Thursday, September 19

One Year

One year ago today I set foot on English soil and my life changed forever. In a moment that I can recall so vividly I can almost feel the electricity pulse through my veins, my plane landed at Heathrow Airport in London and survival mode kicked in. After 48-hours of traveling full of delays and running frantically through airports, I had finally arrived at the place I had dreamed about my entire life; England- the land of Jane Austen, the Royal Family, high tea, beautiful hats, coat tails and gentlemanly behavior. Alright, so my idea of England might be stuck in an 19th century interpretation, heavily influenced by BBC productions of classic novels and Jane Austen period dramas, but still I had made it across the pond to a whole new country, an island of dreams, adventure and hope in my mind.
My arrival into England wasn’t exactly as expected. I was supposed to fly into Manchester. I ended up flying into Heathrow. I was supposed to be picked up by a bus. I had a real-life “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” experience that took me 6-hours. I was supposed to be with other foreign exchange students. I had God’s protection over me as by chance, I met another Keele bound traveler who kept me from getting straight back on the plane and heading home. However, in those pivotal first hours alone, abroad and exhausted I redefined myself, realized I was a much stronger woman than I ever thought, and that this wasn’t going to be the beginning and the end of my time abroad. 

Just in case traveling to England and to University wasn’t enough of a struggle, the first 24-hours weren’t much better. After three planes, two trains, one bus and a taxi I arrived to this small little English village where I would live in one of the blocks for the remainder of the year; completely alone with American-size luggage to haul up 3 flights of stairs with no lift. Managing to get to the third landing, I tried to get into my room and it was locked. Pulling out the key I was assigned I tried opening the door, and to my chagrin it wouldn’t open. Logically, what is a girl to do in this situation? Exhausted, warn out, emotionally fried, dirty and desperate I sank to the floor and cried for 10-minutes straight realizing what I had just gotten myself into. In my head I saw it play out like a movie, a joke really; dreams dashed away as quickly as they were realized. This couldn’t be happening; this wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. Then again, life doesn’t happen how you imagine it will sometimes and it’s in those moments that some of the most incredible moments in life happen.

Eventually I did get into my room (the door was horrendous the entire time there; it was rickety and old and barely locked). After three days alone in the flat, other people moved in and the place quickly became bustling with life, laughter and absolutely crazy nights filled with hours of lying on the landing watching movies, eating meals together and getting ready to go out compliments of our residential DJ. I did things I never would have had the courage to do in the States (why, I’m not sure). I tried new things. I experienced culture shock. I got myself into situations that looking back could’ve been a CSI episode. I made new lifelong friends. I tested the boundaries. I met someone, I was burned by someone. I learned what I truly believed. I let my walls down for the first time in years. I smiled and laughed like never before. I was me for the first time in a really long time.

It was one year ago today that I left home for the first time and tearfully said goodbye to my family at the airport. One year ago I wasn’t sure what I would experience while abroad but I knew I was ready to experience it all. One year ago I didn’t know how much of an impact one decision would make on my life. One year ago I wasn’t the same person I am today, and because of that I look back and smile at how far I’ve come and where I am headed.

They say that travel is rebellion in its purest form. We follow our heart, we free ourselves of labels, we lose control willingly, we trade a role for reality, we love the unfamiliar, we trust stranger, we own only what we can carry, we search for better questions, not answers, we truly graduate, and sometimes...sometimes we never come back.

One year Later