I can’t believe that my semester abroad is actually coming to an end. I fly home exactly a week from today, and it’s hard for me to grasp that this isn’t my permanent residence. As I think back on the past 5 months I’ve spent living in another country, I’m starting to realize how much I have actually learned about myself and about the world. Slimbach states that, “If we allow, global learning will not only carry us into the world around us, but also into this world within” (Slimbach 54). Honestly, I know how cliché this sounds, but studying abroad has been a really eye-opening experience. I’ve had the opportunity to visit more countries than some people do in their lifetime and to really live on my own. I agree with Slimbach. Studying abroad has made me more in touch with the world and more in touch with myself. I recently took a Facebook quiz when I was really bored that was called something like, “How many of these famous international sights have you seen?” Scrolling through the list, I had already seen 29, and there were another 5-10 that I knew I would see on future trips. It was the most amazing feeling to know that I had seen so much of the world, especially since, before studying abroad, I had only been to Canada. Because I was completely on my own, and I was responsible for feeding, clothing, and entertaining myself, I feel like I matured a lot and learned a lot about myself and who I really am. I spent a lot of time alone in my room, whether I was studying, cleaning, stress-online shopping, or listening to music. I’ve spent more time alone here than I ever have before, and it really allowed me to see what I’m actually like when I’m not really affected by the presence of others. As Slimbach said, I feel like I have been brought into the world and into the world within myself. There was one quote in this week’s reading that I very much identified with: “External experience may occupy most of our walking hours, but we ultimately live from the depths of our being — from our intentions, ideas, and impulses” (Simbach 53). This experience has brought to me a strong self-awareness that I didn’t previously have.
I really feel that, in learning about the world and different countries and cultures, I have begun to feel like more a part of the world. Prior to this experience, I really identified as an American. I thought of myself as a part of the American community and nothing else. Now, after spending 5 months in 11 different countries, I truly feel like a citizen of the global community. Because I have traveled to so many countries, I feel really connected with the world. I felt detached before, stuck in the ethnocentric views of a typical American trapped on the North American landmass. Being in so many different countries has brought to my attention so many flaws in Americans and American society. One of the major things I’ve noticed is how many people in Europe speak multiple languages. Granted, I have a mild knowledge of Spanish from when I took it in middle school and high school, but I’m nowhere near fluent. In every country I’ve been to, every local I’ve spoken to has been able to hold a full conversation with me in English, when all I knew of their language was what I was able to learn in a crash course on Duolingo 2 days before my trip. In order to really be a part of the global community, you need to speak more than one language. I felt like such an egotistical, ignorant person when all I could speak was English. I think being a stronger member of the global community also requires having a positive attitude towards other cultures. There are so many differences between American, British, and other European cultures. But it’s important not to view these differences as an annoyance or as a fault in the country, but as a unique characteristic that you are getting to experience. I know that from now on, whenever I travel to a new place (as studying abroad has set fire to my desire to travel EVERYWHERE), I will take the time to try local food, speak to local people, and truly experience the culture of that new place.
In order to appreciate my last few days with my new friends, we are going to do kind of a “flashback” walk. We are going to try to do a lot of the activities we did in the beginning of the semester when we didn’t know each other that well. We thought it would be a really good way to see how our friendship has grown and to reflect on our entire study abroad experience. I try not to think about how difficult it will be to say goodbye, but my friends and I have already made plans to visit our new friend who goes to Penn State next semester, so I know it won’t be forever!
I have so many emotions about going home. I’m excited since I haven’t seen my family or my friends or my boyfriend in so long. I’m excited to go back HOME home. Because although London really has become my home away from home away from home (since my home away from home is QU), there will be no feeling compared to laying in my bed in the house where I grew up in Newtown, CT. I’m also sad, extremely sad. This has been the most amazing experience. I’m also scared. I’m scared that my relationships will be damaged or not as strong because I’ve been away for so long. I’m nervous that I’ve changed more than I realized. In order to bring my time here to a close, I have been looking back at everything I’ve done since I’ve been here. I looked at all the pictures that I took, all the places I’ve been, and what I’ve learned. I just finished my last final, and that was a major wake up call that my time in London is really ending. I think the best thing I can do to offer some closure to this experience is to savor every second I have in central London, since I know as soon as I leave I’ll wish I was back. I think that being excited to enter back into American culture will help me reincorporate. There are no feelings of bitterness towards coming home. I’m not annoyed that I have to leave at all. I also think that the fact that I HATE long plane rides (home is something like 7.5 hours) will help make landing in America that much more of a relief.
“There is always a sadness about packing. I guess you wonder if where you’re going is as good as where you’ve been.” –Richard Proenneke
This quote is so meaningful to me. I think it really captures my emotions about leaving. I’ve had such an amazing time abroad, and I guess I’m nervous to see if America is as great as I remember it to be. I’m looking forward to being back home, but I really hope that it will be as nice to be home as I imagine it will be.