By Kalyn Franke

Hi! I’m Kalyn, aka www.girlgonelondon.com, and I was a student at the University of Pittsburgh studying Communications when I studied abroad in 2012 at Richmond, The American International University in London.

Richmond showed me that I wanted to work and live in London full-time, so now I work with study abroad students myself in the same city that has given me so much.

Finding My Confidence at Richmond University in London

When I first decided to study abroad at Richmond, I was 20 years old and had no real idea what I wanted to do with my life. Well, actually, I take that back – I had a vague notion that I wanted to end up in a big city in the US working in corporate America. Doing what? I’m not sure. Where, exactly? I couldn’t tell you.

If you had asked me, at that point, whether I would have ended up living and working in London full time, I would have laughed and told you that that would never happen. Not because I didn’t want to, but because it was something that didn’t even cross my mind as possible.

But throughout my semester at Richmond, I quickly became a part of the fabric of the local area in a way I hadn’t anticipated. Studying abroad doesn’t feel like “studying abroad,” it feels like “living life in London,” and that’s exactly what I did. I learned where to shop, where to eat, how to use the tube, and how to be in charge of my own life. I loved sharing a room at Ambassador House with two other girls who quickly became friends, and getting to stroll down the gorgeous Kensington streets every day was a highlight.

The advisors were there to help us every step of the way, but they also encouraged us to take responsibility and have our own experiences. My internship at QVC UK was the highlight of my college experience, and there I met both colleagues and advisors who would go on to become friends and support me as I transitioned into life after graduating.

Before coming to Richmond, my confidence was average. I knew I could live on my own when I was at college in the States, but figuring out that I could learn to thrive and enjoy living in a foreign country without knowing anyone at first helped me grow that confidence to levels that 20-year-old me had never known was possible.

Because of how much I loved my time at Richmond, I ended up coming back to London to do a Master’s degree and then eventually met my now-husband, a Brit.

Today, I live and work in central London for another study abroad program, often telling my students my own stories from my study abroad experience and encouraging them to check out the beautiful streets of Richmond’s Kensington campus.

Now, in one of those amazing “circle of life” moments, I am the person that encourages my students to find that same confidence in study abroad that I did. I watch them arrive in London being unsure of how to pronounce “Leicester Square,” much less of their own abilities, and follow along as they soon turn into “Londoners” and think about ways they can come back and do further studies here or even try to live and work in the UK one day.

I’m not sure what my future will hold, but the older I get the more I appreciate the confidence and willingness to step outside of my comfort zone that I learned at Richmond because so far, it’s taken me to much more interesting and fulfilling places than I ever intended to go.