Leaving London has snuck up on me. Wrapped up in the chaos of finals and evaluations and soaking up the Christmas celebrations in the city, it only recently occurred to me that I’m having the last of my experiences here as I write this—last day at my internship, last classes, even my last blog post before I fly home. I’ve tried to commiserate with my friends in the program about it, but many of them seem to feel differently. It’s not that they’re excited to leave, but they have loved it so much that they are deciding to plant themselves here after graduation. My friends are investigating jobs, graduate programs, and where they want to live in a year or two when they get back. They accept that it will be expensive and that they’ll miss home, but it doesn’t bother them much. They simply sigh and move on, satisfied with the irrefutable fact that they will be back. But I’m not there yet.
I loved London. I am sure that this semester has been one of the happiest times in my life, and I will be forever grateful for my adventure here, but that is all it was—an adventure. There are a million things to do and see and experience and I would love to try every one, but I don’t think it is meant to be my home. The things I love about my hometown are its community and its comforts, and while those things are present in London, they aren’t quite affordable for me. I can see myself coming back to London for a vacation, but I never had the instinct to settle down here.
It has been hard to talk to my friends about their excitement to live here, because it feels like I’m missing out on some essential part of this experience. They seem so at peace with the fact they finally know, with certainty, what they want to do and where they want to be. I’ve grappled with the fact that studying abroad didn’t give me that prized insight into my future.
I’ve reflected a lot on my time here, and I’ve begun to realize that learning what I don’t want from my home is just as valuable as finding what I do want. I decided to study in London because I have always dreamed of living in a big city outside of the states. I’ve idolized London and Paris since I was little, and I looked down on my small town in comparison. It felt too small, like I’d already done everything worth doing and met everyone worth meeting. I also envied being able to travel across Europe in hours, while it takes just as long to drive from one end of Iowa to the other. Living in London made me realize that a big city wasn’t the answer to all of my problems, and what I needed was a mid-size city. I want somewhere close to travel opportunities without living inside a tourist attraction, somewhere exciting but still affordable enough to be comfortable. There are plenty of places that fit this description, even ones in the United States. I also found while living in London that being so far from my family is hard for me. I have a six-year old brother, and the amount that he’s changed in four months has astonished me, even through photos and FaceTime calls. The idea of missing his childhood for years is worse than the boredom of a small town. There’s a way to have everything I want, but I needed to better define what I don’t want to figure that out.
It took my reflection to figure out that I didn’t waste my experience here just because London isn’t the end-all, be-all for me. Studying abroad doesn’t have to be about picking the exact path for your future. There has been so much more for me to learn about myself and what I want during this time, and I will continue to use that knowledge wherever I end up.
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Hello! My name is Emma Hughes, and I'm a junior studying Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa. I'm visiting London to study public relations and explore the arts and theatre communities in the UK. I love theatre, creative writing, game nights, and movies. This fall, I hope to have lots of new and exciting experiences in London, and that sharing them with you helps you get the most out of your time abroad!