by Indunee Seneviratne, Law LLB, UNC Chapel-Hill, USA
Okay. So this is the big one: this is the “cultural readjustment” blog.
It is the end of Freshers’ Week back in Manchester. The atmosphere here is very different to the slower paced, quieter, greener campus I left as summer began. And yet I am reminded daily of UNC. Impulse bought a poster of Michael Jordan (one of UNC’s most famous graduates) the other day from a poster sale opposite the Students’ Union. Recently connected with a UNC student who has come here on exchange, hopefully we will meet up soon. I am planning to attend the Go Abroad Fair to promote UNC exchanges, and am looking forward to meeting one of the International Officers who is visiting in a couple of weeks. And am booking train tickets to London in order to attend the Mooting Competition in which UNC Law School is participating.
By now, enough water has passed under the bridge for me not to get overly emotional about the wonderful experience I had in the North America. But looking back over the photos, there is no denying that those 6 months have carved out a piece of my heart. Now that piece beats in Chapel-Hill, caught in the places and moments where I learned how to really live. Though I aim to be open and honest in these blogs, there is much I shall omit – and when you go abroad wherever you choose to go, there will be much that you too will not ever impart to another soul. You cannot ever entirely describe the feelings, the bonds, the pain, the comfort, or the joy. But all this is waiting for you. As are all the friends you would never have otherwise made. I am so grateful to have been shown kindness in its many forms during my time there, by many special people. Sometimes all it takes is to say hello, introduce yourself and offer some reassuring words. For example, thank you Charlie Johnson who reached out to me like this at the very beginning. He told me he recognised the disorientation I was feeling from when he himself had been to South America and not know a soul. He and his wife were two of the last people I said goodbye to, and a simple evening of good food and good company did wonders to help me realise that this was not the end but the beginning.
Even if you decide in the end that studying abroad is not for you (it is not for everybody) I would recommend trying to forge new beginnings like this. Goodness knows at this uncertain time when Britain is struggling to retain its dignity caused by rising xenophobia in the wake of Brexit, we could use a little global awareness and sensitivity. We are all human. And we all have the power to be kind.
I think that now the world is open to me in a way that it was not before. Before I went away I thought that I would never be able to move abroad – now it does not intimidate me anymore. Airports, coaches and trains are not as stressful. And now the world is a little smaller; now in addition to my family in Sri Lanka and the UK, I have a good friend in Hong Kong, and many dear friends in America. My wanderlust is going strong, and when the sun sets in the evening I can hear the horizon calling. I hope that you can hear it too. Listen to it and take the leap. I dare you 🙂