Disclaimer: There are no pictures.
I’ve been sitting here all week trying to figure out where to start with this review post about my study abroad experience. I’ve actually written this whole thing before and it got deleted and now I have no idea what I wrote and what else I want to say so I’ll try to make this the best second-rate version that I can. It feels like you all have been on this journey with me week by week and have experienced every part of it, but I think about how much wasn’t posted, how many pictures you haven’t seen, and how much shorter and shorter my posts became. I even re-read my old blog posts and cringed at how poorly they were written and how I never went back and did the things I said I’d go back and do. It made me laugh, but it didn’t help me figure out where I wanted to start. As I re-packed my suitcases to decide what would stay in L.A. and what would go back to Dallas, I saw these past four months flash before my eyes: ticket stubs, plane tickets, polaroids, souvenirs, the clothes I never ever want to see again after rotating them on a weekly basis, and of course my journal that was strictly dated from January 7th to May 10th with only one day skipped. Is it possible to sum up the life-changing events of this semester in one blog post? Well, I’m going to try.
The person that left L.A. in January is not the same person who came back. I don’t think it’s possible to go through everything I learned over the course of this semester, but I’ll center in on one important lesson. I learned to be [almost] completely self-sufficient. Yes, I went away for college so technically I’ve been on my own this whole time, but I have an aunt that lives in California and the accessibility to go home should I really need to. That’s not exactly the case when you’re abroad and flights home are north of $1000. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to be able to handle appointments, deadlines, and paperwork on your own, but it served as a reminder that not only was the world not going to stop for me just because I was abroad, but that in the very near future, I will be doing this all of the time. Aside from the technical things, I also got a better grasp on the emotional component of self-sufficiency. I suppressed a lot of my feelings initially because when I wasn’t on program excursions or doing my own traveling, I was in a room with two people with two other people in the other room. Personal space wasn’t available and eventually I had to face what was truly going on within. I eventually found outlets for my stress and gained more confidants along the way. This was just the beginning of the deeper understanding I gained of myself, however.
I realized that though I’d taken a major risk in choosing to study abroad, which is terrifying in itself, I hadn’t really broken out of my shell. I stepped outside of my comfort zone and general habits pretty regularly, of course, but I wasn’t quite all the way there, you know? I was sitting in one of my classes in the last week of class when it hit me that I truly had a fear of living. I had a friend who liked to call me a “goody two shoes,” for various reasons, and I was always offended because I knew I should be more flexible, but I couldn’t shake this fear that I could end up disappointed or in a less than favorable situation if I acted outside of my character. If there was anything I regretted, it was that. I set up these fears before I even gave things a chance because I was so stuck. I’d become a victim of years of subconscious social conformity and I knew I had to make a change sooner than later. Basically, I decided to stop being afraid to live my life.
In a discussion with friends in the last couple of weeks about what we were going to miss most about London, the common thread was the laidback nature of the Brits. When we think of carefree in America, it always finds its way back to California, specifically southern California. Yeah, Californians have a way with living life carelessly, but there was an ease that I admired about the Londoners I encountered. I’m biased and I had a limited range of reference being an American study abroad student in central London, but from observing pub culture, 2:00 p.m. coffee dates, and daily social interactions, I gained an appreciation for leisure that I didn’t know was absent from my life. If there was anything I chose to take back with me, it was reminding myself that not every leisure needs to be a reward. It’s so easy in college to burn ourselves out, talk ourselves into maybe one day maximum of rest, and then shove ourselves back into a sleepless, erratic routine. This is unhealthy and unfair to ourselves. So go for a drink or for coffee with your friends. Eat lunch outside instead of at the desk you’ve been sitting at for 16 hours. Take a nap! If you’re doing something that makes you feel better about yourself, you don’t need to justify that action outside of the fact that it makes you feel better about yourself (as long as you’re not hurting anyone, of course).
I felt a genuine sadness take over my body the night before I left London. I was overwhelmed with anxiety once I was forced to face what I’d been in denial about which was the possibility that this part of my life would come to an end. I felt awakened, fully immersed with eyes and ears wide open, and completely in control of my life in a way that I’d never felt before. I feared, once again, the idea of returning to old habits and settling for being, at most, ‘content’ with life. Not to mention, I had fallen madly in love with this beautiful city where I no longer felt like a tourist. But I had to take a step back and realize that just because ‘Chapter London’ was coming to a close, this part of my life didn’t necessarily have to be over. The lessons I’d learned over these four months would always carry over with me and I could always re-open this chapter when I wanted or needed to.
So I sit here feeling so incredibly happy with life at the moment and happy honestly sort of feels like an understatement. I am no longer sad, but eternally grateful and blessed to have had this opportunity of a lifetime to study abroad in London, England. I want to thank my parents for the sacrifices they made to make this dream a reality. I would also like to thank all of you who have kept up with this blog, Facebook, and Instagram as I’ve attempted to catalog this journey. I started this blog for myself and to try to improve my writing skills, but seeing that it gained an audience, even if it is small, has brought me another level of gratification that words cannot express. I will continue to work at it. Thank you all so much for joining me through this crazy, unforgettable adventure ❤
P.S. This is not the end of this blog, just the study abroad portion. Stay tuned!