Sitting at a computer in terminal 3 of Heathrow airport, listening to the sound of people walking past me chatting and laughing and sometimes screaming (if they’re young children, that is), I am ready to go home.
About a week ago, I had a going away party with British party games, American S’mores, and a ceremonial closing of floating Chinese lanterns. Then, saying goodbye to the friends I’ve grown to love seemed surreal; it didn’t really feel like I was leaving. Even now, it’s a little difficult to imagine that in thirteen hours or so, I’ll be seeing my family face-to-face, not through my needs-to-be-cleaned laptop screen. And yet, I’m definitely ready to be home.
The experience of studying abroad has been an unbelievable one. It wasn’t easy–in fact, I think it was probably one of the most difficult and trying times I’ve yet experienced in my small collection of years on this planet. But, in the words of one of my favorite teachers, ” there is no growth without pain.” So it has been a challenge, but it has also been an incredible learning experience.
I’m not entirely sure how I’ve changed. I’m sure somebody who hasn’t been watching it gradually happen will be able to inform me when I get back, but I have my guesses. For those of you who were hoping, I don’t think an accent is one of the changes. Sorry. But the changes I have made are ones which will probably carry more significance in the grand scheme of things. For one, I am more comfortable with ambiguity. Living in and traveling to environments where you have very little control and understanding of what goes on around you is the perfect way to beat any controlling or anxious tendencies right out of you. Otherwise, you just couldn’t cope with yourself. It’s nice to be able to stop stressing over the small stuff, and I’ve read that it’s supposedly “all small stuff.”
Studying abroad has also given me a stronger sense of self. While I think that I had a pretty healthy level of self confidence before, what I have now goes beyond just being comfortable with who I am, to actually understanding who I am, and then being comfortable with that person. Of course, the more you know, the more you know how much you don’t know, and I know that there is more to me or any other person than could possibly be understood my own limited perspective, but I’m at least two steps closer in the right direction.
Most rewarding, though, is the sense of roots I have developed while being here. I’ve never thought of myself as particularly patriotic or American (after all, we Americans aren’t Americans, we’re individuals, right?); however, upon living here in England, I have come to realize that in many things, I am indeed very American. And I’m grateful to be so. Maybe even proud, but that begins to sound cliché. So I’m sticking with grateful. While I understand, probably now more than ever, the faults of our nation, I also have a deeper appreciation for those things that make America unique and beautiful–things that, until now, I took for granted as a way of life. It’s funny that I went to so much trouble to leave where I am from and start something new, only to realize that as incredible as these new and exciting places are, where I belong is home.
My time is running out, and I’ve no more coins to feed the computer (which, really, is more of a relief than a disappointment–Europe in general has way too many coins in their monetary system, and they’re heavy to carry around), so I’ll be signing off now. I have tales and pictures from Italy and such which I haven’t put up yet, as I haven’t had the time, so I may do that at some point, but for now, I’ll say good bye and “cheers!”