And then it was over.
We joked as we were leaving — we quoted the first Harry Potter and said “I’m not going home. Not really.” and while we all laughed it off, it felt like a reality for me. This trip has taught me so much and I’m not entirely sure how I can express my thoughts in such a simple form as language, but I will try.
Right from the beginning I was reminded of the saying “It takes a village to raise a child”. So many people contributed to sending me on this trip. I received encouragement and incredible financial help from my family. I got the GO scholarship and an incredibly generous grant from the Honors department. It was more that just that, though. There were the families in England who dropped their lives to host me and show me around. There were the people in the hostels who watched out for me, took me out, paid for cabs, and talked to me. The professors who dealt with me running around trying to get signatures for honors credits the day before the paperwork was due. So many things went into making this trip happen and keeping me going. In that sense, this trip increased my sense of self-worth because so many people thought that this was a worthwhile endeavor and made it happen just to help me achieve it. I am so grateful for everyone who made this dream a reality.
Travelling abroad like this has completely expanded my worldview. I feel like a much bigger person. Not in a physical sense, but in a mental/emotional/spiritual sense. I am aware of so much more now. I have seen so many things and felt so many things and there is no way to handle that but to grow. I’ve heard it said that young people travel to find themselves but it is impossible because places cannot change or define who you are, but I have to disagree with that. I think that it isn’t until you expand yourself to a certain degree that you start to realize who you really are and how you fit into humanity. It may take hiking two miles up a mounting and crawling into a Neolithic passage tomb, but travelling and truly experiencing the world can change who you are, and it takes the change to recognize both who you were before and who you have become. On one hand travelling like this can make you realize the value of what you have back home, but it also can show you that you exist in a sort of happy bubble of reality, and that there is so much more to life than your comfortable day to day routine. I for one want more.
My study abroad experience was unique. It cannot be replicated or experienced again, but that is what makes it special. You leave home with the intent to learn and experience as much as possible and nothing else, and there is no way to be disappointed. I think if you go in the right mindset there is no way to not be changed by any experience abroad. I think the experience is necessary for truly understanding the world, even if you only touch the surface. And you learn so much. I was interested in my class’s subject matter and I was completely enthralled by both of the AMAZING professors. For my fellow students all I can say is this: Go. Just do it. Breathe some different air and climb some different mountains and on the way eat some new food with some new people. Make the most of life and the world around you, and you will never be the same.
It is as Yoland said in Friel’s play Translations:
Yolland: It’s difficult to describe. It was a momentary sense of discovery; no — not quite a sense of discovery — a sense of recognition, of confirmation of something I half knew instictively; as if I had stepped…
Owen: Back into ancient time?
Yolland: No, no. It wasn’t an awareness of direction being changed but of experience being of a totally different order. I had moved into a consciousness that wasn’t striving nor agitated, but at its ease and with its own conviction and assurance.
I left with a conceptual understanding of the world and humanity, but experiencing parts of the world that are different from the ones you know inexplicably changes what you know. It’s not a moment or a momentous realization, but it’s a subtle shift in awareness that you can’t help but easily accept. And even though the trip is over and I’m back home, this small but incredible change is something that I could never leave behind.