To most people, the terms “study abroad” and “trying new things” go hand in hand. Before I even set foot in the UK, I knew that this semester would be full of “firsts”. Figuring out a new country, traveling around Europe, and making friends with people completely different from me was all to be expected. What I did not anticipate was turning my extracurricular life upside down. Instead of joining the same activities that I enjoy at Cal – Ultimate Frisbee, wind ensemble, or even being a student ambassador – I joined the University of London Mountaineering Club.
I have loved climbing since I was a kid. At girl scout camp, I would eagerly anticipate the day we would hike down to our climbing wall, and I was even briefly part of a bouldering team in middle school. However, once I entered high school, life caught up with me and I became too busy to go to the climbing gym on a regular basis. Slowly, I stopped climbing. In fact, it had been about five years since I last climbed when I first stepped foot in the Mile End Climbing Gym in east London.
I’m not going to lie, it was scary trying out something essentially completely new while being a foreign exchange student. I had joined a few pick-up games of Ultimate Frisbee, of which I am on the Cal women’s club team, in Hyde park – which felt easy. While a few small things were different, I already knew the established customs, rules, and general flow of a pick-up Frisbee game. The climbing gym was a totally different story. It had been so long since I climbed, I had no real idea of the protocol to follow. I was a fish out of water, in every sense of the word.
Though I am not sure if I am going to join Cal Climbing (not for lack of interest, but rather lack of time), my experience as a member of the University of London Mountaineering Club has been integral to my study abroad experience. It has allowed me to make new friends, travel to places I would have never dreamed of going myself, and most of all taking a solid leap out of my comfort zone. My advice to every Cal student setting off to study abroad – don’t just try the same things in a new environment, truly try something new.