When eight months just isn't enough time
It goes by quick. Even after warnings from professors, family and friends, a semester abroad goes by really fucking quick… almost as quick as two semesters.
I remember feeling excited beyond description last semester when finals week came to a close. A few unmistakably boring classes were done with, Christmas lurked around the corner and the family was talking about my arrival like it was the second coming. Now, as I sit in the same situation five month later, it’s not anticipation that I’m filled with but sadness. I’m going to miss London.
I’m going to miss the palpable sense of happiness that comes from the rare cloudless day. I’m going to miss feeling confused when cashiers answer “that’s alright” when I say thank you -- I’m ordering a sandwich, not apologizing. I’m going to miss walking the Regent’s Canal on the weekends. Most of all, I’m going to miss experiencing it with my closest friends.
Living in a foreign city for eight months is privilege enough, but to experience those eight months with a group of like-minded, interesting, and easy-going friends is a rare opportunity. I wish I’d made more mental notes of the after-class drinks, late nights and even later mornings.
In hindsight, I think the real value from living abroad comes from figuring out how to adapt. Learning to live in a new city is a valuable skill; For one’s career, for one’s personal life, or even for future travel expeditions. Learning to live in London has signaled that I may want to work abroad long-term, likely in Europe. The work-life balance is simply better here for the career path that I hope to follow, and that is something I really value.
Learning how to adapt is also valuable because it makes each incremental city that much easier to adjust to. When I fly to Shanghai in August, packing won’t be the same overdone process, I won’t be arriving at the airport 3 hours before my flight and I certainly won’t feel the slightest anxiety about adapting. Of all things, I believe that the time difference could take the most getting used to. If NFL football was hard to watch being five hours ahead in the UK, then watching 12 hours ahead should be a real challenge. The normal 1pm ET game will be a 1am game in Shanghai -- 4pm, 4am and 8pm, 8am. Not the best situation but I will have to figure out a way to tape games.
This class has been a fantastic outlet for cataloging my study abroad experiences. Weekly blog entries are exactly what I wished I’d done last semester, but never seemed to find the time. A mandatory assignment each week was precisely what I needed to stay honest and really capture my experiences abroad. Art of Travel has led me to critically engage with my surroundings in a way that definitely enriched my time in London. I look forward to taking the course again in a few months when I arrive in Shanghai.