It’s strange to think that three years ago I was pretty much in the same boat I am now for getting ready to study abroad. The only difference then, was that it was actually a lot easier of a process and most things were done for me by the study abroad program I went through. This time I am on my own, but I am glad I at least got to feel what it’s like to prepare for a journey away from home. On September 21, 2011, I left North America for the first time and took a flight from Seattle to London and from London to Manchester. I waited for the University of Chester ambassadors to pick me up from the airport, and I started out on a three month adventure that actually did change me as a person, even if it sounds completely cliche.
The only thing I regret from my time abroad was spending my first three weeks clubbing and spending way too much money. I was so excited to take advantage of the fact that the drinking age was only 18, and as a 20-year-old, I was happy to get to drink a year earlier than my friends back home. I got angry at myself around the middle of October because I wanted to travel. I wanted to go somewhere. I wanted an adventure. I loved the girls I was hanging out with, but they were in the UK for a year and had more time to spread out their trips, whereas I had a very short time to get everything in. I had to ceremoniously break away from them a bit and find a group of exchange students who were only there for a quarter like myself.
The traveling began right away. Our first trip was a day journey to Edinburgh, Scotland. This was the home of Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling, and I was so enchanted to be in this city, even if for just a day. Soon after, I took a weekend trip to London, and fell in love with the city. After that, we had our reading week (which is like spring break, but in autumn), so a group of us went on a Europe adventure from Berlin to Paris to Rome. It was really a whirlwind, trying to fit three huge cities into a short time, but I had a lot of fun and bonded a lot with my new friends. After that, there weren’t any super huge trips, but I did make my way to Liverpool, Shrewsbury, Bath and London again for the Sherlock Holmes 2 film premiere.
Of course, adjusting to England had its time with me. I thought I knew all about England, but so many things surprised that I hadn’t researched. Eggs weren’t kept in the fridge, it was impossible to find Mexican food, I wanted normal pickles but all they had were gherkins and I even cried one night because the postal codes confused me so much when I tried to order some pizza and they couldn’t figure out where I lived. It was a weird transition to take UK university classes when I was so used to the style of American teaching. I was confused about everything and I learned so much about English culture and it made me realize that my romanticized England I had in my head wasn’t exactly the way I thought it was.
But it did cement in my mind that England was where I wanted to be, even with all its differences, and I knew I had to get back there as soon as possible. I was lucky to get to briefly go back twice in 2012, but it’s been over a year and a half since I’ve been there, and I am so ready to be there again. Chester was a beautiful city with Roman influence and showed me a bit of the rustic, old England that I wanted in my life, and I know I’ll be in London, which isn’t the countryside, but I’ll get to do those day trips and adventures around the country that I’ve craved since I was a BBC-watching youth.