Reflection in Retrospect
Hey there! Well, I’ve been back home from my study abroad trip for a few months now, and I was looking back over my blog, and I was thinking I’d like to reflect back on my experiences, now that some time has past.
First of all, I want to say that my whole experience was absolutely AMAZING. I mean, just wonderful in every way – everything I dreamed it would be and more. I feel like that doesn’t often happen in life. When we hope and dream about something for a long time, it’s easy to end up disappointed. I’m not going to say that my experience didn’t have its ups and downs, but… all in all, it was just so, so wonderful.
So what exactly made it so great?
Ok, well first of all, I saw a lot of really great stuff. I didn’t get to talking about it all in this blog, especially since I got super busy at the end of the year. But seriously, I saw SO MUCH STUFF. As well as seeing tons of stuff in London, I got to visit Wales, Scotland (twice!), and Ireland. I saw so much stuff that most British people I talked to were like, “Wow, I haven’t even been all those places!” I won’t bore you with a list of every single thing I saw, but favorites in London include Shakespeare’s Globe, the Museum of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Geffrye Museum (a furniture museum – I know that doesn’t sound cool, but it was so cool!), and the Winter Wonderland Christmas market in Hyde Park (oh my gosh, so much beautiful Christmas stuff!!!).
Secondly, I made tons of great friends. And yes, I have kept in contact with some of them! My flatmates were a lot of fun to be around, and I also made a lot of random friends from school classes, societies, and events. But the place I met a lot of my best friends was church. I went to this tiny little church called The Journey, which only had maybe 30 people each Sunday. We met in an old church building which had been turned into a cafe, but on Sundays, it was still a church. And we would all sit around the cafe tables and eat our breakfast while listening to the sermon. It is the most community-style church I’ve ever been to. We didn’t have a single pastor; different people would just get up and speak each week and share what God had put on their hearts. It was really, really lovely. And I had a weekly Bible study with some of the other university students at the church. It was always one of the highlights of my week, and we had a lot of great discussions and “fellowship” (which is a fancy Christian word for hanging out, goofing off, and having inordinate amounts of fun!).
A lot of people have asked me what I learned or how I grew as a person. Now, before I left, I always sort of scoffed at all that study abroad advertising that says studying abroad will “change your life” or “help you grow as a person”; I assumed that would never happen to me. I was wrong though. I learned so much — both facts and life lessons!
I think I learned a lot of how to be an adult. That still sounds weird to me because how in the world did I get this old? Well anyway, there’s something about being all by yourself in a foreign country that just forces you to grow up and make decisions. You have to learn to navigate a whole new world very quickly. I was kinda used to grabbing the phone and calling my parents whenever I had a problem, but because of the time difference, I couldn’t always do that. And yet (this is a bit of a side note) at the same time, there were many times when I called my parents all the way from England and they were able to help me with things!!!
I also learned how to take care of myself and have fun by myself (and I think that’s part of being an adult). The first couple weeks of school, I did hardly anything because I couldn’t find anyone who would do it with me. I wanted to take the train into London, but no one would come. So I just sat around! But as time went by, I learned to take initiative and to plan things and to be brave and do things alone. It started small, with solo trips into London. And then by the end, I had gone all the way to Scotland alone and without a car! I just took trains, found places to stay, and enjoyed the adventure – and it was an adventure!
You know what else I learned? I learned that everything is going to be ok. I mean, I went to England and all these other countries where I knew absolutely no one, and I got on all these trains, and sometimes I showed up in random places with no plan, and sometimes everything seemed terrible. I got stuck in Ireland for two extra days due to bad weather because the planes couldn’t fly. That might sound nice, but I was totally stranded in this strange place with no place to stay, plus I was afraid I was going to miss my finals and fail my classes, plus a bunch of other stress I won’t bore you with. But you know what? I’m still alive! Everything worked out! Not necessarily exactly the way I wanted it to, but… I feel like I can get through anything now!
I also just learned that the world is a huge and wonderful place. I already knew that in theory, but… this experience just showed me how much more there is to it. I saw so many wonderful things, but the places I went are just a tiny, minuscule, practically infinitesimal portion of the world. I’ll never even glimpse the vast majority of it! Some people might find that thought depressing, but I think it’s fabulously exciting. No matter how many beautiful and wonderful things I see, there will always be more!
Ok, I could probably gush until kingdom come, but I realize that this is supposed to be a photo blog, but that I have instead just written you a lengthy essay. If you’ve managed to live until the end of my ramblings here, I thank you and admire your forbearance. Next I’ll make a post with some nice pictures, I promise.