And just like that, I’m back in the States. Well, after a tearful goodbye to my beloved London and a non-stop nine-hour flight, that is. I’ve spent the past five days I’ve been back eating a lot of American food and watching a lot of American TV — and also a lot of time reflecting on the past four months. I didn’t realize it while it was happening, and I didn’t expect to, but I did a lot of growing up across the pond. I came home and the first thing my mom said to me, other than ‘I missed you so much,’ was ‘I can already tell you’re different.’
What does that even mean, though? Sure, my sister has made it very clear that I walk at a faster pace now, and my hair is approximately a thousand inches longer, but I can tell there’s something invisible there, too, and I only started to notice it once I stepped foot on that SeaTac tarmac. I’m more independent than anything else, and although my family remains the most important thing in my life, not even my attachment to them can hold me back from everything I want to do in the future. I’ve finally experienced, after almost 21 years, what all the rage was about. Of course I’ve wanted to travel for as long as I can remember, but there’s a difference between wanting to get away and needing to explore what’s around you. Living and studying abroad makes me want to be a tourist in my own town, apply for grad school across the country, and get a get job just so I can afford to see the rest of the world.
Looking back, there’s nothing I would change about my trip. Part of me wished I came with more money saved up, but then I wouldn’t have learned how to enjoy the free parts of Europe (which are often the best parts), or have appreciated the little hidden beauties as much. I do think a little extra spending cash would have gone to good use (i.e. a few more countries checked off my list), but I can’t complain. There are, as always, a few pieces of advice I would pass on to prospective study abroad candidates, however. In addition to maybe bringing a little more money, I would also do a little more research. I thought I did plenty before I left, but there are still some things I wasn’t prepared for, like being extremely homesick, or what to do when all you have is a debit card and someone gets a hold of your info (yes, this happened to me, and yes, it was a nightmare).
Still, not even the worst moments would have made me regret a single thing. If it weren’t so expensive, I absolutely would study abroad again, or intern abroad (can you imagine how cool that would be?!). When I graduate, I want to live abroad, even for a short time, and hopefully find a job overseas one day. Four months was not enough time, and the only thing I can do until I return is pay it forward somehow. I’ve applied to be an Ambassador for the company I studied through, and that was mainly so I had an opportunity to relive the best time of my life and help other students reach the same potential. I also enjoy writing about my experiences, and I hope that at least one person uses an article or blog post as a reason to just go for it.
Above all else, I want people to know how much this trip meant to me. As a writer, I of all people know how difficult it can be to put feelings into words, and this is the hardest it’s ever been. I’m so different in so many ways because of this semester, and I look back on it with the fondest memories. I made lifelong friends and saw countries I never even dreamed I would get to experience in real life; I came home more adventurous and ambitious, and I’m more confident in myself as an individual because I know I’m capable of moving to a completely different culture and thrive there. I could talk all day about why studying abroad is the best thing I’ve ever done, but it’s something you have to experience for yourself — all I can do it encourage you to do so.