It’s easy to get overwhelmed at the prospect (or reality!) of studying abroad. The more you talk to friends and family, and the more your friends and family talk to their friends and family, the more advice you’ll get. Example: “Oh, you have to go to…” or “you can’t miss a match in….” will all pile up. And while well meaning, all of that combined with your own interests and research can make it seem like all you’ll never have a spare moment in the UK.
The truth is, you will likely not be able to get to everything – And I, for one, think that’s fantastic.
As much history, culture, and art exists, and as many places as you want to visit, I want to gently remind you that you don’t have to. If you approach studying abroad like a checklist where if you don’t get a certain number of museums, historical sites, theatre performances and whatnot completed, you’ll fail! It’s important to remember that there is nothing you have to do in your time, except enjoy it and learn something.
If you wanted to visit every museum in London and read all of their plaques, it would likely take you the better part of a decade—even if that’s all you did. If you really, truly, deeply in your soul want to visit a zoo in each Wales, Scotland, and England—because the Chester zoo is on ‘The Secret Life of Zoos’ on Animal Planet and the Edinburgh Zoo has a penguin parade, then make THAT your goal. If it’s something that you’re passionate about.
If you want to get 3 stamps in your brand-new passport over spring break, make that your goal.
But you, I promise, absolutely cannot do it all, and that’s okay! I didn’t even make it to the prom (boardwalk) for a weekly stroll by the ocean in Aberystwyth, and I lived fifteen minutes from it. It was even a downhill walk to the beach!
And I have zero (0) regrets.
The people you meet will matter more than the places you go. When you come home, and talk about museums, or hikes, or dinners, or sports, or art…you’ll invariably talk about the people you experienced those things with. Just today I sent a joke to my flat group chat. I have nearly daily video chats with a dear friend from my course. One of my flat mates is teaching English abroad and I can’t wait to visit. We’ll likely just find the nearest greasy spoon and talk for hours, because that is what I miss.
Not the day trips. Not the stamps in my passport from Spring Break, although….Munich has great sausage!
I miss the nights when all of my friends would just end up in the same kitchen, shouting over the clatter of dinner and a forgotten TV show, trying to decide what movie we’d watch that night.
Remember that when you come home and talk about history, we’re writing it. Remember when you talk about British culture, that a Welsh accent is as much a part of that culture as any museum (more, some would argue). Remember that art is sidewalk chalk on campus just the same as it is anything else.
Find good people, then the pictures and funny captions will happen naturally. Don’t get caught up in trying to experience a place that you forget to live in that place.
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