As I sit in the common area of my floor, surrounded by both returning and new neighbors, I finish editing my study abroad video. I’m being meticulous about this montage, knowing that the passion and memories I experienced on this trip must be perfectly conveyed to my readers. So, I experienced an iPod Shuffle experience in my head, flashing memories and photos, experiences and laughs.
I’m remembering when I first walked in my room, discovering my sleeping roomie who quickly became my confidante. I see my first time walking down Tottenham Court Road, realizing that the main mode of transportation in London includes two feet. I remember taking in all the crowded cities characteristic of every main city, the efficient methodology of the Tube and public transportation.
I see my first time being attacked by a pigeon.
I remember my nerves on my way to my first class session in this study abroad, a science major in a humanities environment. I wondered aloud, “How can I remember how to get to class on foot, so far away?” So naïve, back then. I remember all the street names, all the Tube stops and line colors, all the paths I took.
Though my experience physically in London is over, a piece of my heart will forever be there with the memories and people. However, since returning to Mason this week, I’ve already seen half of my peers on campus and in get-togethers. Studying abroad was one of the most eventful and most amazing experiences I’ve ever had.
There’s something about being in a different country with other first-timers that fastens the forming bond between you. You rely on every person to go somewhere, not daring at first to travel alone. You learn each other’s UK numbers, rooms, likes, quirks.
But the strongest memories in the forefront of my mind are not the monuments I saw but, the late-night runs to Sainsbury Local, McDonalds, crazy Tube adventures, amazing plays, fake British accents, slightly leaking sinks and temporarily dismantled heaters.
So despite the predominant theme of reluctance to leave London, I am very appreciative of this opportunity I’ve had to travel, study, learn, and meet people.
I had heard that study abroad was recommended, though no one could quite explain why. I’m afraid I might have to second that thought: studying abroad is a unique opportunity to experience all that you’ve wanted to under the influence of education. Keeping your intellectual cells turning, your boding moving, your nerves excited, and your clothes clean, you learn something new about yourself.
You could even say you change.
Let me explain. For my performance project, my roommate Jenna and I adapted stock characters from One Man Two Guvnors’s commedia dell’arte theme and placed them into contemporary London society. Learning their personalities, rereading the script, we both did crazy things: stood atop structures and in the midst of heavy public traffic and yelled at the top of our lungs, asked people for food, posed with food and toilets, ran across parks, chased pigeons, ran into stationary objects, and more.
But it might even be the small things that mature you: traveling by yourself, exploring international countries, submersing yourself into foreign cultures, being patient with different disciplined rules and social expectations, taking initiative to adjust to the transportation system, learn the landscape and routes.
Learning the true meaning of the word “independent.”
As a freshman there is still so much that I have yet to, learn, discover and explore, but I am confident that I am one giant step closer to being prepared for the unknown.