Well, it’s actually 102, but I’m rounding down. For the sake of a good title, I’ll take artistic license and just fudge the dates a bit. Here’s a little update on how plans and things are going in preparation to study at Chester in the fall.
I’ve “met” a few American students studying abroad there next semester and they all seem rather interesting. They’re into a lot of British fandom things like I am, so I am sure we’ll get along well and have things in common! Also found a couple fellow bloggers who are actual British students at Chester, and they seem great as well. Very friendly and happy to answer all my questions. It’s reassuring to know I’m going to a place where I’ll get along with the other students. Apparently, they’re aren’t too many international kids studying there in the fall, which was great news for me. Not that I don’t want to befriend Americans or students from other equally unique cultures, but my goal in studying in Chester is to intermingle myself with British students and fully experience what university life is like for them. Many of my friends from here study abroad and come back with great friends from across the country, and that is wonderful. I certainly made some wonderful friends when I studied in London summer 2012, but I also made sure to meet other Brits from the church I attended and from colleges down the road from us. It absolutely made my experience. A lot of kids in our program were there to take in the nightlife and decreased drinking age, which is certainly fine and they had a fabulous time. However, that kind of thing isn’t enough for me. You don’t experience a country by attending it’s nightclubs, bars, restaurants, or shops. Yes, that is certainly part of knowing the culture, and I did my fair share of the above last summer. (Especially shopping. It was ridiculous…)
But if you’re going to say “I’ve been to Edinburgh,” “I lived in England,” or “I traveled to Paris/Berlin/Prague/etc.” it’s in your interest to do things locals would do. Go for a run in their parks. Hike their trails. Hike their mountains and try to talk to the old Scottish local men with accents thick like melting gold who are somehow at the top and less out of breath than you are. Attend the local churches, even if it’s not your religion or faith. Visit their homes when they invite you- which they will, because they’re that kind of gracious and welcoming people, and they’ll be surprised by how polite and funny Americans are. Get lost in the deep recesses of pedestrian streets on your way to visit something and be caught up in stress until you ask for directions and realize you’re a mere skip around a left turn away. Ask to take pictures with all the gingers you see. Laugh when you realize they’re Dutch and don’t understand you at all. When you travel to another city, walk everywhere possible. Don’t lose out on even a second of the experience by taking a cab. That being said, take the Metro when you can’t possibly walk somewhere in time. Try not to be sick when you feel rotten and are packed on like literal sardines. Smile at people on the bus. Talk to them. Give up your seat to a mother with two children. Smile when she says, “Cheers!” as a thank-you. Wonder at the marvels of their grocery stores. Freak out when they seal your purse with a zip-tie in a plastic bag at the Barcelona supermarket. Oggle at the open air markets with stalls selling fish that were only just thrown out of the sea and still wiggling their eyeballs in a frenzy. Order a huge serving of chicken curry from an Indian street food vendor and enjoy the scintillating sun warming you as the spices do simultaneously as you walk around Camden market, eyeing all the fabrics, metals, and people clinking and weaving throughout the pathways. Ask locals for their advice on where to go, what to see, who to ask for. Bring the color-coded guidebook you’ve read and dog-eared and underlined and poured over. Don’t use it once.
That is my Europe, so far. I feel reassured that I am doing the right thing and pursuing an experience that will alter my life forever. Who I meet and where I go is yet unknown, but it will be great. In all seriousness, even if I just get to know myself on a new level and gain skills to make me a better truth-teller/writer/journalist/traveler/Earthling, that will be a successful experience. Hopefully, a few good friends and a career path will present themselves, but all in time. And I couldn’t be more excited that the time is quickly approaching!
More posts in the future about packing, plans, and classes.