"Oh, it will be such a great experience!"
"Oh, you'll have so much fun!"
"Oh, you'll have such a great time, and get to travel so much!"
I heard all of this, and more, as I prepared to head off to London to study abroad. Funny, no one really mentioned me learning anything, and most people did start off whatever they said with "Oh!". Though I will be the first to admit that my semester had less than I would have liked to offer me academically, I learned more life lessons in these past six months than I expected. By a long shot.
I didn't really experience the whole "no-one-can-possibly-understand-what-I'm-going-through" phase, or, the "intense-homesickness" phase that we were all warned about it that mandatory study abroad meeting last fall. I did have intense mexican food cravings by the end of the semester though, and honestly, at times, I missed that more than my family (I'm not heartless, but skype works much better connecting me to my family members across the ocean than it does with connecting me with Chuy's). Luckily, I lived in a predominantly Bengali neighbourhood, and only a couple of blocks away from curry mile, so I was able to be placated with some fantastic curry. Curry that I will never be able to replicate, and I am sure in a couple of months my curry cravings will rival the mexican food ones. My semester had a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle shifts mirroring my experience with mexican food and curry. And, as with everything in life, I even managed to learn some lessons.
Lesson one: Public transportation, when functional, is one of the most phenomenal things ever. Living in a climate where it is tolerable to be outside for more than 30 seconds is pretty great too.
Lesson two: London does not have good Mexican food. Full Stop.
Lesson three: London has incredible curry restaurants. If anyone can find me a reasonably priced curry restaurant in the states that can come close, they will have my everlasting gratitude.
Lesson four: Street signs that exist and are consistently placed in the same general area are helpful, and often necessary for navigation (I'm looking at a whole lot of European countries here).
Lesson five: Trainers are for tourists, and London is not easy on the feet.
I could go into the deep, meaningful, breakthrough moments I had while abroad, but every time I try to talk about those with someone, much less write them down, I sound ridiculous. Honestly, I learned a lot more about how little I know than anything else, and came away with more questions than answers. I think that's a good thing though. As soon as I decide that I have all, or even most of the answers, my world has obviously gotten too small. I do know that I need some more time "out there" to learn a little more about myself. Though I am still set on that PhD in psychology, I want to take a year off to live somewhere else. I want another year where the routine is often overwhelming, where I am far enough out of my comfort zone that I am not getting back in anytime soon, so I might as well just go with it.
I'm not qualified to get anywhere close to "settling down"yet. I don't know enough about how I function, and what works best for me. I don't know nearly enough about my likes and dislikes, or what is really important to me. This all seems absolutely ludicrous, as out of anyone, I should know myself best. Then again, that's not saying much.
Thanks for sticking it out with me internet. I will let you know when the next adventure comes along.