Taco Bell, Hulu, warm weather, my dog, sinks with one faucet instead of two, Mexican food, having a working cell phone, my closet full of clothes, movie nights on Fridays with my best friend, Pandora Radio, knowing when to tip, being able to call home whenever I want, my collection of shoes and purses, hugging my mom, baggers at grocery stores, having a TV, cafeteria food whenever I want, my debt card, knowing how to address letters and dial phone numbers, my car, the sun being high in the sky, the California accent – or lack thereof.
Things That Have Changed
- I used to drink soda almost every day. But I’ve only had about three in the 2 ½ weeks I’ve been here.
- I now go to bed before midnight on most nights. My roommate of the past two years probably wouldn’t even believe me if I told her this. Unfortunately, I think this new habit will be short-lived. I have the feeling that I’ll be back to going to bed at 2am (on a good night) within a few weeks.
- I can no longer say that I’ve never been on an airplane. And I can’t say that I don’t drink. (I can still say that I’ve never been drunk, but I don’t know how long that will last).
I feel like these were things that have defined me in the past (to an extent), and although I am having a great time experiencing this new life, I feel like I’ve lost a part of my identity. In the past, when people asked me to describe myself I could say “I’m a caffeine addict, a night owl, I don’t drink, and I’ve never been on an airplane or travelled much of anywhere” (OK, so I never said that exact sentence, but they are all things that have come up). Now I wonder, who am I? One of my goals in studying abroad is to “find myself” – as cliché as that sounds. Is losing myself part of that process? Or am I just discovering that, at this time in my life, nothing is set in stone?
At a time when everything around me is changing, I can’t help but grasp onto those things which appear to be constant. I may be a million miles away from home, but I know where home is. And I may be a million miles away from who I was three weeks ago, but there are some things which haven’t changed – not yet anyway.
Things That Have Stayed The Same
- I still write every single night, without exception.
- I still hate being late and make it a point to try to be a few minutes early to all of my classes even though most of my teachers don’t even show up on time.
- I hate to cook even more than I thought I did. And my dislike of grocery stores has continued as well.
- I’m still shy. This is one thing that I desperately wished would change, I’ve been wishing that for as long as I can remember. But maybe what I need to realize is that there is a part of my temperament and my personality which is shy, and that’s OK. It is nice to know how I will react in a situation, and for the most part I wouldn’t want to react in any other way. So, I’m coming to accept my shyness as something that will never go away, but can adapt to whatever it needs to. I no longer feel like my shyness will keep me from doing things that I really want, and really need to do. After all, I did hop on a plane and fly to a country where I didn’t know a single person. And I’m doing just fine.
So I read a short story a few months ago in which a girl moves from the Midwest (or something like that) to LA and the only guy she ends up sleeping with is a guy with a southern accent and cowboy boots. I quite liked the irony of this story, but I totally thought: When I go to England I am not going to fall for any American guys.
Well, no shock here, I’ve got a crush on a guy from the Midwest. In my defence, I’m from California, so he is a bit exotic. Right?
Another thing that I always told myself I would not do: end up with a guy like my father. I love my dad, but I honestly don’t know how my mother can stand being married to him (harsh, I know). And we all know that total cliché of girls being attracted to men like their father’s. Unfortunately, it is more than a myth. On top of it all, bad boys really are more attractive. So here, I’ve got a crush on a guy who a) is from the Midwest (the same state as my dad), b) is an awful dancer and drinks way too much (like my dad), and c) has trouble written all over him (not literally of course, that would be a turn-off for sure).
The biggest reason why I should not like this guy: he clearly does not like me. Perhaps this draws me to certain guys more than anything. I like guys who will never like me, because it is safe. There is no risk because nothing will ever happen. This is a habit that I noticed in high school, but I either don’t want to or don’t know how to change it.
I like this guy, there is nothing I can do about that, but I think this time around I’m going to do things a bit differently. I am not going to Facebook stalk him. I am not going to daydream about getting drunk and making out with him. I am not going stare at him in class when he’s not looking. I am not going to listen to sad sappy songs and think about him. And I’m going to stop writing blogs about him. (I’m a bit creepy, aren’t I?)
I’m breaking about four of these rules right now, aren’t I? I have sad-sappy music playing in the background, I was just looking at his Facebook pictures, I’m blogging about him this very second, and I’m totally imagining myself going to the bar tomorrow and getting drunk and dancing awkwardly with him. That is so not going to happen…
- The roads are much narrower and the cars drive alarmingly fast.
- Marmite is absolutely disgusting.
- The people really are friendly. I’ve found that stereotype about the Brits being cold and not at all touchy to be completely false in my week and half here. Ok, so they don’t dance like Americans (that is, they don’t act like they are having sex on the dance floor), but I I’m beyond OK with that.
- Are the British hyper-paranoid about fires? Every door in our house has a sign that says “Fire Door – Keep Shut”, and I’ve seen this on doors at school, and in pubs.
- Like most American females, I’ve always thought that British accents are super-hot. But now that I’m here the only guys I’m attracted to are the American international students! Ugh! I come halfway across the world and I end up with a crush on a guy from the Midwest!
- Lots of bread and pasta. Oh, and potatoes too. And beans.
- I cannot cook. I should have figured this out last year when I made meatloaf so bad the dog wouldn’t even eat it. Yesterday I tried to make spaghetti with salad dressing. I actually miss the cafeteria food at my college. And Taco Bell.
- No Pandora Radio or Hulu! I guess the internet here has different rules.
- Holy Cow, it gets cold here!! I expected it to be really cold, and then it wasn’t so I let my guard down. Well, it got cold all right. You’d think that since I’m from the mountains, where it snows all winter, that I would be fine with the cold. But it’s a lot different when you don’t have a snow jacket. Besides, back home wedo not trot around in leggings and a light sweater when it is below freezing. And we definitely do not walk two miles in the middle of the night to go to a pub or grocery store.
- On the plus side, it doesn’t rain as much as expected. But I probably just jinxed it.
- I miss my car. I thought that the British walk everywhere because the cities are condensed, but they actually just walk everywhere because they are crazy. Just kidding. I know, walking is good for you and good for the planet. But it is tough to adjust to, especially since we don’t even have the option of driving.
- Thank God for Skype. I think I may have gone crazy by now if I couldn’t Skype with my parents every once in a while. The time difference is a pain – it is 1pm here but 5am back home – but we make it work.
- The most important thing about moving to a new place: Make friends and make them fast.
I’ve been in England for less than a week, but I’ve experienced more than I have in the past two years combined. The past few days have been a whirlwind and completely not what I expected. Of course, I had/have some unrealistic expectations for my five months studying abroad, but so far I’ve been having a good time.
I was actually really surprised at how normal everything felt at first. Besides going through the Border patrol thing and getting my baggage (which I’d never done before because I’d never so much as set foot into an airport), everything felt very strangely like home. I expected a jolt of something when I first set foot on this new and exciting continent, but I felt nothing. With the exception of the masses of sheep, even the landscape looked eerily similar to central California where I go to college.
It took until the third day before things started to really feel new and exciting. Up until this point the experience felt a great deal like I was starting my freshman year in college all over again. When we toured the beautiful city of Chester, England (where I am studying), that it when I started to feel like I was living my dreams.
Right now, I’m just slightly under the influence of alcohol, which is quite new, and I’m reflecting on the all of the new experiences I’ve had since I left home.
- First time on an airplane. I’m 20 years old, so it’s about time! Honestly, I can’t believe how easy it was. I expected to be terrified, but it was way less frightening than being stuck in a car with my father driving. It was a bit alarming when the wings of the plane started shaking, but I guess that’s normal during turbulence. My second flight, which was seven hours long, was certainly not enjoyable as I was stuck in the middle seat. But it could have gone worse. And the border patrol (or whatever it’s called) was not nearly as scary as I expected.
- First time overseas/ in the eastern hemisphere/ Farthest I’ve even been from home by a longshot. I live in California, the farthest I’d ever traveled was to Nebraska, and that was when I was five. The only time I’ve ever left the country was on a cruise to Mexico, but it was the Baja California part, so that’s pretty close to the US anyway. I know this was ridiculous, but when we left the airport in Manchester I looked up at the sky and thought “that’s weird, it looks just like the sky back home”. I don’t feel like I’m halfway around the world (although I did on that first day when I was dead-tired at 3pm).
- First time not talking to my mom for more than four days. When I’m at college back home I talk to my mom on the phone every single day, usually a few time a day. But I haven’t been able to call of Skype since I arrived on Sunday. I’ve emailed at few times, but it’s not the same. That has been one of the hardest things about this experience, not being able to talk to my mom and tell her about everything that is going on. I feel like I’m having this great experience, but I have no one to talk to about it. Which does remind me, the number one hardest thing about studying abroad so far is being lonely. It happens to everyone who studies abroad, no matter what. So I’m trying not to feel like a loser for being a bit lonely at times. It’s just weird not being able to text my best friend and go to dinner with her. It’s like being a freshman all over again and having no one to go to the cafeteria with.
- First real conversation with a British person! I can’t really pin this one down, because in the past five days I’ve talked to several Brits. But the one that stands out was a lady from Liverpool, who stopped and talked to me and another American on the street for about ten minutes for pretty much no reason. In the states I would have thought she was crazy, but it was quite nice. I could barely understand a word she said (the Liverpool accent is unlike anything I’ve ever heard before), but it made me feel like I was in this really cool place.
- First time buying an alcoholic drink (legally). Tonight was the first time I’ve ever been in a pub, and it was the first time I’ve ever drank vodka. I was with two other American girls and we are all 20 years old, so we had no clue how to order at a bar, let alone one in England. So we all ended up with these fizzy green drinks, that apparently had two shots of vodka, and they were actually quite tasty. That’s all I drank, but I definitely think that is enough since it’s pretty much my first time drinking (with the expectation of a few glasses of champagne at a cousin’s wedding).
Although, this whole experience is really nothing like I expected, I’ve very happy with the way things are heading. I have 5½ months in England, and considering how much excitement I’ve had in my first five days, I’m thrilled to see what else awaits me in this great country.