It’s been five years.
(Insert Titanic GIF here)
My sister wrote a blog post recently reflecting on her experience studying abroad and the time that has passed since. So it seemed fitting to look back on the girl (me) who got on a plane to Wales five years ago today. I promise I will keep the Last 5 Years musical references to a minimum.
I am not that girl anymore. Nor am I the girl who got off another plane to come home three months later. I don’t want to be the same person I was five years ago, and I don’t think she would want that for me either. That is the wonderful thing about growth. It should never end. Wales was just one of many catalysts that got me where I am today.
Looking back, I may not have gotten some of the things out of study abroad that I wish I had. BUT, I know I got exactly what I needed. Comparing my experience to anyone else’s sort of defeats the purpose of the road to self-discovery. Instead of focusing on what I could have done abroad, today is about focusing on the immeasurable things I did gain. Like the deepest friendship I have ever known (Caitie, that’s you). Or the conversations held over breakfast in hostels. And french flatmates who egg your enemies from a third-floor window. The memories and lessons I learned in my three short months will never leave me. And I constantly yearn for the day when I can return to the places I learned them.
So where does this leave me? I know I am not the girl abroad. I am more. There are more ways to learn about yourself and challenges to face without even leaving the state, let alone the country. Five years have seen me:
- Graduate with honors (debt-free!)
- Struggle to find a big girl job, take a part-time retail job in the meantime, only to find a big girl job and hate it
- Be in a toxic relationship, get engaged, and break it off
- Buy a car
- Fall in love with the perfect man (Eric, that’s you)
- Get a new job I adore and realize I never want to leave higher education
- Lose 40 lbs
- Learn to pole dance
- Run four 5k races
- Get accepted to a master’s program I cannot wait to start
When I first started going to Defy Gravity for pole dance classes, I mentioned to Eric and Caitie how much I regretted not taking them in Wales when I had the chance. Caitie congratulated me on living my best Welsh life. From time to time, Eric would ask me if I was still living my best Welsh life. I would always grin and say yes. But now I know I am living my best post-Welsh life. I may not be exploring new countries, but instead, I am exploring new opportunities. I am taking what I learned and the strength I gained and finding new small ways to use it every day. The 20-year-old who got on the plane five years ago knew she was about to see the world. Little did she know that seeing the world would become much more than a 3-month endeavor. It would be life long.
In keeping with tradition, Life Lessons:
Don’t drive through the part of the parking lot where the construction materials are kept. Spoiler alert, you’ll end up with a screw in your tire.
When the Jonas Brothers go on a reunion tour, don’t kid yourself into thinking you have principles. Spend the money on the tickets.