Flashback to this day exactly one month ago. To me, nervously checking and rechecking that I had all the necessary paperwork as I waited to pass through customs. To me wrestling two suitcases half my height off the luggage carousel at Heathrow, and playing a sick game of Tetris trying to fit them and carry on onto a luggage cart. To resisting every touristy urge to freak out at the doors where they filmed the closing of Love, Actually. To the coach ride from the airport, desperately trying to see out the foggy windows to peak at my new home. To towing those huge suitcases through an actual downpour to find my house. To closing the door of my empty bedroom–devoid of bedding, towels, and just about every other basic necessity–and thinking “Now what?” To being nervous about going into the kitchen where my housemates were all hanging out and getting along well. To feeling more lonely than I’d ever felt in my life but vowing to figure it out.
Well, I did figure it out. I solved the basic necessities issue straight away (shout out to ASDA and the only Uber driver in Canterbury). I’ve done more than just peeked at my new home. I did go into that kitchen, and I haven’t been lonely since.
One month into this adventure and I can’t believe how life is changed in such a short amount of time that’s also felt like a lifetime. I’ve walked castle grounds that Henry the 8th once walked. I’ve found out the hard way that the British idea of “beach” is vastly different than the American one. I’ve had a cheeky Nandos. I’ve met people from so many different countries and cultures. I’ve stood on top of the White Cliffs of Dover. I’ve planned a solo trip to Paris simply because I can. I’ve discovered the wonders of a pint of Strongbow Dark Fruit. And I have made friends that I hope to keep forever.
Do I miss home? Of course. Every day. It’s not every minute of every day. It may just be a moment here and there. It’s not a long, slow, aching in my heart for what I left behind. But it is every day. It’s moreso what I expected and what everyone told me would happen: the pros of what I’ve gained are so much greater than the loss of what I left behind. FaceTiming my friends and family obviously isn’t the same as being there with them, but it still allows me to feel like I’m a part of their lives. Time zones have definitely been a challenge, but I’m finally starting to figure out that few-hour sweet spot where it’s not too late for me and too early for all of them.
If I were to get on a plane and go home right now, the person who would show up in Chicago would not be the same person that left it a month ago. I’ve learned so much about who I am as an individual simply by having been handed a blank slate and having no choice but to figure it out for myself. Turns out I’m more resilient than I thought. The experiences and life lessons I’ve gained in one short month are so much more worthwhile than anything I would have been doing back home, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that. It sounds mad corny and I’ve said it a million times, but I think it’s well worth repeating: getting on that plane and coming here a month ago changed my life and is the best decision I have ever made.
And to think, there’s still 8 months to go.