It is surreal to think that 7 months ago was when I was running all around Chelsea trying to furnish my flat, figuring out how to build furniture from Argos, and feeling like the prototypical American ordering an iced white venti Americano. It’s even more surreal to think that’s when I first sat down at a South Kensington pub and met my International Health Management (IHM) classmates.
I remember calling my dad during one my first days in London. I was feeling overwhelmed with everything (i.e. entrance exams, making friends, the intimidation of accounting) but also felt like one year would not be enough. Having recently graduated from university, I knew how fast four years flew by…I could only imagine how quickly the days would go by here.
I explained to my dad how I did not know how to invest my time or how much to invest in anything really. For instance, I was trying to make a decision about which silverware to buy and had no idea which type to get. Do I purchase the cheap silverware, the average-quality silver, or the durable, expensive silverware if I plan on staying in London next year? Do I use plastic ware? Do I even need utensils? If silverware was causing issues for me, you can imagine the other uncertainties that entered my mind. I did not know how to balance my time between working on courses, making friends, applying for jobs, and chipping away at my London bucket list. I knew that the IHM programme would be whatever I put into it but the problem was that I wanted to do it all.
Having completed over 10 course works, 4 exams, and finally memorised my British telephone number, I can share with you the 5 pieces of advice I wish I could have told my over-anxious self at the beginning of October.
#1: Invest Fully (but not in everything). The Imperial experience has a lot to offer: interesting lectures and ideas, activities ranging from Cheese Society to croquet, and an abundance of smart and caring professors and students. Investing fully in relationships and making it to that friendship level where you can travel out of the country together on night buses, get mad at one another for eating the icing off a piece of cake, or have inside jokes for “poop,” is without a doubt, worthwhile. Surrounding myself with people who make me feel loved, happy, and comfortable is one of the best things about my overall MSc experience. Although it’ll be sad to say goodbye in a few months, it is important to appreciate the time for what it is and be reassured that they’ll be lifelong friends. It’s also important not to forget about friends and family members back home. They are all eager to hear about your London adventure so write them often!
#2: Don’t be afraid to say hello or let the fear of failure stop you. Start conversations with people, whether in formal networking events or informally with other students sitting in the Business School café. Go to events, meet fascinating people, intern with that start up, and learn about opportunities post-Imperial. After all, a head full of fears has no space for dreams.
#3: Embrace cultures other than your own. It is an incredible opportunity to share a classroom with 52 students who represent almost 25 different countries. Learn about these cultures and discuss Turkish coffee with a classmate or gain wisdom from all the sayings from your German classmate. Don’t forget to take advantage of learning about British culture as well. Read up on 6 Nations for rugby, research why there are poppies springing up at Tube stations and painted on giant busses, eat a real Sunday roast, master the art of preparing English breakfast tea, and start saying some words “properly”…
#4: Slow down. It sounds cliché but be present. There’s a lot to think about at any one time but try not to be over concerned about coursework, upcoming exams, and post-Imperial plans all at once. Take it one day at a time and just do the next thing. You don’t have to have it all figured out. In fact, no one does. Maintain a learning mindset, ask questions, and in the words of Billy Joel remember to “Slow down, you’re doing fine. You can’t be everything you want to be before your time.”
#5: Always say yes to brunch. I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. Besides always saying yes to brunch, just say yes to life in general. When I first arrived at my flat from the airport, I asked the driver for advice, given that I just moved to London and was about to embark on a year-long masters. He told me to “say yes to everything.” When an opportunity presents itself, and you want to turn it down because you’re nervous, just go for it anyways. There are so many amazing things to do in this world (and in London), if you only allow yourself the chance to do them!
Although I still only possess one plastic fork and a stolen spoon in my flat, I think I am no longer distressed by how to make the most of this year. Yes, I can do better (I need real silverware) but I’ve realised that investing in others, not being afraid, and saying yes will lead me to exactly where I am supposed to be.