On a day like any other, I saw a flyer announcing this year’s upcoming abroad programs and one of them so happened to be a three-month semester in England of all places, sponsored by the English Department. It was astounding that I even considered applying, and more so that I was accepted, along with fifteen others. The days approaching our scheduled departure were nerve-racking. I was having second thoughts. Can I really do this? What if I fail? What if I don’t fit in, or make friends? I was petrified of what was likely in store for me, but excited too.
From the time I was thirteen, I wanted to visit and see England for myself, and meet my mother’s side of the family. I wanted to learn more about our family history, and in doing so perhaps learn more about myself. Once we got to the airport, I was a messy mix of anticipation and panic. My mom looked so proud and ready to cry at the same time, and I imagine I wasn’t much different. This trip was my very first time away from home, and was way out of my comfort zone. I was set to live with strangers, in an unfamiliar country where I wouldn’t have my mom to turn to at every inconvenience. The flight itself was unbearable, but once we hit British soil it hit me: I was finally here. I met up with my host family, the Phillips, and got myself settled. In the beginning, I had gotten lost more times than I can count. I shied away from my classmates, concerned I didn’t belong and no one liked me to begin with, and ended up alone. I felt like I had no one to turn to, and worried it was wrong to come in the first place. I wanted to give up and go home. I was depressed during those times alone, and ended up going straight home from class. Other times, I would spend hours at the nearest bookstore – which, mind you, I enjoyed immensely. I still felt left out. I assumed that if no one directly invited me I was therefore unwelcome. But I didn’t want to spend the next three months feeling sorry for myself, so I made efforts to make friends and make the most of this trip. I tried initiating myself into casual conversations, and tagged along on after-class ventures. Surprisingly enough, I enjoyed myself. I was uncomfortable at times, cause it was out of my comfort zone, but I found myself laughing a lot of times too. I branched out, and by doing so, I made some friends that I’m looking forward to seeing again back in the states.
Day by day, I was amazed by everything around me, and doing things I neglected to do at home. I was walking to and from class [and around Oxford], taking the bus daily, and doing all my own shopping. Those things may not be impressive to anyone else, but for me, those were major stepping stones. Even during times I didn’t believe it, I told myself: I can do this. Take a breath and smile. It’s not the end of the world, if I make a mistake from time to time. Making mistakes and finding solutions are all part of growing up. I was handling myself, and making my own choices. I still felt scared, but also stronger and empowered. They were times I panicked, and others when I flourished. It was an amazing experience, and one I’ll never regret. I made new friends, learned about our family history, and grew in the process. It’s my advice that if you have the opportunity, even one that’s scary, take it. There’s a whole world out there, waiting for someone to stop and appreciate it. I took a chance, traveled all the way to England, and came back.