Thursday, January 8, 2015

My Study Abroad Experience + Study Abroad Video

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I have sat down to write this post so many times and come up empty. Not because I have nothing to say, but more so because I have too much to say. If you follow me on any form of social media {facebook, twitter, instagram}, you'll know that I've ranted and raved about everything from packing drama, to noisy boys on my hall, to meeting amazing people, and back to packing again. I don't want to overdo it and beat a dead horse, but because some of you may only read my blog and have never heard me talk about study abroad otherwise, and also because I'll want to look back on this post later and remember how I felt all over again, I'm just going to go through it all. If you feel like you've heard it all already, sorry! 
 I'm planning to do connected posts like "My Study Abroad Budget", "How I packed to Study Abroad", and "How I Traveled Around Europe" later, so for now this will be just about my time in Nottingham and how I found living in another country for four months. 
Because I had been preparing to leave for about a year, I really didn't think it'd be as big of an ordeal as it was. I'll preface this whole paragraph by saying that I have anxiety about two major things - affection and separation - and although separation is the less frightening of the two, it's still something I suffer with. Until about two weeks before leaving, I was fine. I didn't really think about the actual "letting go of my family and literally walking away onto a plane" part, but when I did, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I started having serious anxiety and even had to stop drinking Coke (it was that serious) because the caffeine was spiking my already high anxiety level through the roof. 
At the airport, I was fine until I had to go through security. I kept hugging my dad and crying and my family kept reminding me that I wasn't being forced to go, I had actually wanted to, and even though I knew that, I couldn't make myself go. It took a good ten minutes of walking a few feet, tearing up, walking a few more, hugging my parents, etc, etc, until I finally got through security. The fact that I seriously hate crying in public only made me more of an embarrassed/stressed/anxious mess.
In the end though, once I was on the plane and in the air I was fine. Amy met me at Heathrow and made everything all right and I really didn't feel homesick because I could talk to my family whenever I wanted. In summary, I made a much bigger deal of it than I probably could have, but I only say that now in hindsight. It's a scary thing going somewhere you've never been before when you literally know 1 person in the country and you don't have family to solve it all for you if something goes wrong. 
The minute I arrived Amy and I commenced the long journey of hauling my million and one bags onto the tube and then the few blocks to her flat and then the worst - up 3 flights of stairs. Never again will I pack that much - lesson learned. 

  When it comes to the whole living there part, people most often ask me one of two questions. Usually the guys ask "How was the food/weather?" and the girls ask "How were the boys?" I'll hit the boring points first and then the more interesting ones. For the boring bits, I lived on the University of Nottingham University Park Campus in a single study dorm room. That will only make sense to those of you currently looking at study abroad accommodation, but for those of you who aren't, it just means that I lived in the dorms on Nottingham's main campus and had my own room all to my self. England doesn't do roommates like American universities and I loved it. I lived in a catered hall which meant that I had a meal plan and ate all my meals in my Hall (Derby, in case you're wondering) and basically felt like I was at Hogwarts the entire time.
Food - 
 Hate to break it to you, but the rumors about the food in England are true. I come from the place voted best food in America for 2014 and it was a rough transition. Yes, there are tons less preservatives and sugar in their food, and yes, that should be a good thing because I actually came back skinnier than when I left, but no, I didn't like it at all. After about a month I was dying for some high fructose corn syrup and normal tasting Coke. There are, however, some things I really did like, like fish and chips, Yorkshire pudding, banoffee pudding, sticky toffee pudding, you see the trend? I think if I wasn't such a picky eater and actually ate foods other than pizza and hamburgers and chicken sandwiches, I'd have liked it much better, but c'est la vie. My favorite restaurants were Nandos (chicken) and Wagamamas (Japanese), no surprise there.
Friends - 
The number one question I get asked is "Did you meet a boy?" I'm not sure why - okay that's totally a lie, I know it's because I've raved about polo playing princes and British accents for as long as I can remember, but I'm going to overlook that - and my most common answer is "Yes, I met loads, and I fell in love with all of them." And for the most part, that's the truth. (soz to my grandmother who I think secretly hoped I'd come back married)
You know that part in Love Actually when Colin leaves to go to America because he keeps striking out with British girls and he thinks American girls will love him? That was basically me, minus the sluttyness. I freaked out over every accent and every word for a good month. My favorites being "cheers", "wanker", "muppet", "bloody hell", and the unexpected favorite, "mini cheddars."
In all seriousness, I met loads of really cool, really nice people right off the bat and kind of stuck with them for the whole term. I loved that they were all different, but yet they all worked together and there wasn't any pressure to be anything different than how I already was. I spent most of my days hanging out playing FIFA or watching the boys play Call of Duty while listening to Matt's wicked musical selections (more to come on that later), and just had an absolute blast. Did I skip lots of my classes? Yes. Did I stay up way too late talking to Tom and Erin about ridiculous things like cricket? Yes. And it was brilliant. I love all of them, and within our little group were so many kind, silly, hilarious personalities that I missed them the minute I left.

Coming home was a two part process. Firstly, I had to leave Nottingham to travel around for a week, and then I had to leave London to come home. Honestly, Nottingham was worse. Amy and I had been friends for over a year by the time I got to England and we talk all the time. We keep up with each other easily and I never feel like I have to make sure I talk to her every so often because I always want to. We like similar things and just "click" really well, so when I left London I wasn't worried, because I knew we'd still be just as good of friends when I got home. 
Nottingham was another story. Not only was I leaving the people I had basically spent every waking minute with for the past 3 and a half months, but I was also leaving something I had dreamed about doing for years, studying abroad in England, and both together was killer. 
I basically cried ridiculously all day long, stressed all over again about packing and how I was going to manage to get it all home, and every time someone left it felt like a little piece of my time in England slipping away. 
After packing all of my things in way more baggage than is allowed on any airline, I went upstairs to spend my last few hours in Nottingham with my friends, who of course were playing COD. I'd be fine for a while, then Erin would look at me or someone would mention how long I had left and there would go the tears. Just imagine me all red faced trying to quietly sniffle in the corner - it's really amusing. 
Finally, I coerced all the boys and Erin to come eat with me at Wagamama's and then drop me off at the train station. I knew I'd need moral support to get on the train + I wanted to spend every last minute possible with them + I need help with my bags. (;
By the time we made it to the train platform, there was a lump the size of Texas in my throat but I hugged them all twice, we sang a bit of Billy Joel, and then they loaded up all my stuff on the train. Because I always get everywhere early, we ended up having about 10 minutes before the train left where they made funny faces at me through the train window and I just laughed hysterically while the entire train carriage was about awkward. And then the train took off and my heart dropped because I knew it was all official and then I turned and saw them running along the platform and that mixed with my Billy Joel playlist made everything feel alright. 
After leaving Nottingham I spent a brief 4 hours in London with Amy before hopping into an Uber and flying to Prague on zero hours of sleep. From there I went to Vienna and then Venice and then back to London again. Amy and I did all sorts of things in London to wrap up the things I didn't get to see in September including a very claustrophobic trip to Harrods, a choral service at St. Paul's (where we got to sit in the choir stalls up near the altar #vip), and a Sunday mass at Westminster Abbey. On my last day we did nothing but stay in bed, scroll Tumblr, try to reorganize my stuff before just giving in and purchasing an extra checked bag, and going through all of my study abroad pictures while I filled Amy in on all my crushes, funny stories, and awkward moments in the past 4 months, all the while she sat there patiently and listened for the 100th time...she's a gem, that one. 
2 missed Heathrow expresses, one extremely heavy tube trip, and 2 overweight bags later, I was home. And even though I miss England like crazy, it's good to be back.
So without further adieu, here's a video summing up all most of the above. 
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