Another week has passed. Honestly, I am miles away from where I started. I guess in a literal sense, but I was actually meaning from where I started last week in arriving at my dorm literally knowing nothing to where I am standing right now. I met some girls in my flat who are also exchange students. One is from Mexico and the other from Norway. Everything feels so much better when you have a friend and don’t have to adjust to something new by yourself. We all bonded over our struggles the first week and the new picture we have of what it looks like to study abroad. As we ventured that first week alone, we all had learned something different about England and could help each other out on the parts we were missing. It was comforting to know I was not the only one who struggled that first week. That it wasn’t a lack of competency on my part, it was that the situation was just hard.
I helped a girl learn the bus system while she helped introduce me to other exchange students. This week I have met people from all over the world, surprisingly enough, not a lot of actual British people. I guess in other countries some degrees require that you study abroad. So, people from everywhere come to this university and all the exchange students seem to end up gravitating towards each other.
Socially this week has stretched me. I am naturally shy and very introverted. Making friends has never been easy for me as I struggle with small talk and reaching out to potential friends. I feel I will fare fine academically abroad; I knew coming into this exchange it was socially where I was going to struggle. The people that know me best have told me to remember to have fun and not just study away my time abroad. Which for me, was some very sound advice. So, I have been pushing myself to go do things with other people even if I rather stay in. I know that this week has been so much more enjoyable because I have some friends. I realized that I don’t want to go back home wishing I would have done more. I settled on the idea that I will not regret going out and doing something, but I would very well regret coming back with only stories to tell of homework and class. While I absolutely love to learn, I realize I don’t want that to be all I have. I think life is way more meaningful when we have connections to others. This experience will be more significant to me if I have adventures and friendships to fill it with as opposed to getting that A.
I was invited to go with a group of people to London. I only knew one other person going and even though the idea of this seemed overwhelming to my introverted self, I went it anyway. I explored London, took a boat tour on the River of Thames, walked around Greenwich Park, saw some incredible views, ate lunch at a pub, got chased into a pub along the way because of a rainstorm, rode the tube, and saw the center of London. It was a long day, and it was a happy day. A day filled with things I am thankful I got to not just to see, but experience and indulge in its wonderful moments. A day where I made friends. A day where I did not let my shyness hold me back and now I have lived a day that I hope to never forget. In the end, it was a day well-lived. By the end of the day, I was comforted in the realization that my time abroad will be all I hoped for and more because of the very nature of this experience and what I set out to do. While at the same, all I dreamed of will inevitably take some time to unfold. Two weeks in I am now how some faith in myself as I learn and adjust to a new life, a new country, and a new culture.