One month ago, a Canadian collegiette walked into London Heathrow Airport from a red-eye flight from Montreal. She was excessively sleep-deprived; the only source of energy in her body came from the pure satisfaction of finally landing in London. She had longed to visit since childhood, but she never imagined that England would be a place where she would be living, even for a brief period of time.For her, the prospect of studying abroad after living in Montreal her whole life seemed very daunting. The longest she had ever lived away from home was for two months of summer camp as a kid, where amenities such as food, laundry, and healthcare were taken care of by adults who knew better. If there was an issue at any time, she always had someone reliable to guide her through. Never had she faced the reality that inevitably springs upon us all, the reality of adult independence.
She knew that if she was going to stay at home for university, and not live away in a dorm like many of her friends, she would have to find an alternative way of getting a “real-world experience.” She had always been interested in the concept of studying abroad, and from the moment she started McGill she began to look into it. Fast forward through all the applications, acceptances and preparations, and it was January 2015. The dream was becoming real, and off she went on the plane, uncertain of what a semester at the University of Nottingham would bring, but certain that this was the time in her life to go and pursue this adventure.
In one month of being in England, she manages to accomplish quite a bit. She adjusts to a new schooling system complete with different grading scales, paper referencing and fancy British words. She travels to the cities of Oxford and Bath, and revels in beautiful sights such as Stonehenge, Warwick Castle and the Roman Baths. She meets some very interesting new comrades, some who are fellow exchange students like her, and others who attend the University of Nottingham full time. She joins several (school) clubs and goes to several (night) clubs, both of which are things that she does in extremely small doses back at home. Overall, she adjusts to her new life by constantly testing her boundaries: she tries new experiences with new people, but also stays true to herself by keeping up with her usual rituals of self-care.
In case you couldn’t tell already, that Canadian collegiette is me. However, if you are a prospective study abroad student for next year, then maybe to some extent, that girl could be you too. Everyone’s journey is different: we see different sights, we encounter different characters, yet there are some aspects to the semester abroad experience that are universal. For anyone who goes abroad, you have to adjust to living in a place that is not your home. The one-month mark is extremely satisfying for anyone who’s gone abroad, but considering elements of my past and my personality, it is an even bigger milestone that I am ready to celebrate this week, and even more so next week when my essays are handed in.
I firmly believe that the best is yet to come. I think, in any experience, once the initial adjustment period subsides, and we feel comfortable with our surroundings and the people within them, we can really start to let ourselves go. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars: “I’m on a rollercoaster that only goes up, my friends.” While I do realize that that quote was probably referring more about heading towards death and the heavens, I see it as reassurance that there’s nowhere to go but up or forward. I cannot wait to see what is in store for the next few months of this journey, and I cannot wait to share what I’ve experienced and learned.
Thumbnail image obtained from http://mtti.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/girl-travel-road.jpg
Photos are the author’s own.