A Few Tears
Between moving out of my apartment, adjusting to a temporary living arrangement, working every single day, and trying to spend as much time as I can with everyone, the past few weeks have been a bit overwhelming. Everything finally started to build up inside, and well I couldn’t help the breakdown last night.
Money is always an issue, but lately it feels like I can’t catch up. Spending time with friends and family has been really special making it hard to say goodbye. Especially building new relationships here makes me question where they have been the past three years. Also I met a special friend who made me realize that just maybe one day what I thought would never be possible for me might be a possibility. Through all of that, I had a moment of panic if choosing to return is worth it.
The Plan: Booked Flights
Molly, my dear friend and current roommate, decided several months ago that she was going to spend some time in Europe, and what better time to go than with me? Before we leave for England, we will drive to Molly’s home in Minnesota to spend a week. Our other friends Alyssa and Rachel will join us for a much needed girls trip. I absolutely can’t wait to explore and learn about Molly’s home.
Purposely we have been putting off purchasing tickets. Last night, Molly found $400 plane tickets out of Minneapolis to Manchester. We leave Monday, August 28th. Neither of us had plan to purchase them last night, and the rush from it was incredible. It’s finally happening. We’re going to England is all we could conclude. That moment taught us what it means in life to stop thinking, talking, and planning on what you are going to do. At some point, just do it already.
A Special Opportunity
It didn’t take long to fall asleep after pouring out all my emotions and the excitement of finally booking the flight to England. I woke up tired, but I perked up real fast to an email from Salford reading “Congratulations”. I have been chosen to be an international student ambassador for The University of Salford. With the title, I have also been awarded a scholarship. A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Also, I am so honored to represent The University of Salford. Ever since I have returned from England the first time, I literally haven’t stopped. Every opportunity I have been given to work, I have taken. I have skipped family vacation and cutting breaks short in order to work. I haven’t allowed myself to rest, so these were tears of relief this morning. It was assurance that I am headed in the right direction. It’s a reminder that God truly does give you the desires of your heart, and He will provide a way.
I have been diligently working towards returning to England, and the time is near where everything is starting to come together. Receiving this scholarship and position has given me the extra strength to keep working, and booking this flight was a wake up call that this is happening. I am on the right path, and I needed that moment of weakness in order to remind myself to relax. It’s all going to work out in the end. Lord, continue to lead the way.
“We travel because we need to, because distance and difference are the secret tonic to creativity. When we get home, home is still the same, but something in our minds has changed, and that changes everything.”
John Leher, Why We Travel
Dear Study Abroad Returnee,
I get it. It’s hard. You have just returned from the most epic journey of your life. How can anyone possibly understand what you have just experienced? As John Leher quotes, “…home is still the same, but something in our minds has changed, and that changes everything.” The routine of your old self is suffocating. The people around you brush off your adventure as if it was only a vacation, but little do they understand how much you have grown. How much you have seen. How much you have learned.
When you travel you realize how capable you are. That’s because when you travel you are forced to do things for yourself. You can’t be afraid to ask for help. What you claim to believe becomes challenged because you are out of your world and in the world where not everyone shares the same values. However, if they are what you truly believe in, they will come out stronger because it’s assurance of what you stand for. With that, you become sure of who you are. You start discovering things about yourself that you never have before, and become trying new things becomes easy. You become so accustomed to spontaneity, you start craving adventure. For once you become comfortable in your own skin because you no longer care what people think about you. You have to put away your pride and admit to not knowing, but be willing to learn. People then sense your curiosity and want to teach you. It’s hard returning because your back to the same routine, and your brain is no longer challenged.
You might feel lonely after returning, and you might think how in the world could anything top that experience? The anger and frustration becomes strong because you are in a battle between the new you and your old environment. You would give anything to have that moment back. However, you know it will never be the same again. That experience is over, so now what?
It’s okay you are feeling these feelings. “You’re mourning,” someone told me, “Mourning doesn’t just mean someone dear to you has died. It can be a place or an experience that you are missing that brought you joy.” And with that, I allowed myself to feel what I was feeling, and I didn’t feel guilty.
Reverse culture shock is real, and post study abroad depression is a thing. You feel alone because the journey that you embarked on is something only you experienced. When I returned, I didn’t even allow myself to rest. I went to straight to work so I didn’t have to think about it. I felt hopeless because I thought, “Wow I have experienced the highest point in my life. What else could possibly be better than that experience?” I would never have that time back, and that broke my heart. It came out in anger towards everyone around me. I was bitter for a good six months until I realized that my semester abroad was not it. I knew what I wanted even before returning home, and that was to return to England for third year. I wasn’t finished in England yet. There was a part that told me I had to make it happen.
It won’t last, the lonely. And see? Although your study abroad experience has ended, it will always be a part of you. It will forever teach you. It’s our challenge to find how we felt during our time abroad in everyday life. It’s difficult, but it will keep your mind growing and searching. Now, it’s time to finish what you’ve got to do in order to make what you want a reality. Therefore, finding your next adventure and working towards it. You know what you want even if the decision requires a huge risk. In the end if you truly want it, you’ll find a way to make it happen. Now be patient and diligent until it is time to go. Also, be patient with yourself. Love yourself during this lonely time because you need you. Feel the grief. Be sad and mourn, but just know you’ve got great things coming and adventures awaiting. You’ll be back with joy soon.
Shoutout to Laura for inspiring this post. See ya real soon roomie! Be happy always! Howdy!
“The wilderness must be explored!”
– Russell, Disney’s Up
I met someone once who really shaped who I am today. Before that person, the words “adventure” and “explore” were never part of my vocabulary. Now, I use them all the time, and I can’t say these words without getting the same goofy smile. So, I want to challenge everyone to be that person who inspires everyone to step out of their comfort zone, and encourages them to live life to the fullest. That doesn’t mean you have to go on some epic journey (by all means go). Instead, find joy and excitement in the little things of everyday and celebrate them. Become a person who’s personality is absolutely infectious when it comes to living, and makes everyone else want to go with you. This world is full of dull people, so don’t become one, too. Be the light that this world needs. Create your adventures. Live your dreams. Listen to other people’s dreams, and inspire them along their way. You never know how deeply you’ll impact their life.
I would like to dedicate this post to that person on my mind. You’ll probably never read this, but you have inspired my sense of adventure and wanderlust. Although you will never know how much you mean to me, you will always be someone I admire from afar. Your sense of adventure has impacted me in so many ways. I am taking your spirit and carrying it forward to inspire others like you did for me. For that I thank you. I wish you the absolute best. May you never loose your sense of childlike wonder. Here’s to you, Cheers!
It’s exciting selling everything you own. It’s an opportunity to wash away your old life and start fresh. I knew from the start that going back to England meant giving up my first little home here in Tennessee.
After my semester abroad, I was amazed how much I hadn’t missed the things I was accustomed to, and I realized a lot of what I had was completely unnecessary. In my first post, I mentioned that I was so angry returning from my four months in England. Everything around me reminded me of my old self. I was no longer that person, and I was terrified I would become my insecure self again. I was disgusted with how much I owned because I realized that none of it had actually benefited my old self. There were clothes that I hadn’t worn in years, and furniture, that I had accumulated, collected dust. They were only things, but they represented the fear of letting go. In a way, it was safety.
I had lived out of two suitcases and in a flat the size of a cracker jack box, but I had never been so happy. That’s because in England I wasn’t focused on what I had. Instead I was learning about the people around me, and their homes. I surrounded myself with the most incredible group of friends who only encouraged and inspired me to live life to the fullest. I was taking day trips to nearby cities soaking in architecture and taking advantage of free museums. I was constantly surrounded by beauty and life of the ones around me. What would I discover next? What would be the next destination? After returning, I was ready to sell everything and go.
A week from today, I have to be completely out of my apartment. My parents came to move everything out a couple of weeks ago. It didn’t hit until they left that night (when all that is left is two suitcases, a chair, a few lamps, and my mattress) that this is reality. The moment that I have been working so hard for is near, and this empty apartment is the first pinch on the arm that this is real. For the next two months, I will be living on a couch. In a way that is its own adventure.
I would be lying if I said there hasn’t been a tad bit of fear ever since. Coming back to an empty apartment leaves a hollow feel inside. It’s a reminder that nothing stays the same. I’m anxious because I can’t be comfortable settling in one routine because I will be going through a series of changes in this next year. There is no going back because I have made up my mind to do this.
However, I am learning that things aren’t supposed to stay the same, and you shouldn’t want them to. If they don’t, then how do you expect to grow? For some, staying the same is ideal, but for me, I refuse. I want to learn. I want to go. I want to live a life that is extraordinary. I want to be inspirational. But for all that to happen, I have to go through this moment. The unknown is scary, and I’m learning for myself the meaning of that phrase. Also, it’s a reminder embrace the waiting phase because it’s an important part of the journey. Although waiting is hard and I’m anxious to get to England, the anticipation is the fun part. I’ll never get the time back of wondering what’s to come, so I’m making the most of it.
I would like to say thank you to Alyssa and Molly for letting me crash on your couch for the next two months. You guys will never know how much it means to me. Love you guys!
Honestly, I don’t have to explain myself to anyone, but this isn’t for those who think this is a waste of time and money. This is for those who are genuinely interested in why I have chosen to move to England for a year. Also, I hope this is encouragement for those taking a risk to stop dreaming and live. I still have people who think I wasted my potential majoring in fashion the first time. “It’s not a real job,” they say. Okay, it’s a multibillion-dollar industry, and clothing is the second largest consumer good in the world. So, no real job here.
I completed my first degree at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) in May 2017. My degree is a BS in Textiles, Merchandising and Design with a concentration in Apparel Design and minor in Entrepreneurship. I spent my Spring 2016 semester in England at the University of Salford studying fashion, and it was the most amazing experience of my life.
At MTSU, I learned a thing or two and several important life lessons, but not what I needed for where I want to go. I feel confident on the business side, but I’m ready to finally be on the creative side. I want to be a technical designer, and work on the product development process. I have been invited back to finish third year at the University of Salford to finish a BA (Hons) in Fashion Design in a year. I will complete a collection, a trip to China for fabric sourcing, and an amazing portfolio. Also, I get to share this experience with the most amazing friends anyone could ask for. Having a BA (Hons) Fashion Design Degree will increase my chances to work for companies that I could only dream to work for, and I will be fully prepared for industry.
I know this journey won’t be easy. Going back to England isn’t like a vacation. I’m going back to sleepless nights in the library and strict constructive criticism. It’s also a huge investment. However, it is worth it. I’ve seen the design students who come out of the University of Salford. They are incredible in their work and confidence, and I want to be, too. I’ve been learning the life lesson of “no guarantees in life”, and being willing to take the risk is hard. Making the choice to be in debt for the next several years has increased my cognitive dissonance. How will I know if it will be right? Someone once told me that it’s impossible to know what’s right in making a decision, but what we can do is make the best choice in the moment. In that, you must accept your decision with confidence. Then be willing to deal with the consequences. If it ends up being the wrong choice, then don’t panic. Make the best choice in order to fix it. Even if a job doesn’t follow this experience, I pray it does, I know I will become stronger and wiser just like the first time. There is nothing in my life I have wanted more than this degree and to be back in Manchester. I fully believe this is the right choice.
There are no ways to fully express how much my experience in England changed me the first time. Every day it continues to impact my mindset and actions. The anger I felt returning after four months of the best months of my life was intense. I’ve never felt so much rage and hatred of where my life had been. For once in my life, I was okay with who I was. I not only liked myself, I loved myself. For the first time, I was able to laugh authentically. My face learned how to smile. Not forced, but genuine. Even from over 5,000 miles away, people at home could sense my happiness. Since then, I have continued the challenge to constantly search for my authentic self. I swore after that I was no longer going to waste my life being unhappy by choosing what was expected of me. All I had ever known was routine and structure. It’s just what happens growing up in an environment that harvests such narrow minded individuals. Even in the freedom of the Bible belt, you are forced to conform to a certain way of belief. Don’t question who God is. How dare you stretch your mind through entertaining different thoughts. Yet, you are expected to be brilliant and accomplished. However, is success really defined based on their definition of settling and living the comfortable life? Is it all in our head that we are the best we can be by choosing the easy career and building a family, or is our community filled with a bunch of brainless brainwashed wannabes. There has always something that has always kept me distant and distracted growing up in Tennessee. There has to be more to life than being stuck here never experiencing other ways of thinking and living. On a positive note, it has lead me to the search for true authenticity.
For the first time, I have never felt so sure about a decision. Sure there is fear, but it’s a healthy amount. Like the first time I went to England, God eliminated every excuse for me to go. It had been the life changing experience I had been praying for. I feel the same assurance the second time. This opportunity will allow me to grow in my career as well as myself. The choice to return is so much deeper than what it seems. This journey is for me, and I’m excited to see where it will take me next.