When I was in high school I got this idea that I wanted to go on Study Abroad with BYU to London. It was really a crazy idea. It came from a friend who told me about her experience in Spain. I didn't want to have to learn another language so I got the information (this was before the internet, btw) and discovered the London Study Abroad and just made the decision that was what I was going to do.
I am not sure what I was thinking when I got that idea but between that and the "I'm going on a mission," bug that I pretty much had from the time I was 11 and discovered that girls could serve missions, I had my life planned. BYU, Study Abroad and mission. In that order.
First on the docket was getting into BYU. You see, I didn't graduate from high school. I am actually embarrassed to admit this. It wasn't because I wasn't smart. I was an idiot in high school; hanging out with the "wrong" crowd part of the time and getting distracted from my two major goals (BYU & a Mission). My Junior year my parents sent me to an unaccredited high school and I did not have enough credits to graduate with my class. Rather than go back another year (I HATED HIGH SCHOOL!), I finished out my senior year and took the GED at 18; at 19 went to the LDSBC. I went there for a year and got all As. Then I transferred to BYU and applied to the London Study Abroad.
I didn't even have my major picked out yet.
I was discouraged from an English Major because I wanted to be a writer and was told I "would never make any money at it." Well, der. I should have been told to follow my dream as that is what I had been doing all along. It hadn't failed me yet. LDSBC almost takes anyone and getting into BYU was not easy, even that long ago. I applied during the summer term which was the way we did it back then and I got in. I applied immediately to the Study Abroad program which required some recommendations from teachers.
I remember going to my favorite teacher at LDSBC, Professor Brown (squee! She is still there!), to write my letter of recommendation to London Study Abroad. She didn't remember me, which discouraged me not the least and I reminded her of who I was by reciting the list of classes she currently offered at LDSBC (all the English/Lit). She seemed a little amused by me. That's fine. She asked me why I wanted to go. I'm sure my answer was somewhat trite in the "To see the World!" vein. Yeah, sure, okay.
I remember going to meet with the director of that term in London. Dr. Sowell (now at SVU). We had a nice interview but I didn't feel confident. It was imperative that I get in at that time because it flowed with the rest of my life plan ...I sounded a bit like George Bailey when he would talk about going to Europe and then going to school, "to see what they know," and then moving on, all over the world... Dreamers. The lot of us! I would go to BYU London Study Abroad, see what they know, then Go On My Mission.
That was the plan.
I remember the day I got the letter saying I was accepted into the Study Abroad Program. It was vague enough that I called my parents and read it to them and made sure that it meant what I thought it meant. It did. I got my passport. I got all my ducks in a row. I got my house in order, so to speak, and off I went.
It was amazing!
I think back on how naive and stupid I was about the world and history and literature and all things Europe. I wish I had been more prepared... but then I think about how fascinating I thought everything was. I completely absorbed it ALL! Every crumb that was tossed my way I gobbled up like it was my last. Every tidbit that was hinted I inhaled. Now I am forever grateful for all that it educated me.
I had absolutely no idea what I was in for.
We went to the theater weekly. It's where I saw Cats, Les Miserables, Evita, My Fair Lady, and countless others. I watched As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing and various other productions by The Royal Shakespeare Company. It's possible that I saw Patrick Stewart and Emma Thompson. I don't think so, but I might have.
I browsed through the National Gallery and fell in love with Madame Pompadour (got an A on that paper). I spent hours in the British Museum and Westminster Abbey. Toured the Tower of London and visited Greenwich & Hampton Court Palace (before the fire). Took day trips to the Battle of Hastings site & Stonehenge.
We spent 40 days in Europe (not quite backpacking but I did stay in a "youth hostel") where I visited Dachau & a day in Amsterdam. We spent a week in Paris, a week in Salzburg/Vienna and a week in Florence, Italy. I also went to Israel for a week and stayed in a Kibbutzim and I swam in the Sea of Galilee. We spent another week in Ireland, and another in Scotland.
Did I mention it was freaking cool?
Yes, those six months completely changed me.
I came home for three months and left again on my mission, to Japan. That was an entirely different experience (as you might imagine). If it wasn't for the six months I spent in London I would not have made it past my first month in Japan. No question.
Today I tell you how grateful I was that I learned about BYU Study Abroad to London and that I made it a goal to go and that I went. It is because of this that I know I really can do anything I set my mind to and that I can accomplish anything. I can. I just have to have the gumption.
And if I have to explain what gumption is then you don't have it.