I have been home for six days now and couldn’t be happier. You’re probably expecting me to tell you how much I miss Leeds and England now that I have left, but the honest truth is that I don’t. Maybe in a couple months, after my normal life goes back to seeming more wonted and mundane, I will be able to properly reflect on my time in Leeds and realize just how much I miss it. But at the moment, I’m still riding the crest of an estatic wave and have yet to come down.
Going into the study abroad experience, I really had no idea at all what to expect. Actually, that’s a lie. I did have expectations. I had a lot of expectations. I expected to finally have the opportunity to see the places I’ve always dreamed of seeing. I expected to meet new people and gain a whole slew of new British friends. I expected to come back with an entirely new perspective on life. It’s these types of anecdotes that are engrained into your mind when you sign up. They’re the headlines at the top of the brochure. For the most part, these changes are accurate, but I’m not sure they’re entirely truthful.
The study abroad experience that everyone imagines sounds much like the events described above. Everything is wonderful and life-changing and soaked in fun. But the truth is, that there are a lot of parts of study abroad that aren’t so great. There are times when you hate being away from your friends and your family and your school so much that you aren’t really sure who you are without them. There are times when you feel completed isolated and alone, too separated from everything to truly feel included. Study abroad gives many the chance to travel, finally fulfilling adventures that had only existed in dreams. I must confess that in the moment, these adventures rarely seem as spectacular as they should. You’re often tired and cold, possibly even sick from weekend after weekend of travel, and stuck staring at a building that seemed much more impressive in your imagination. And that sucks. It really sucks. But it’s also important to remember that everyone feels this way.
Study abroad isn’t meant to be wonderful all the time. It’s meant to challenge you and change you and make you look at the world in a different way. Leaving home is not easy, but it certainly makes you appreciate what you have. Moving to England made me realize how much I love my school and where I live. It made me appreciate the truly great people I have in my life and how utterly lost I would be without them. Study abroad made me see America through a new lens, heightening my sense of patriotism in ways I never would have expected.
I realize that talking about the good and the bad might make it seem like I didn’t like study abroad, but that is far from the truth. I have loved every moment of this experience and am so greatful that I was given this opportunity and had the freedom and support behind me to take it. There are moments when I look back at everything and it doesn’t seem real. It went by so fast and so slow at the same time. Right now, I’m just trying to figure out how to remember it all. I don’t won’t to forget a single moment.
In the spirit of remembering, I decided to channel my inner Nora Ephron and wrote up these two lists the night before I left Leeds. Thanks for reading.
What I will miss
- Alyssa, Julie, Ivy and Amy
- The freedom to travel
- The lack of Homework
- Free Yoga classes everyday
- Sitting around the kitchen table talking and laughing long after we’ve finished eating.
- Don’t Be A Tourist trips
- My professors, all of whom gave me a knew perspective on learning and teaching
- Wondering through the city by myself
- Having a sink in my room
- British Accents
- British Fashion
- Walking through the gates onto the Leeds campus
- Hot oreo milkshakes
- Waking up and remembering I’m in a foreign country
What I won’t miss
- Bodington Hall
- Waiting for buses
- People on buses
- Not knowing anyone
- Suggested reading lists
- Paying nearly double for everything
- Uneven sidewalks
- Having to climb 5 flights of steps in every single building
- British drivers
- The exhaustion that comes along with travel
- The food