Saying goodbye is never easy, and although I’m coming back to Illinois in January, I won’t be joined by some of the craziest, most entertaining and enthusiastic people I’ve ever met. Coming to the US as a third year international student means it was easier finding friends in fellow exchanges than actual Americans. However, with so many of our excessive group of internationals only spending only the semester in Urbana-Champaign, leaving for Christmas meant losing friends to the other side of the world. Saying goodbye might very well mean forever. United by standing out in the crowd with our foreign accents it was never hard to spot each other from the other side of the room; in one encounter the two of us bonded over being incapable of using a waffle iron. It’s meant that in my time at ‘college’ so far I’ve learnt almost as much about Australia than I have the US. I’ve kissed away any free time I thought I had to spend so long at dinner we’d get kicked out by dining hall staff and when all of us were in one room, the main aim was just to not get a noise complaint. It seems more emotional for me than usual but they really have made the whole experience unforgettable.
Now I’m back in the UK, it’s let me understand really how much I’ve learnt and recounting stories of what I’ve got up to has made me realise that America doesn’t make sense sometimes. Although my thunder is somewhat stolen by a friend who studies there full time, I have the benefit of having seen two kinds of university life. To say it’s been intense is an understatement. For someone who likes to retreat to their own space every now and then, having a roommate can be stressful, and means it can feel like being constantly on the go. Since coming back home it’s like all I’ve done is sleep, and as I write this at 4am, I fear jet lag has gone the other way.
I have some reason to be smug while back though; watching my housemates for next year panic about January exams has reminded me that all that stress is behind me. For the first time since GCSEs my month holiday has not included the opening of any textbooks, the use of highlighters or feeling guilty that maybe I should have started work around mid-October. This time around, going back in early January means touring around the home of country music, not holing up in the library.
And now I can look forward to going back. Before leaving the country my mother expressed the apparently very real concern of hers that I would find an American boy and never return. Well as I prepare to take my Irish boyfriends on his first trip around London she’s probably sleeping a little easier now. Planning tourist activities to do right on my doorstep is a nice reminder that there is still a whole world of things out there still to see and do, and not necessarily in the US. I know I can look forward to next semester having a different tone to the first; less crippling uncertainty of not knowing anyone, fear I will be kicked off the lacrosse team and the realisation I hate all my classes (although only time will tell that one). On the other hand, I also won’t have the luxury of being able to “do it next semester”. I‘ve definitely been guilty last semester of putting things off because it didn’t happen to be convenient, and so I might finally go to St. Louis or actually seeing more of the town I live in. As time, money and motivation come and go, I hope only that next year will be bigger and better than the last – here’s to 2016.
Me being very enthusiastic about the New York skyline, Brooklyn bridge at night, Brits representing on the Alma Mater statue and Christmas in Chicago.
P.S. here’s the link to Elizabeth’s blog, it’s what we did over Thanksgiving. She’s done a really nice recap on what we got up to but used all the good photos and made picking mine out a real pain. https://manchesterontheroad.wordpress.com/2015/12/03/thanksgiving-travels-or-the-real-reason-i-went-on-study-abroad-in-the-first-place/