Many people’s answers to the question “Why do you want to study abroad?” involve some version of learning about different cultures, societies or ways of life.
I specifically remember the Study Abroad office telling me not to use the phrase “broaden horizons” in any scholarship essay applications. (Personally, I still stand by this saying, simply because it’s so difficult to put into any other words without writing a novel of why traveling and studying/working/interning abroad is so beneficial).
However, as I boarded my flight to Leeds, England, for a semester exchange, I was subconsciously thinking that I would learn so much about the culture and lives of British people that I never stopped to think about other possibilities. I laugh when people ask me what it is like to live among British people, because I truly don’t know.
I spent a semester in England and enjoyed learning quirky phrases like “hiya, yoll righ?”, deciphering the coins, eating fish and chips on Fridays, discovering Pimms, conquering train travel and much more.
What I didn’t anticipate was becoming friends with a giant group of Australians, also on exchange, with whom I would spend most of my time. Of course there were other representatives in my friend group – Canadians, Americans, Brits, Japanese and one wonderful Kiwi – but I couldn’t shake the irony that I came all the way to study in England just to learn an equal amount about the famous “land down under.” Even more interesting was the shared culture between Australia and England that I was previously clueless about. I found myself sometimes playing catch-up on terminology.
Other things, however, were very strictly Australian. Never in my life did I imagine that there was something called a “shoe-y” existing out there in the big wide world. If you don’t know what that is, you may in fact be much better not knowing. I certainly was.
What the heck is a “chocky bicky?” Why do my friends get so excited seeing squirrels on campus? How did I pick up words like “keen” and start shortening words that aren’t even that long? Why have my meals been reduced to “brekkie” and “dins?”
It is a crazy world out there, I tell you. You never know who you will meet along the way or who will make a lasting impression on not only your study abroad experience, but your life in general. You cannot fathom the things you will learn, the things you’ll pick up or the trivial, obvious-to-you things you’ll have to explain.
I not only have an amazing shared experience with people from around the globe and have lived and learned in a country I had never been to before, but I also now have an excuse to visit Australia! (As if I ever needed an excuse to plan more travels and explorations).
I loved living in England. I loved chips with cheese and gravy. I loved a good late night/early morning unnecessary shawarma. I loved staying with a British friend’s lovely family for a while, eating toad in a hole and scones with clotted cream. I love English Breakfast tea with a splash of milk. And wow, do I love Primark…
But studying abroad goes even beyond the location you are in, it is every person you meet. It is the friends that make your experience even more fulfilling, even more adventuresome, even more of a learning curve.
Thank you to everyone for all the memories in Europe and at the University of Leeds – you know who you are. From every dining hall dinner to every library study session, every late night out to every cup of tea and a good movie: Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thanks for traveling and learning with me, thank you for teaching me. See you soon, and on to the next adventure that awaits us all.
I still hate Vegemite, though.