Last week was the midpoint of my studying abroad experience. I wanted to take some time to reflect on how I am feeling as this milestone passes. I cannot believe it is almost over! Part of me feels like it was just yesterday that I was jet lagged at orientation, yet I think about all the things I have done and all the places I have been and there is no way I did all of it in 5 short weeks. Since I have been doing so much traveling outside of the UK, I feel like I need to make a bigger effort to explore London. It is indeed my origin of study! There are so many cool markets, museums and cafes for me to find!
I feel accomplished.
I have already traveled to 7 countries, toured the English country side, done most of the touristy stuff in London, made friends, gone to school, written blog posts and created video blogs. Although keeping busy in other ways than I would at home, I have continued to make the most of this experience by filling it to the brim with activities. When people were asking me over Christmas break what I wanted to do in London and where I wanted to travel I had no idea! Less than 2 months later I have been to more places than I would have anticipated! It is a rewarding feeling to know I have thus far kept up a high intensity pace in order to see Europe in my small amount of time.
I feel proud.
While considering going abroad, I was holding back on the idea due to my vision impairments. How could a girl with Optic Atrophy live in a drastically new environment such as the heart of London? I love this story that my grandma told me just a few years ago after I had gotten my license. One time, when I was about 6 or so I was at Target with my grandma. She was in the middle of paying for her purchases when I insisted on putting the cart away for her. This made my grandma nervous; at this stage in my diagnosis, I would not be able to see my grandma from where the cart-drop off was. She stood there and watched me put the cart away independently, waiting for when she would have to intervene before I got lost. To her surprise, I came skipping straight back over to my grandma’s side at the checkout stand. She asked me, “How did you know I was here?” I said promptly, “Grandma, I counted the checkout stands!”
In this story, just because I did things differently, did not mean that I was incapable of doing them. I have taken on London similarly. It took me longer than my friends to get my bearing and use transportation, but I used my own ways to figure out. Whether it be memorizing the tube map, mapping things out before I go, using a reliable friend, counting the number of intersections before my destination etc….I find a way. I am honestly really proud of that! I have always tried to push myself to be as “normal” as I can be. I know I will never be a famous golfer (Where’s the flag? Out there? Where?), or a gold miner (Is that gold or dirt?), or a good whale watcher (Wait was that a fin…?), but I do know that I can try in everything that I do. Just because I have impairments doesn’t mean that I cannot do most of the same things; such as study abroad in college. This experience has proven to me yet again that although never easy, I can do anything I put my mind to!
I feel inspired.
Studying abroad has inspired me so much for when I return home. Gaining a more global perspective and having all these experiences has given me a lot to think about. Last week, we were touring the Westminster Abbey. There were all these famous kings, queens, scientists, poets, and political figures that were buried there. Many of these famous figures I knew from history or literature classes in school. This got me thinking- what do I want my legacy to be when I am gone? Now, I don’t want to set my sight too high and be on the same scale as those in the Abbey, but I want my life to be worth something to the world. Whether it be through my work, my service to others, or my knowledge, I want to leave a mark as those left for me.
I also feel inspired to learn more. I wish I could go back in time and read all the classics in high school again or learn about WWII again. Being here has made me appreciate history and its importance in our lives. As great as Netflix is (special in my downtime in London!), I am yearning for more. I just bought the Diary of Anne Frank to read again after visiting her house. I bought the Harry Potter books again in hopes to finish the series this time. I bought Oliver Twist to see London’s representation in literature. I want to subscribe to TIME magazine or a newspaper or something when I get home in order to keep up with the world. This desire for reading and learning has come from this experience and I hope I am caught on this learning binge for the rest of my life!
However, even with all these positive feelings I have realized where my heart truly is…home. Everyone always jokes about “The Brea Bubble” or the “Orange County Bubble” and how once people live/grow up in Brea, they never leave. There are many families where the parent and kids went to the same high school or went to high schools in the same leagues (like my family for example!). However, living in London, and traveling Europe has proven to me that I really do love SoCal and it is a great place to live and raise a family. I miss many things from home beyond my family and friends. I miss California Rolls. I miss lounging on a couch. I miss beach bike rides. I miss breakfast burritos. I miss having a gym (what? I know!). I miss google maps and 3G networks. I miss movie theaters. I miss Sprinkles cupcakes. I miss Chic-Fil-A. I miss having jobs and responsibilities.