Name: Ibrahim Buyckes
School: Northeastern State University
Study abroad location: London, England
HOW DID YOU LEARN ABOUT YOUR STUDY ABROAD PROGRAM?
A friend got an email about a scholarship opportunity. She forwarded it to me and told me I had to apply. It was short notice but on the same day it was due. I had my application essay printed and mailed to the study abroad office.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO GO TO THAT LOCATION?
I studied in London because I've always been somewhat of an anglophile. I loved Harry Potter, I watched BBC shows, and studied Shakespeare. My favorite poem is by Alfred Lord Tennyson called, “ULYSSES.” In short, he captures the spirit of an adventure in such an exhilarating manner as you might expect. For most of my youth I had never left the Tulsa area. His words and the works of many others are an inspiration to say the least, so, I suppose I really wanted to see where all of my favorite art was produced.
HOW DID YOU ADAPT TO A NEW ENVIRONMENT & CULTURE?
I think I adapted quite well. I was there for internship so I had to take the underground every other morning. At first I was really polite and got pushed around and would miss my turn to board. I caught on quickly, however, and when I finally forced my way on, I felt localized.
Fortunately, London is very “western” for lack of a better a term. I feel immersion wasn’t has difficult as it might have been in, say, Tokyo or maybe even Rome. There wasn't much of a language barrier to overcome. Everyone seemed eager to talk to me. If anything, it was different to feel like an “outsider.” I'm no stranger to that feeling of otherness, but this was different.
I also really liked the walking culture. I'm from the very sprawl state of Oklahoma so we drive everywhere. When I got back driving felt like a chore.
WHAT ACTIVITY DID YOU ENJOY MOST WITHIN YOUR PROGRAM?
Every day was an adventure! My favorite activity was seeing more of Europe every weekend. Whether it was Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, or Edinburgh, it seemed like every weekend I was catching a plan or a train somewhere. Inside of London, I LOVED visiting either Camden or Borough Market. I'd frequent them both at least once a week.
WHAT DID YOU GAIN FROM ABROAD THAT WAS MOST REWARDING?
Friendship. It’s quite remarkable really. I spent a little over 4 months with these students and a handful of them, I feel, became lifelong Friends. I've already visited a few them stateside and my roommate out there communicate nearly every day.
I gained a better understanding of a my Nigerian roots. I wasn’t aware of the heavy Nigerian presence there. I never got formally introduced to that side of my family history. I stumbled upon the Africa Exhibit in the British Museum where it was illuminated for me. That was the most Nigerian culture I've ever had presented to me so with that, I’d say I gained more interpersonal insight. I also gained a more worldly outlook. I never thought I’d see Europe – at least not as student. Maybe when I was old and retired. But I did and it changed my perspective on life and of my own country. I think every student should travel abroad. Agatha Christie wrote, “one should see the world one lives in – and the people who live in it.” Perhaps people would be less afraid of it if they did.
WHEN TALKING ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE ABROAD TO OTHERS, WHAT IS THE GO TO STORY YOU ALWAYS TELL?
There are too many! It has to be when me and 3 friends took a bus to Paris, rented a car and went on a road trip to Germany for a GORILLAZ concert. I feel like the notion of a “road trip” is uniquely American. Even British author Neil Gaiman wanted to capture it in in his novel, “AMERICAN GODS.” Four Americans hitting the open, European road through 3 countries was definitely a highlight.
IF YOU COULD GIVE ADVICE TO SOMEONE INTERESTED IN STUDYING ABROAD, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?
Well, if they are having reservations, I’d tell them to jump – they won’t regret it. And once they’ve jumped, do their best to record each day – even the mundane days because even those can be special. Jot them down in a journal or record them on a calendar, I don’t know. I'm not the most organized person. I tend to fly by the seat of my pants, which was exciting! But I wish I had something more tangible to revisit when I yearn for Europe. Also, sort of on that same token, be another version of yourself. Try things you wouldn’t ordinarily try because your very existence here, wherever you are, is extraordinary. Whether it’s food, entertainment, style (I found the best hat in Wales) give it a try. Live in the moment. Maybe try the local McDonald’s once to see how it compares ;).