This past June, I left Lil' Rhody to go across the pond to London, England. I was going there for a six week study abroad program at the University of Westminster. [Shoutout to API, the fabulous program I used to study abroad. I definitely recommend it!!] I left for London, excited to be in a city I have always dreamed of visiting.
The process of me trying to go to London was stressful. I didn't have the money to pay for it. My parents most certainly didn't. Money may not buy happiness, but it surely helps. At one point, after I had gotten into the program and had turned in all of my paperwork, I thought for sure I wasn't going to go. It hurt to think that because my parents nor I had enough money, I wouldn't be able to do the one thing I wanted to do in college. Nevertheless, with great luck and timing, I was able to get a loan that paid for the majority of the program cost. It's going to suck paying that thing off (and I've already started) on top of the loans I already have out for my home university, but let me tell you......It was worth it.
I had the time of my life in London. I went out and did so many things, whether it was spending hours at the British Museum, marveling at the wondrous Westminster Abbey, crying at Leavesden Studios, eating Nando's (which is ADDICTIVE), or going to a music festival to see my favorite singer Ellie Goulding. I left with no regrets.
I also left London with a sense of belonging. I cannot stress enough how much I felt that I belonged there. I have never felt that way before in the twenty years I have been alive. Just typing this makes me emotional. When I told my mom this, I was sobbing. She asked me why I was crying, because obviously, this is something to be happy about. I was crying because I had found my home. I had found myself. That realization is something that made me very emotional. I know, in my heart, that London is my city. When I was there, I didn't feel homesick. Obviously, I missed my family and friends. But I was comfortable walking around on those streets. It felt like I had been there my whole life. The little things (and big things) that bothered anyone else in the program didn't faze me. Those were all just things that made me love the city even more.
A traveler, especially a study abroad student, always comes away a different person. He/she always learns something about themselves. As for me? I came back to Rhode Island with a dream of mine fulfilled. A check off the bucket list. I also came back a more self-aware, knowledgable and driven woman. I now know I can do things I want to without needing someone to do it with (like going to museums or ANYTHING touristy). I can walk the streets of London like a native (and even get peeved at tourists who walk too slow). I can properly travel on the tube, even during rush hour, on the Central line, which is like an overheated sauna. I can live on a budget. I know that I love traveling quadruple the amount I did before and have the desire to go to many places around the globe. Basically, I have the travel bug.
But the thing I came back knowing the most? Me. I already had an idea of who I was pre-departure. Friends can confirm that. But now, I can confidently say that I know who I am, 100%. Some people may not like all of me, but I do. I know who I am and where I belong. And not many twenty-year-olds can say that.
So now I am back in Rhode Island, beginning my junior year of college. It's crazy how time flies by. Heck, it's been over a month since I left London. As each day passes, I know that I am one day closer to going back. I don't know when that will be, but I know that that eventually, it will. Hopefully at that point, I will be staying there for the rest of my life.