Well, I just turned in an extremely difficult essay I spent all of last night editing for one of my modules…I don’t feel particularly confident about the score I will get, but I tried and that’s about all one can do. My head is spinning a little and I need to take a break, which means it’s time for a blog post. Therefore, I would very briefly like to comment on my experience abroad in general now that I am 2/3rds of the way through–more than, actually, since I’m writing this about 10 days later than I meant to!
In any case, I want to be completely honest about my experience and what it has been like, and a part of that is me admitting that for all the fun I’ve had and things I’ve learned, there were moments (well, okay, longer than mere ‘moments’; more like days) when I desperately missed my home university and felt completely beyond my comfort zone.
The first month was really hard for me; when my parents visited a month into my stay, I was so happy to see them, because at the time, all I could think was “I don’t really have friends”, “I miss Gettysburg”, “Why did I decide to do this again?” and other such thoughts. I haven’t written about this yet, really, because at the time, I felt just awful for even thinking those things–objectively, I knew I should be so grateful for having this experience at all, and I felt very guilty for not enjoying it more. The fact that I never really felt homesick after moving to a college 6.5 hours away from my home three years ago and was so incredibly excited to visit Wales allowed me to skim over the idea that I might had adjustment problems here . I (naively) expected to just love being abroad instantly, but it was much more challenging than I’d realized. Being in a different country (even one where you speak the language) with a different academic system in a city threw me much further out of my comfort zone than Gettysburg College ever did.
The most important point I would like to press, though, is that you just have to give it time, and furthermore that nothing helps one adjust more than completely throwing one’s self into something. I chose to become involved in some societies, and furthermore vowed that if I learned anything at all here, I would learn the Welsh language. It sounds simple, but setting that one simple goal of really doing well in my Welsh class (not just skating along to get by, as many do in language courses) changed everything for me.
I can say completely confidently that now, two months (and a week, now) into my program, my attitude and feelings towards this experience have gone completely the opposite way and I am absolutely in love with Cardiff; I no longer see the charm in the idea of returning to my home university, and the only thing I am thinking is “Don’t make me leave!”
Funny old world, isn’t it? One month you want nothing more than to go home, the next month you want nothing more than to stay and in spare moments somehow find yourself pondering ways in which you might soon secure a return visit to your adoptive country.
This, I think, is a pretty normal thing for Study Abroad students to feel, the initial excitement, the homesickness, and then finally settling in. I was just a bit arrogant and didn’t think I would experience all three.
I just wanted to make it clear that contrary to what my blog thus far may have suggested, it hasn’t been all butterflies and roses and frolics in the countryside since I arrived in Wales. But I adjusted and settled in and I feel more at home in this city than I ever have anywhere in the US …the unfortunate side of this change is, of course, that I am struck with despair at the idea that I will not be returning to Cardiff after being home for Christmas and the New Year.
So for the moment I’m just going to go on my merry way, doing my assessments in denial until it all comes crashing down about my ears two and a half weeks from now.