Some days, it takes a moment of stillness to appreciate the movement of the world. A deep breath of crisp morning air accompanied by the expansiveness of a cinder gray sky. Some days it takes a cool breeze on my face to wake me out of my normalcy and remind me that here I am. I had always thought I’d be one of those kids who studied abroad, always picture it like some glorious, far-off future, but here I am, halfway through.
Here I am saying “good morning, England”.
Here I am with my fingers outstretched to the rain.
Here I am wide eyed and in wonder by the buildings lining the street.
Here I am today, and here I stay the whole year.
If there is anything I believe about life, it’s that is comprised of the choices that we make. It feels like yesterday and an age ago that I was standing in the airport waiting for my flight. Upon reflection, I think that’s when I began to become someone else. We are always in the process of becoming someone else, but there is no greater catalyst than moving abroad to speed that change along. I remember saying goodbye to my mother still feeling like I’d be seeing her again tomorrow. I think she was a small amount devastated when I told her that, no, I wouldn’t be going for only a semester, that it would be the full year, and no, I wouldn’t be coming home over winter break. For me, it was the best decision I’ve ever made, the most cataclysmic and beautiful choice of my life so far.
Because here is the thing – I’ve fallen in love, and fallen as hard as I can. Deeply and madly with the tall old trees clawing rickety patterns into the air with moss laden boughs. With the lovely colloquial phrases tossed about the streets by a chorus of human voices. I’ve fallen for the cavernous library stuffed full of countless books laid upon old wooden shelves. For the long walk to campus every morning where I get my reflective peace in the cool morning air. For the green of the park that never seems to fade, or the startling cry of the magpies that never go away.
Most importantly though, I’ve learned to love the person I’ve become since coming here. An experience like this – being away from home for so long – it makes you grow up. It makes you grow wiser through inevitable successes and failures. I’ve learned so much about who I am and who I want to be in these few short months. I’ve learned to love the details of being alive. Knowing that I have the rare and wondrous privilege to stay and study until June is unspeakably uplifting, because what I’ve fallen most in love with is the time that I have here.
My first semester was like learning to ride a bike – exhilarating, riddled with failures, and ultimately a life changing success. You’ve suddenly stumbled upon a whole new freedom. And it’s hard. You lose your sense of familiarity with everything, even yourself, and again you are faced with a very important choice: sink or swim. Well, I’ve always loved to swim. So I learned how to adapt to an entirely different educational system. I pushed myself to meet new people and try new things. And it all went by in the blink of an eye.
Going into my last and precious few months here, I know I will take nothing for granted, but rather will take every chance that I can. The friendships I’ve formed here are already more valuable to me than any I’ve ever had. But maybe I just got lucky. I certainly feel lucky. I now have a grasp on what it takes to be a good student at a foreign university, how to travel alone through countries I’ve never been to, and how to put myself out there to create incredible experiences. Because we do create them – life is never stumbled upon. I feel as if my first months here offered me a glimpse of the world and only now is it at my fingertips.
I think a lot about returning home after so long away. Already I am unrecognizable from who I was when I was standing in that airport. How can I possibly explain such a feeling of change? Express such an unexplainable adventure as this? How could I possibly begin to relate it or make them see or understand? They wouldn’t. They won’t. But in many ways this is exactly what makes studying abroad so important. It’s the start of your own life, away from everything you were tied to, away from everything recognizable. So if I can say with confident certainty to anyone considering a year abroad, it’s this: your experience will be entirely unique, and if you let it, of incomparable worth.
But at the end of it all, life comes down to choices. So whether you want to stay for a semester or a year – come. Seize the opportunity if you have it. Even if it turns out differently than you expect or hope or want, it will change you in magnificent ways.
Take a breath. Take a chance. Study abroad.