I was given a lot of advice before I went abroad. “Be safe.” “Manage your finances.” “If you see gum on the street, leave it there. It isn't free candy.” That last one may or may not be a quote from Elf… The point is, you can be given advice from everyone you know, but there are still things you will just have to figure out once you get there. Here are a few things I learned while abroad that no one warned me about.
1) You’ll get reminded of home by the strangest things.
I haven’t really been homesick since I arrived in London. Keeping busy with school and other adventures (mostly the adventures if we’re being honest) has kept me pretty occupied. Often, when I am reminded of home, it’s not in the places I expect. The other day I was walking down the street and saw a sign that I’m pretty sure used the same font as Culver’s. My mind immediately recognized it and assumed delicious chicken tenders were awaiting me around the corner. It took longer than it probably should’ve for me to realize the impossibility of that. You can imagine my disappointment when I realized just how far away those tenders were. It’s not the fact that there are so many new things around me, but the realization that the familiar is nowhere near that has made me realize just how far away from home I really am.
There was a Packers sweatshirt in the same thrift shop as all of these kilts. Go Pack!
2) You’ll make global friends like it’s no big deal, but it kind of is.
The other day I was in Edinburgh, Scotland looking for the coffee shop that J.K Rowling had written Harry Potter in. On my way, of group of people from Australia stopped me and asked me if I knew where that very coffee shop was. When we arrived, we sat at a shared table with someone from China and someone from Boston. We talked about Harry Potter and life in general, but it didn’t hit me until that night what I had done. I had sat at a table with people from literally all over the world and talked about a book about wizards. These people didn’t care that a political debate was going on in America or even know who this season’s Bachelor is, but we still managed to have a great conversation. This made me realize that even though we were from a variety of countries and had our cultural differences, these differences didn’t separate us. When you travel and meet new people, it is much easier to find common ground than it is to see differences, and that’s really cool.
The coffee shop where Harry Potter was written!
3) This place will start to feel like home before you realize it.
As I mentioned, I went on my first trip last weekend to Scotland. It was amazing and I loved every second of it. Every once in a while I would see an ad for travelling to London or a cultural reference to London on TV and in my head I would go, “Look it’s my home!” Which is crazy. I’ve lived in London for less than four weeks, but it does have a sense of familiarity to it already. After trying to figure out maps and public transportation in a new city all weekend, it was great to get on a good ole red double decker and get off on a stop that I could walk home from without even considering looking at a map. In Scotland, when people asked me where I was from I’d say, “Wisconsin, but I’m living in London.” If people knew what Wisconsin was I’d say, “I’m from Appleton, but I go to Madison.” I’m realizing how lucky I am to have so many different layers of places that I can call home. It’s always hard to say goodbye when I leave one, but so cool that my next destination could be the next one added to that list of places I can call home.
Home Sweet Home