August 13, 2015

Fantastic, Wonderful, Unbelievable

By Abbey Stefanides ’16

When asked to blog about my experience with the UK healthcare class, I find it extremely difficult to reflect on everything that happened in those 8 weeks, the 56 days, 1,344 hours, 80,640 minutes, 4,838,400 seconds that all went by way too fast.

The author and friend Paige Macrae smile for a photo on the London Eye, a giant ferris wheel on the South Bank of the River Thames in London.

Paige Macrae and I on the London Eye; Big Ben in the background

People at home ask me how my trip was, and I can’t say it in one word. Amazing, awesome, fantastic, wonderful, unbelievable, they all have meaning, but they don’t give enough to what I experienced in London. How do I tell my story and not leave anything out?

I can start by saying that living in a city, especially abroad, has allowed me to feel much more mature and ready for the real world. On top of that, my course, which compared the current struggling U.S. healthcare system to various systems around the world, including the arguably best system, the UK’s National Health System (NHS), has provided me with the knowledge to feel much more aware and empowered. This is especially important with the upcoming presidential election, in which I am now eager to pay attention and provide an opinion to legislation that will affect my family, my peers, and many generations to come.

The author kisses a stone at Stonehenge in England.

Me at Stonehenge

The most humbling experience I had was with my internship at Evelina Hospital School, where I had the privilege to be a teaching assistant for a month. I can’t express the amount of gratitude I have for the staff and organization that provide education to children during their stay in the hospital and also for those in dialysis unit.

I still can’t wrap my head around the lessons that the children provided to me even though I was supposed to be teaching them. It amazed me how every day they would show up to the classroom for school with a giant smile on their face despite the fact that already that morning they had been poked and prodded by needles, and doctors, and medical tests. The hospital school allowed them to feel like a “normal” kid, even though they were in there for something much bigger than themselves.

People in seats indoors pay attention to a presenter at Evelina Hospital School's Sail Celebration.

Evelina Hospital School – Sail Celebration

Aside from the educational and work life experience I was also blessed to enjoy London, the United Kingdom, and various other European cities. My most favorite memories are visiting Stonehenge during sunset and being wowed at how every inch of sunset made the stones look different, and also straddling the Prime Meridian in Greenwich with a foot in the Eastern and Western Hemispheres at the same time, WOW!

The only way for me to capture my summer experience is through a list (in which I still miss a lot of things!):

Missing London:

    • The city itself
    • Traveling Europe with Paige Macrae
    • Memories and experiences with my classmates
    • Standing in both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres at once
    • The Tube (The Underground)
    • Big Ben – My favorite!
    • Borough Market – the best fresh sandwiches!
A view of the author's ripped jeans and shoes, with one foot standing on each side of the Prime Meridian.

Me in a doorway in Cambridge

  • Evelina Hospital School – I couldn’t have asked for a better place and environment to have my internship; Evelina definitely made my trip
  • Riding the bus
  • Traveling to other European cities – Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona & Valencia
  • Walking the streets, especially at night – London lit up is beautiful
  • The historic buildings – it’s amazing that some of the buildings are older than the US!
  • Theatre – Curious Incident & Billy Elliot
  • Stonehenge
  • Greenwich, especially the boat ride there
  • The bagpipe player on Westminster Bridge – I passed this guy every day after my internship
  • The “snobby” but “polite” British culture – like the silly rule of standing on the right of the escalator
Blogger Abbey Stefanides '16 stands in a doorway in Cambridge, England.

Me standing in a doorway in Cambridge

All in all I couldn’t have asked for a better experience and am so grateful that Lafayette provides an opportunity like this. As an athlete it is difficult to have an abroad experience since we train all year round, but the unique summer term allowed me to tick study abroad off my bucket list.

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