It has been one month since I arrived back home from Oxford! I catch myself missing my sweet little English spots nearly every day. Looking back on my adventures, I can now say with full assurance that my month abroad enriched my life in so many ways.
When I arrived in America, I was so excited to see my family, friends, and eat Chick-Fil-A again! After our long return flight (full of lots of turbulence and not much sleep), I was thrilled to see the customs officers–though they weren’t nearly as cheeky as the British officers had been! My parents were waiting for me at the airport; I was exhausted and jet-lagged, but overjoyed to see them. I wanted to tell them everything about my time in England, but I also could not wait to sleep. After the first few days back home, I was feeling well-rested and caught up with my family and friends. Pretty soon after I got home, I had to move back to Tuscaloosa to begin my last semester as a student at UA.
Throughout this time of assimilating back into my normal routine and American culture, I often thought back to specific moments in Oxford. I miss the quaint little streets that I walked every day on our excursions, I miss the coffee shops where I spent so much time laughing with friends and getting to know locals, and I miss the feeling of absolute joy that I was able to rediscover while abroad. It has become my goal to hold onto this joy and carry it with me throughout my time back at UA. I know that my study abroad experience has influenced my perspective even more than I realized it could. This experience broadened my world view and made me more empathetic to humanity. I was exposed to so many diverse groups of people while abroad. I’ve learned to look up and around more. I returned to the states with a new spark to learn and enjoy. This experience was challenging, fulfilling, and life-giving. I was encouraged in so many ways while I was in England, and I know that I carry myself differently as a result of this.
I think the hardest part about returning from my study abroad program (other than missing it so much) would be the realignment of my regular routine. I had been living in a “new normal” for the past month, and my British routine looked very different than my American routine. My favorite part about my “British normal” was that it wasn’t a normal routine. I did something different every day, and it was all brand new to me. The sense of urgency that we often carry with us in America does not exist in England, so I am still trying to strike a balance between the two mindsets I now know well. I was acclimating myself with the unfamiliar, and now I am re-acclimating myself with what was once familiar to me.
My one piece of advice for anyone planning to study abroad would be this: BE PRESENT. Your trip is what you make of it, and you will never have this same opportunity again. Your family and friends back home will be so excited to hear about your trip when you return, but they want you to enjoy your adventures to the fullest. Avoid distractions and live each moment with fresh eyes. Don’t spend too much time on your phone, but take so many fun pictures to document your awesome experiences. You will treasure these moments for the rest of your life.
I cannot believe that my time in Oxford came to an end so quickly, but I am endlessly grateful for the beautiful opportunities I had through this UA program. The faculty on this trip helped make it such a wonderful month, and the friends I made will always be a familiar face to remind me of this life-changing adventure. I know that this trip changed my perspective and challenged me in the greatest ways. One day I will return to Oxford, and I know that this will be one of the sweetest reunions I will ever have. Until then, I hold the memories close to my heart with gratitude and joy.