In Becoming World Wise, Richard Slimbach says, “If we allow, global learning will not only carry us into the world around us, but also into this world within.” The “world within” relates to our inner selves; our ideas, impulses, and so on. Slimbach says our “world within” is invisible to others and has a great impact on our social relationships and our relationship to the natural world. Slimbach also says, “The sudden vulnerability we experience as we arrive in an unknown place…renders us acutely aware of who we are, or at least of who we’re not.” Studying abroad is a learning experience, and throughout the past three months, I’ve found this out for myself. When I flew to England in January, I could only imagine where the semester would take me, and I came out of the experience a wiser, more well traveled person.
Before coming to London, I had never flown by myself before and suddenly, here I was flying by myself across the Atlantic Ocean to spend an entire semester in a city that I had only spent one week in before four years ago. Since then, I have traveled to two other countries, Sweden and Ireland, as well as to other parts of England like Stonehenge, Oxford and Brighton. Traveling on my own, or with one or two friends who are my age, gave me a new sense of confidence. In general, I think I’ve found a new sense of independence. I have lived “on my own” at Quinnipiac for the past couple of years, but being here in London took that feeling of being “on my own” to another level. My parents were no longer two hours away and able to answer my calls whenever I needed them. Now, we had a seven-hour plane ride and a five-hour time difference separating us. This was the longest period of time I have spent without coming home, and because of that I think I built up more confidence in myself and became more independent and less reliant on others. It’s hard to explain, but I just think in general I became more in touch with myself, with my “world within” as Slimbach says. Traveling to new places, studying in a brand new university system, and living in a strange city gave me time to reflect and I think I’ve grown and learned more about who I really am and what I want from life. I have also learned valuable life lessons from experiences such as having my phone stolen. Through experiences like these I have become a stronger and wiser person.
In addition, I think studying in London has helped my growth as a member of the global community. I’ve always been open to learning about different people and cultures, and being in a diverse city like London has helped me meet so many new people not only from England but other places around the world. Getting to know them has helped expand my knowledge of the world and has developed my open, positive attitude towards others. I also think, as I have mentioned, volunteering helped reopen my eyes to the joys of helping others and “fighting for similar social values and basic human rights” as we described in our definition of global community. I am definitely bringing this restored outlook with me when I return home and I am also bringing with me a newfound feeling of global awareness and a stronger feeling of global citizenship, as well as a stronger desire to travel and see the world than ever before.
Tomorrow, I am getting on a train to Paris with my mom and leaving London behind. The girls that I live with, and have become very good friends with, are all leaving too either for home or for other countries that they have planned trips to. We have talked many times about how time seemed to go by so quickly and how sad we are not only about leaving London, but also about leaving each other. We have formed such a close bond in these past few months as a communitas, going through the same Rite of Passage journey. We have made so many amazing memories together and now we are all going our separate ways and returning to our respective parts of the United States. As a group, we have tried to spend as much time as possible in the last couple of weeks, going on our last few outings to dinner, shopping, etc. before our semester is officially over. Today, I went to see major landmarks like Big Ben and Buckingham Palace for the last time. Thinking about how these are my last few hours in London for who knows how long puts a knot in my stomach. But at the same time, I keep thinking about my family and friends that are at home who have been missing me while I’ve been gone and I can’t help but get excited about returning to them. I also think about my home, New York City, specifically my town of Rockaway Beach and I get so excited about being able to go back there and see all of the places I’ve missed going to while in London. I can’t wait to get back and roam the streets of Manhattan, or just walk on the beach near my house. I also can’t wait to see my friends and family and tell them all of my stories from my adventures abroad. I know there will be an adjustment period where I will feel weird not taking the tube every day, seeing famous London landmarks on my way to class, seeing my friends that I’ve made here, eating in London-only restaurants, or simply just walking down the street to Tesco. But once I am settled in again at home, I will be so happy and I will be able to look back at my time in London fondly without being sad.
There is a quote from Kate Douglas Wiggin that says, “There is a kind of magicness about going far away and then coming back all changed.” This is so meaningful to me at this point in time because I can tell I’ve changed since leaving for England in January, and it excites me that I get to return to New York as this new and improved version of myself. I also think about all of my friends and family back home and if they have changed at all either, in addition to whether they will be able to notice the changes in me. My mom is visiting me right now, and she hasn’t brought up anything about me seeming different to her. I wonder if she’s thinking it, but isn’t saying it out loud. I am excited to continue traveling with her and try to show her parts of my new, changed, “world within” that right now seems invisible to her. As sad as I am about ending this chapter of my life, I am just as filled with anticipation and excitement about what lies ahead for me now that I’ve had this life-changing experience.