25,969 minutes left until I go home. which sounds like a lot until you also take into effect that I’ve been in London for 134,232 minutes. Also a lot of minutes.
I was speaking with my program coordinator the other day and we were talking about the age old problem of flatmates not washing dishes and I made some remark about how it didn’t really bother me, because we’re only here for 43 more days and I feel like we can just deal with it at this point. And she laughed and said “Oh you’re counting?”, and I blushed and was flustered and said that maybe I was.
To be honest, I’ve been counting since I got here. And I kept expecting to hit that rhythm and get swept up in the momentum and for time to fly by until suddenly I find myself in December and distraught that my time abroad already has come to a close. Which happened in part, I have hit a rhythm, and time has increased it’s pace since that first inexorably slow week before classes started. But I haven’t stopped counting. And I am relatively certain by this point that my feelings on the evening of December 13th will be almost entirely relief and joy to be going home again, with none of the sadness I expected to feel at this semester being over.
And at times I feel a bit guilty for that, to be so anxious to leave. In the months leading up to my departure, I heard from so many people what an incredible experience and opportunity study abroad is. That it was the best part of their college experience, that everyone should do it, that it was life changing. So to be feeling like I am means that surely I’m doing something wrong, am I not?
Well I don’t think that’s quite a fair statement to make. I am glad that I chose to spend this semester abroad, I think I am learning valuable things, and I don’t regret my decision. But it’s not going to be the best year of my college experience, it’s something that I could have chosen not to do and still had a good and fulfilling life and education.
And I think it’s a pressure that we don’t realize we assign to programs like these. Because the pressure sounds so much like encouragement when we look at them close up and individually. You want to encourage someone that they’re making the right choice in doing this big and scary thing but somehow that gets warped into it being the only choice that they should make.
The truth is, a semester abroad is just a semester. And there are good parts and bad parts to it as there always are. But it’s only a piece of your time in college and it’s an even smaller piece of your life.
And what I’ve been learning for the past two months is that obligation has no place when you’re traveling. The moment you begin to feel that you should be enjoying something or you should be walking around museums until your feet fall off or you should be constantly stimulated and amazed by the city you’re in is the moment study abroad fails its purpose: to learn to live and thrive in a place where your roots and structures are gone.
I am learning to live and thrive in such a place. I love my professors, I love my roommate, I’m comfortable navigating the city, I’ve traveled by myself and with other people, I’m learning in small ways what it means to be in the cultural minority and what it means to adjust to a new way of thinking and living.
I wasn’t sure who I would be at the end of this semester, and I’m still not sure, but I’m less frightened of her than I was.