To be honest, I am not coming back. Before all my haters start throwing a party or someone points out the fact I haven’t bought a plane ticket yet, making this a maybe-true statement, I will physically be coming back to Jewell. What I mean by this is that the Bri who left Jewell is not the same Bri who will be coming back. I hate to admit it, but the cliché “study abroad changed me” is sort of true.
Instead of this whole article being all about me and how traveling changed my life and made me a new person blah blah blah, I want to use my experiences to talk about a bigger message because no one wants to read about just me, and if they do, I have a blog for that. I want this to be about how I’ve learned that changing who you are can be a good thing, rather than something to fear.
Though these changes may not be noticeable to everyone, I have developed into a more independent person during my time both at the University of Oxford and while traveling abroad. The Oxford system works best for people who don’t need constant reminders of deadlines or guidance from professors. So by just being here I’ve become more intrinsically motivated.
I also had to become more self-reliant traveling, both alone and with others. Anytime you travel you have to be aware of your surroundings and be on top of your game to get to trains, planes and buses on time, or to remember where your hostel is located, especially if you don’t have a functioning phone. These things are even more crucial when by yourself.
I’m the kind of person who likes to talk about what I’m seeing in a museum or share what I am experiencing with someone else, so traveling alone seemed odd to me. I did not initially like the idea of being without someone to share these new places with, but in the end I learned so much about myself and had the chance to think hard about what I wanted out of the future. Who knew that I would decide on post-graduation plans while hiking the coast of Ireland?
Since I want you to walk away from reading this with something other than knowing that I am an independent person: what’s the moral of the story? Travel alone. I was very uncertain about it at first, but some of my favorite memories are from my solo trips. I grew a great deal as a person, and it wasn’t until after the fact that I realized how good of a thing it had been for me. Sometimes you don’t have to share every sunset or describe every scenic view to someone. I realized that it is just as possible to enjoy them by yourself and for yourself.
Oxford has taught me many things; I’ve learned more in one of my classes here than I could have imagined, but one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is not an academic one. That lesson is to live in the moment. Maybe it’s because my college is a 20-minute walk to anywhere or because life at Jewell kept me constantly busy with extracurricular activities, but I’m always rushing through everything I do. I often forget to stop and enjoy a moment as I’ve been afraid of missing out on something, so I’ve tried to do everything I could and rush through it all. During the past term in school and this past month traveling, I found myself stopping more to appreciate exactly where I was, either at Oxford, surrounded by fellow students all eager to learn or in a foreign country, surrounded by a new culture.
Aside from those of us who will attend graduate school, we are never going to be students with carefree lives again. We will have to graduate and become real adults with full time jobs and maybe even families to take care of. I know some of my fellow students are already doing this while attending school, but a lot of us are just students. This is our full time occupation. Years from now, we will wish we were where we are right now, being able to soak up all the knowledge the world has to offer. This may all sound a bit obvious, but I think we all need a reminder every once in a while when our motivation levels start to fall. The next time you get stressed about an essay or studying for an exam, remember that 20 years down the road, you will probably wish you were sitting in the PLC writing your third essay of the week or completing your seemingly endless problem sheet as you chug your nth cup of coffee.
The thought of changing while abroad scared me, but I’ve loved my time here and I know I’ve changed for the better. When I do come back, I will bring my newly independent self and the lessons I’ve learned here with me to be more appreciative of the moment, enjoying all the ups and downs that senior year has in store for me.