Celebrating My 21st in the U.K.

It’s a lot of work to decide how to spend your birthday abroad. The choices ranging from American traditions to English traditions, I had no idea what to pick. I thought for a while that because I’m in a different country I should go BIG for my 21st. Either way, I wanted it to be a birthday of a lifetime; one I’d never forget. It took me a while until I realized that it would be no matter what I chose, BECAUSE I’m already in a different country.

The day before my birthday, I was having one of those days that really makes you feel like you could fill in as grumpy cat’s replacement. Everything was going wrong and to make matters worse, I agreed to go to a party that I really didn’t want to go to. One of the Americans from my home uni (university) wanted to throw a flat party which meant shoving about 20 people into a kitchen the size of Harry Potter’s closet. Okay, maybe not THAT small but still fairly small.  I headed out across campus, fighting the wind. I stepped up to my friend’s building, took a deep breath, and rang the buzzer. One of her flat mates, and now a good friend of mine, came to let me in. We walked up the stairs and he covered my eyes. We clumsily made it through the door of the kitchen right before he took his hands away. “Happy birthday!” everybody shouted and I saw that the room was decorated with balloons. Even though I knew there was going to be a party, I didn’t know that it was going to be for me, specifically. The night was going to turn out okay after all.

There were games being played, dancing being done, and balloons being popped. At 12:00 on the dot, my friend and her very loud voice, told everyone to shut up and explained that it was now my birthday, and because it was a party of all international students, I was sung happy birthday 5 times in a row each in a different language (i.e. English, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, and Chinese-Mandarin). At 12:04 I received a lot of crowded birthday hugs. Yet, I think the most memorable was at 12:08 when two cops showed up… busted. They told us to break the party up because we were way too loud and stood there until mostly everyone went home. Yep, that’s forever how I’ll get to remember the first eight minutes of my 21st. Not too long after, I walked home to my flat with a smile on my face and a balloon wrapped in my arms. It was going to be a good birthday. I could already tell.

My day started off quite peaceful. I made sure to wake up early and spend time reflecting. Recently, I’ve come to consider birthdays more as a day to think about the accomplishments you’ve achieved over the past year and appreciate the little things. I came to a conclusion. I want this year to be about learning and exploring; I want to visit as many countries as I can by the time I turn 22. I think 10 would be a good number. I want to immerse myself in each culture and really appreciate what it has to offer. There is no right or wrong when it comes to culture, just differences.

When I was settled with my answer, I made my absolute favorite breakfast in the world; pancakes and bacon!!! American style, of course. It’s important to make that distinction because pancakes here really just mean crepes. What really made my breakfast incredible though wasn’t the food itself, but rather the letters that I got to open. I had accumulated about seven cards in the past two days. I was amazed that people even put in the effort to send a letter overseas for me, so I really cherished opening them.

A bit later in the day, I met up with a few friends to go shopping in town. The cool thing about Colchester is that it’s the oldest recorded town in Britain. Naturally, this town has a very old look about it with just a few modern looking buildings here and there. It’s fun to imagine what it would have been like to walk around this very town a few hundred years in the past, when it had just been built. As we strolled down the streets, we found some cute stores to spend our money in. Even though it was a Saturday, just about every store closed at 6 p.m., so we made our way back home and ordered some pizza for dinner! We got a pizza deal from Domino’s and got one large pizza and sides of a mini garlic bread, potato wedges, and chocolate chip cookies. It was so good, and just for the fun of it, we watched Lizzie McGuire. Best pizza party ever!

When everyone left, I was able to call two very special people. I’m so thankful that the world we live in today has snapchat because it’s so easy now, to connect to the people in your life from all over the world, essentially for free. The first was my mother and the second was my best friend. It was heartwarming to be able to have a drink with each of them as if they were right here with me to celebrate this special day. I talked to each of them for hours, catching up and telling them about the lovely experiences I’ve had, and in the end, it was the perfect ending to a perfect birthday.