Friday, 17 December 2010
First Semester Abroad: What I've Learnt So Far
Well, I've almost made it.
I've almost done half of my year abroad.
I've been in America for 3 and a half months now. Can you believe it?
This has been an amazing experience. I've learnt so much.
I've learnt so much about what I want, who I want to be and how I can get there.
I have definitely learnt a lot about being independent. Okay, I've already done the whole "moving away from home" thing. Of course, I've lived away from home since I was 18. But I've always been able to go back home. I've always only really been 2 hours from home. I've always been able to call my parents when I need to, or make plans to come home when I'm getting stressed out.
Here, that hasn't been an option. There have only been a few hours in the day where I can call my parents because of the time difference. There have been times where I've been crying late at night, knowing that I can't call home. And of course, I had no opportunity to come home.
This is the longest I haven't seen my friends or my family in my whole life.
I'd never gone more than 5 weeks without seeing my family, and probably just a couple of months without seeing my friends.
I've only met one other English person since I've been here.
I want to say that I didn't think I'd be able to cope, but I knew I didn't really have a choice. There wasn't an option to just give up. And beside, I don't give up. I never have done.
But I've handled this much better than I thought. Much better than when I started university. The only time that I really, really cried was the day I got here, over 3 and a half months ago.
Maybe it's growing up but I knew I was going to be okay.
I knew I could do this.
I knew I just had to throw myself into it and not look back.
When I said goodbye to my parents at the airport, I didn't turn around. I knew that I couldn't turn around, that it would make it too hard.
That day was one of the hardest of my life. Crossing borders. Crossing time zones. Disappearing into the sky thousands of miles from home.
I watched the miles add up as we shot across the sky, landing 4000 miles from home.
In 8 and a half hours I was in a new world.
I knew that I had to change, to adapt. I had to grow and learn and experience.
I have definitely evolved over the last few months.
I look back over what I have done, what I have achieved these last few months and I can't help feeling overwhelming proud of myself.
I walked into the Statesman office and explained I wanted to write.
A few weeks later I started writing my column. I now write every week.
My blog now has more views from the United States than from home. I get more and more followers every week. I was approached by a local magazine to write a column for their website. College Candy took me on as a writer.
I have learnt to be more confident. To be assertive without being cocky.
I have learnt to think "I can do this."
If I can move 4000 miles from home, what can't I do?
I have found my classes fascinating. There has not been one that I didn't enjoy..
My journalism class was stressful, but taught me so much about what I was doing wrong and how to be a better writer.
My Shakespeare class taught me that I can do things I find challenging I didn't think I'd be able to cope in a 5000 level Shakespeare class when I haven't done Shakespeare really since college, but I did and I did well.
Literature into Film introduced me to The Godfather and I now love both the book and the film.
And my feminism class, which was challenging and hard and made me question my beliefs, has actually changed my thoughts so much. It was definitely a different kind of class, but when asked if I'm glad I took it, my answer is definitely yes.
But I'm not going to pretend this year hasn't been a challenge.
I've had to work at making friends and I've learnt that it's not as hard as I previously thought. I've had to deal with homesickness, and difficult moments when I'd usually just call my mum and get her to make everything okay. I've had to go and make everything okay myself. I've had to rely on myself to sort out my problems.
I've had to be organized and self-disciplined. I've had to get used to a completely different way of learning and adapt to that.
I've had to cope with culture shock and being different. Getting used to a whole new way of life, different words, different people and different experiences.
I've had to think about who I am.
And I've had to think about who I want to be.
And for the first time in my life, I think I'm getting closer to that.
I've had to think about my dreams and my goals and how I want to achieve them. And I've started to try to make them a reality.
While I love England and I love my home, I wouldn't have given this opportunity up for the world. It has opened my eyes to all the things I have never appreciated before, from phoning my parents to being there to decorate the Christmas tree to having a car, to vegetarian gravy and Cadbury's chocolate.
I have learnt to respect and understand people with different lives, different upbringings than myself and understand a new culture.
I have learnt to respect differing views and understand that people do not always agree with mine.
They say you have to get lost to find yourself.
And I think 4000 miles from home was where I'm finding out who I am.