Five Weeks, Four Lessons I’ve learned Studying Abroad
I’ve been studying abroad in England for just over 5 weeks now, which means that I only have five more to go. (Where does the time go?!). Five weeks, four lessons. Hopefully this doesn’t come across as a cliché “things I learned during abroad post” and well if it does, READ IT ANYWAY! I promise it’s witty, full of cool pictures, and filled with real lessons I’ve actually learned. Plus, I said to read it so now you have to.
1. “Home” is a fluid concept
I’ve believed that home was more of a feeling than any one particular place. Sure, I have a house where my family and stuff lives. But, a home? I don’t have just one of those. I’d like to think I’m pretty good at adjusting to new people and places because I travel pretty often. I’ve learned to adapt and settle in. One thing that surprised me about studying abroad though is how quickly it happened. Within the first week or so I was remarking to my friend who’s also from Cornell and is studying with me here at Warwick, how much I liked England/the University of Warwick and how comfortable/at home I feel here. Like y’all, I really, really, like England. It’s wild because I always said I wanted to live in London for a year and even though I’m not directly in London, studying at the University of Warwick is both reminding me of and recommitting me to that goal.
I believe that “home” exists anywhere that love and acceptance (plus some other stuff) live. I’m getting ahead of myself, but the world is not this big, bad place and if you have the courage to open yourself up to new environments, beliefs, and people, you can feel at home just about anywhere.
2. America/Americans can learn a thing or two from the rest of the world
Whenever I travel, I’m always amazed at how much the rest of the world knows about America – our culture, values, politics, issues, etc. The UK is no different. This of course could be because the Brit’s are still bitter about losing that good old American Revolution all those years ago (but somehow I doubt that). My friends at Warwick listen to American music, watched the same TV shows I did as a kid, love President and Michelle Obama as much, if not more than I do, and support the #BlackLivesMatter Movement. Meanwhile, I couldn’t tell you anything about who ran in the last British elections and don’t know who half of their music artists are. London grime? Afrobeats? WHET?!
This experience has taught me how self-absorbed we as American’s can be. It’s both touching and heartbreaking how much others know about us in relation to how much we know about them. + British/European fashion is better than ours so if nothing else, we need to take some style tips from our friends across the pond.
3. Life really does go on
Traveling is a humbling experience. It’s humbling because I’d like to think that I’m the center of the universe and everything revolves around me. Only, it doesn’t and nothing reminds me of this more than peeping that the lives of my friends and family have gone on in my absence. Sure, we miss each other but at the end of the day, my life and my experiences are mine – just like theirs are just that, theirs. I used to worry that I was selfish for wanting to travel or missing birthdays/graduations/weddings etc. because I was somewhere halfway around the world, until I realized that I’m not. Missing things doesn’t make you selfish and you can love someone just as much from around the world as you can when you’re all up in their face. You are always exactly where you are supposed to be – so don’t feel bad for “missing out” on things. Life goes on, with or without you, I promise. So, buy the flight, hop in the car, move across the world without a job or place to live – don’t let the possibility of missing out on something keep you from whatever life experiences you want to have. Guess what? Planes, trains, and cars make return journeys too. You can always get back home. So, GO!
4. The world isn’t as bad as the news would make it seem
Watch the news and you’ll think that the world is full of evil people out to rob, rape, kidnap, or kill you. And, I mean don’t get me wrong, those people are out there, they do exist. But, most of the people I’ve met when traveling are kind, they let you use their Wi-Fi or tell you how to find the tourist attraction you’re dying to see but can’t find because you can’t interpret a map. I firmly believe that human kind is innately good and somewhere along the way, people just stray away from what they know to be true. If you’re afraid to travel, especially if you’re afraid to travel solo, because you’re worried about the people you’ll meet, I’d advise you to let go of the fear and go anyway. Stay vigilant of course! But, I would have never crossed paths with some of the most amazing souls if I hadn’t wandered, visited, and explored in-spite of the fear. Don’t watch the news or read about the world in a book. Get out and experience it for yourself. It will change your perspective and renew your faith in humanity.
If your university has opportunities to study or travel abroad, no matter the program length, I encourage you to do whatever it takes to participate. The world is bigger than your block, campus, and hometown – get out and see it.
Gabby Hickmon is a senior at Cornell University currently studying abroad at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @gabrielleione. She writes and rants regularly on her blog, The Reign XY (@thereignxy).