Well, I’ve made it back stateside. After a long week of what felt like constant travel after classes at IES ended, it was a welcome relief to meet my parents and boyfriend at the airport, ready to greet me and take all my heavy bags and drive me home. Though I hardly knew how to feel about being back in America.
Taking the last 10 days of the month for some solo travel was a great way to end my time abroad. I got to see a bit of Ireland when I visited my roommate from back home where she’s studying at the University of Limerick this semester. Then I ventured to Wales, spending a couple days in Cardiff and then a weekend adventure on the Pembrokeshire coast. I really recommend signing up for a weekend trip with Preseli Venture Lodge if you’re studying abroad in London. Sophie from Preseli usually comes to IES at the beginning of the semester to talk to students, and she and the other staff are just lovely. We got to go sea kayaking, hiking, and coasteering (climbing and jumping off cliffs) all in one weekend, not to mention home-cooked meals and sleeping in a cozy eco lodge. It was such a fun change of pace from life in the city to get out and play in the sea and sun.
Then I was back in London for a couple days before flying back to the states. More than anything, traveling and coming back to London by myself even a week later helped me to put some of my experiences this semester in perspective before arriving back home. Being at the University of Limerick and then the Welsh countryside, I felt in a way closer to home already, familiar with more of the open space and small communities that are part of the life I have always led in small towns and outdoors. But what it made me realize is that I am so glad that my study abroad experience was so opposite from what I was familiar with: living in a high-rise apartment building in one of the busiest parts of one of the biggest cities, commuting on public transportation to classes every day, and living at a non-stop pace of London life were things I actually never would have thought I’d be comfortable with 6 months ago. But I learned to love that life, too. Learning to live and feel at home in different environments I think really translates to growth in other areas of life, too.
But being back in London was also lonely. I was excited to visit all of my favorite places one last time before leaving, but I found once there that they were different without someone to share them with. It made me really appreciate all the friends I’ve made this semester, and a quote that kept popping into my head: “Happiness is only real when shared.” The sadness of realizing I won’t be back in London again (at least, not soon) hasn’t really hit me yet, but sitting here at home in my parents’ house, things are not so bad because I feel more blessed than ever to have all these amazing people in my life to share happiness with, spread all over the country and all over the world. I haven’t even begun to understand the impact that studying abroad has made on my life, but I know it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Ariana is a junior at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, majoring in Creative Writing and minoring in Gender and Women's Studies. On campus, she is busy with bellydance and yoga, and as an executive member of the student health club. She has ridden elephants in Thailand and gone whitewater rafting in New Zealand, but her time studying abroad in London will be her first experience of Europe, which she hopes to make the very most of. Writing is how she makes sense of the world, and she hopes to share this blog with you while she explores jolly old England!</span></p>