Part of the fun in travel blogging is connecting with other bloggers and learning more about them. One of my favorite travel bloggers over at Girl Gone London agreed to answer a few of my questions so we can get to know her a bit more. I can really relate to the things she writes about because, like me, she decided to study abroad in London. But she took it a step further and moved there permanently! She writes a lot of useful advice for those looking to either study or live abroad. Check out her answers below.
Erin: So tell us, who is the girl behind Girl Gone London?
Kalyn: I’m Kalyn, an almost 24 year old who grew up in America and is currently living abroad in London. I was born and raised in Orlando, Florida, then went to the University of Pittsburgh for college where I graduated with a BA in Communication. Now I’m working in PR/communications, writing my blog, always planning my next travel destination, and convincing my family and friends to send me American junk food in the mail.
E: Why did you decide to study abroad and how did you pick your program?
K: I studied abroad pretty early on, as a second semester sophomore (most people go away as juniors or seniors). It was partly because the Pittsburgh winters were hard on me as a native Floridian and I wanted to “get out” (so of course I moved to cloudy London, which makes no sense), and partly because I wanted to challenge myself. London was always my first choice, as I wanted to intern and didn’t have strong language skills in a foreign language.
My first London program was an easy choice, as I did my school’s own Pitt in London program. I then did a semester at UCL because I wanted to experience “real” British university life, and then I ended with a semester with AIFS at Richmond as they had a great internship program and I was getting close to looking for a job.
E: What prompted your decision to move to England permanently?
K: It didn’t happen right away. Part of me knew that this felt like home, but I basically kept coming back on student visas, then an internship visa, then did a Master’s degree, and then I fell in love. Now I’m getting married to an English boy! So suddenly I’ve found myself here permanently, but there wasn’t necessarily a deciding line.
E: What is the biggest challenge you face living in another country?
K: I used to say it was feeling homesick or “out of place,” but it’s not anymore. My biggest challenges are all practical: learning to drive on the other side of the road, visa issues, not being able to get a mortgage, having to jump through more hoops to open bank accounts or apply for jobs.
E: What is your favorite travel destination to date and why?
K: Bergen, Norway. It’s the second most populous city in Norway (which you wouldn’t know by looking at it). We went because I needed to leave the country and come back in on a tourist visa, and the flights were the cheapest. We literally knew nothing about Bergen (or Norway). What we found was a beautiful town with these amazing mountains and gorgeous harbour and super friendly people. We even attended a Christmas carols service in a Norwegian church and though we have NO IDEA what was being said, we still sing and dance around the room at Christmastime to the carols we learned.
E: Wow that sounds amazing! Where is the next place that you would like to visit and why?
K: This is a tough one! I actually might have to say the west coast of America! I love Europe, but I’ve only seen the East coast back home and seeing California and the Grand Canyon is creeping up on my bucket list. I feel like that’s how you know you’ve been an expat for awhile—wanting to travel back to your home country!
E: What is one piece of advice you would give to students looking to study abroad?
K: If you’re still thinking about study abroad, all I can say is :do it. You will never regret studying abroad, you will only regret not going.
If you’re about to study abroad, my advice is to go in without expectations as to what your study abroad experience will be like. Be flexible. Be open to what comes your way, because it’s not always going to be what you thought. But when you let go of that rigid idea of how you MUST love every second of it and you MUST go to XYZ country and you MUST live with this person and you MUST get this internship or class, you’ll find that the study abroad experience in store for you can be a million times better and more organic and more meaningful.
E: What is one piece of advice you would give to people looking to move out of the country?
K: I used to be a lot more inspirational on this topic, but I’ve been beaten down a bit by the reality of immigration and visas lately! I think the bottom line is that if you want to live outside of America, it CAN be done. In most places, you can do it short-term pretty easily. But if you’re looking for a more long-term life abroad, do your research. I don’t want people to think that I’ve just magically ended up here on a whim. It took a ton of planning for every visa, a ton of forward-thinking, and honestly quite a bit of luck.
E: Name an interesting fact about yourself.
K: I know almost every piece of Disney World trivia and have been to Disney World 100+ times since I was born. I have yet to go to Disneyland Paris, though, which is very disappointing
E: What do you hope people take away from your blog?
K: Mostly I hope they laugh. I try not to take expat life too seriously and ‘roll with the punches’ as they say, and I hope people get that from my posts. Part of the reason I started the blog was because I felt like a lot of information for study abroad students is very dry. I wanted to say, “Hey, listen. I’ve been you. I am you. This whole living abroad thing can be really ridiculous. It can be fun and exciting and terrifying and ridiculous and you are going to feel on top of the world and like an absolute idiot at the same time. But let’s laugh about all of that and my own mishaps because life is too short to be so serious”