of sight seeing and firm visits, museums and Jack the Ripper tours. Each stop taught me something new, showed me something unimaginable, yet the instances that will change my future, and stay with me over time are those in which I never expected.

London Tower

Blisters in tow, we walked the premises of Buckingham Palace, were lost in the winding dirt roads of Hyde Park, took our turn crossing Abbey Road, stood in awe at the various sites from the British Museum, and participated at Kate Middleton’s wedding march.

A group divided by public relations and journalism majors made for unique office visits. Journalist s’ hands extending the moment presenters halted their speech. Sadly we did not always know exactly what to ask, “What is the difference in PR and Advertising?” proved not the best of questions.

Together this group beat the odds of taking the tube from one side of London to the other. We worked together weaving down the streets and alley ways. We gave many locals a show, talking loudly and looking more than a little lost. But most of all we were able to get a sense of what else is in this world, outside the dusty skies of Lubbock.

Kathleen Newlove, our Paris tour guide, helped me understand what it meant to move abroad.

Tall and blonde, her life has been set around a career. Where can I go next? What can I do to better myself? She walks the streets of Paris with confidence, and seldom looks back at where she came from.

My gaze moved from side to side, the words of my mom running rapid in my mind. “Visiting and living are two different things. Don’t think you can live in London, it is too far for me.”

Of course I did not listen. I never listen to my mom even if she is always right. This time it was different, this time I had to know exactly what it took.

“It is hard, I miss my friends and family every day,” Newlove said. “But can you give up your dreams because you miss them?”

Her words engulfed me. The truth behind them. The fear I felt, it was OK. I was going to be OK. This life I have right now, it is not the life that will be playing out in the years to come.

I will have to grow up and move on. The thing so few of us want to do. I will have to put myself out there, hope for the best and plan for the worst. Much like those walking the streets of London, I will have to walk forward quickly, and not look back.

To some this trip was an opportunity to gain credit hours, to others it was a chance to see a new part of the world. To all of us it was a learning experience we will never forget. And to me, it was the courage I needed to begin my own journey in life.

What we were not told in our study abroad prep class is that, college is not the end, it is the greatest of all beginnings. mc

Shelby Chapman is a senior broadcast journalism major from Austin, Texas.

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