Torero Life Abroad: A Study in Growth, Confidence

Inside USD -- Torero Life Abroad chronicles the life of a University of San Diego student as they participate in the study abroad experience. Follow Taylor Milam’s real-life adventures, anticipation, and experiences as she studies abroad in London for the fall semester. She is a junior at USD majoring in English with an emphasis in creative writing. USD ranks first in the nation for undergraduate study abroad participation, according to the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors Report 2012. This is the sixth and final installment of this series.

I came back from visiting my Dad in Germany and Flat 7 was empty. The kitchen wall was filled with goodbye notes and last minute “I love you” messages. I turned off the light as I left and felt an ache inside my chest. The semester has truly come to an end.

The night before I left for Germany, seven of us squeezed into my miniature dorm room; some were sprawled on my bed, others leaning against my desk, and a few reclining on the floor. We shared our favorite memories, what we learned in the past four months, and how thankful we are to have met each other. In the same way this column has forced me to reflect on my experiences, that night forced me to look back on my semester abroad.

I’m leaving London as a stronger version of myself. I still remember exiting the plane and struggling to grab my oversized luggage from the conveyor belt. I walked to the bathroom before heading out to meet the group from Queen Mary University. After applying a fresh coat of lip-gloss and taking a deep breath, I took my first step towards British soil.

London struck me as overwhelming. Cars whizzed around at top speed, the tube was utterly impossible, and people seemed like ants — crawling on every conceivable surface. I would walk into a British grocery store and fight the urge to turn around; I was continually bewildered.

The girl who was too timid to ride the tube alone is merely a memory. I now cross streets in true Londoner fashion — strategically walking against the crossing light in order to arrive at my destination quicker. The tube and I are now close friends and transferring lines is done with confidence and ease. I can pick out British brands and recognize pop culture references in conversations. I’ve grown to love the streets of London and consider them my own. From the east end to north London, I feel at home in this beautiful buzzing city; but I also feel confident in less tangible ways.

I possess the confidence of a traveller, someone who has seen more of the world than his or her little corner. I’ve experienced the vastness of the world for myself. I haven’t heard about it by reading of books or hearing a lecturer in class, but by living it. London has been my home for the past four months and a piece of my heart will always belong to the British capital. Now, however, is not the time for nostalgia; my adventures are not quite at their end.

I leave tomorrow for a new adventure. I will spend this holiday season bundled up with my friend Nora and her family in the beautiful country of Norway. After that, I will experience the splendor of a New Year’s Eve in London. The next day, I will leave for a week in Paris with my boyfriend, Alex. California still seems a ways in the future, and until then, I’ve promised myself that I will cherish every moment of my dazzling journey abroad.

— Taylor Milam ’14