So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

I finished my undergrad degree!

There are moments that I wish I had kept a diary for the past three years. It would have given me a more accurate record of my time as a student in England than my memories, which mostly seem to be based on long afternoons spent writing essays, broken up by absurd moments and conversations I’m not always sure actually happened.

However, the question I get most when I tell people I study abroad is not what it was like, but simply why I went.

It suffices to say I felt, and still do, that sometimes, taking a leap out into something completely unknown is the best way to get a grip on yourself, and hopefully find some direction. Beforehand, you never really know what is going to happen, despite all your expectations.

Living by yourself for the first time, especially in a different country, is pretty confrontational. My first night in Leicester I spent sobbing into a take-away curry. I wished my mom and dad would come back to take me home. My room was small, the other residents hadn’t arrived yet, and I was suddenly sure this was going to suck.

one of the first evenings, october 2010

one of the first evenings, october 2010

Long story short, it didn’t, and here’s what I got out of it (besides my degree and a great boyfriend):

The best things I’ve discovered have come, generally, when I’m not really looking for them, but from being open to other people, their interests and whims for random activities. I went to bars to see bands I had no particular interest in, attended a national football game, a Christmas world food market, bar crawls, Chinese supermarkets, a mock UN conference, and even a puppet show (in a misguided attempt to overcome my irrational fear of all things masked, perhaps?).

In particular, the flatmates I’ve had in shared university accommodation stand out, as  their personalities have turned out to be a luck-of-the-draw kind of thing. There was the Texan who showed us how to fill a watermelon with Vodka, a prissy French girl with ongoing boyfriend troubles, an anti-social Marxist with a limp, and one with no face or name but with a penchant for making off with other people’s possession, particularly my blue jeans.

I learned from the girl with the bird tattoos on her back that there is always a point in keeping at writing this blog, even when no one but my parents were reading it (thanks guys!), as a source of strength when you might feel alone or powerless. I met a boy who called himself a writer, and speedily found out he never wrote anything at all.  Chance encounters both, but I did take away something from these that I couldn’t have picked up from just going to my classes:

I learned that I love to write,  and that doing so daily makes my thinking clearer, helps me work through problems, keeps my eyes open when I’m going around my day, makes me listen closer to what people say,  and gives me a ream of ideas to draw from when I’m stuck.

It is never one decision that turns your life around but rather the habits we make our own, and the people we spend time with.

“We are what we repeatedly do.” (Aristotle)

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Goodbye, spring-time campus!

What good things have come your way this year?

[on another note, I will be away on holiday for about 10 days or so. I’ll be back with some stories, pictures and a post on how to keep a journal, so I’ll see you then!]

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3 thoughts on “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

  1. Liz Jordans says:

    Ellyn,
    It does seem like yesterday that I was going to your Beekvliet graduation party and now on Friday it will be Anne’s turn….. . Congratualtions on getting your Bachelors but more importantly for having enjoyed the wonderfully complex joy of living abroad! I look forward to following the next step on your journey.
    Hugs,
    Liz

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