Semester in London: Introduction

Follow along as State Press Magazine blogger David Marino spends his fall semester in the U.K.

Well, I made it . After several months of preparation, on September 5 I flew across the Atlantic to London, an eminent global city, and the capital of the United Kingdom. 

During my time there, I will be studying political science and international relation at CAPA London, and will intern for a news magazine in the London Borough of Croydon. I couldn’t be more excited. 

This journey first began for me in in June of last year, when for a moment America moved its gaze from our spectacle of a presidential race to the British Isles.

The United Kingdom had voted to leave the European Union, in a stunning rebuke to much of the British establishment and international order, not unlike that which us Americans would see months later with the election of Donald Trump.

The world was shocked that the British people would vote to make such a drastic change, effectively slashing through a long-standing trend of greater European and global integration. 

More worrisome to people was whether the wave of populism that the Leave campaign had ridden to victory on was under at least a slight cloud of xenophobia. Indeed, immigration policy in the EU was certainly a hot button issue during the Brexit campaign, and one survey found the vote was the result of anti-immigration sentiment.

Despite what I thought about Brexit, which I think has many complexities impossible to explain in a few paragraphs, it re-ignited my interest in a nation I have long been fascinated with since I was first exposed to British culture as a preteen, where I would often spend days listening to The Beatles on my portable CD player, and laughing at the surreal humor of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. 

Simply as a political news devotee, the Brexit ordeal greatly fascinated me. As I saw many of the factors that played out in the U.K. occurring in the U.S., such as populism and immigration, I had more and more of a desire to travel there to investigate for myself how the U.S.’s situation compared to that of the British. 

I don't remember when I exactly decided that I wanted to study abroad. I do know that it was not a decision that I did not take lightly.

Leave my friends, school, and student organizations that are so valuable to me for a whole semester? The whole thing seemed at least a little bit unnerving. I mean, I have never been out of the United States. Hell, for most of my life I had barely traveled out of the forestry confines of Massachusetts.              

It's natural to have these thoughts, we as humans fear the unknown. I thought the same thing when I left to go to college in Arizona: Are people going to like me here? What if I fail? How will I explain that failure to those around me?

Some may let such questions overwhelm them, but I think it's important to not give them too much weight. 

Despite my present fears and slithers of anxiety finding their way into my thoughts, I had wanted to study abroad in college since I was in grade school. And I had always wanted to see the beautiful nation of the U.K, from Stonehenge to Scotland

More importantly, by studying abroad I would be getting a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Given that I’m not too long from going directly into the job market, who knew if I would ever get a chance like this again?  

So I kept on it, and with the great help of the ASU Study Abroad office, by the end of last semester, I was able to complete all of the paperwork needed to study abroad. When I saw "Status: Confirmed" on the ASU Study Abroad page, I could barely contain my giddiness.

And sure, before my departure, the occasional thoughts of insecurity popped into my mind.

But more than anything now, I’m excited. Excited to go into a whole new experiences outside of my comfort zone, excited to get acquainted with the British people and British customs, excited to get new educational and journalistic experiences in a foreign country, and most importantly, excited to immerse myself in Britain. 

In this blog, I want to take you with me on my trip to the U.K. A big theme will be British culture and political sentiment, and it’s similarities and differences with that of the United States, especially in the post-Brexit and post-Trump era that we now live in. 

But I also want to talk about the feeling of living in a foreign country, thousands of miles away from where you call home. What is difficult to understand as a foreigner? What is surprising? And given that that they are both included in the broad term of “The West”, just how similar are they? 

I look forward to speaking with you in the future, and invite you on my journey on this new new frontier!

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