“Come on, Taylor, you’re going to miss the train! Hurry, hurry, hurry!” yells my roommate, Maggie, from the opposite side of the local train station. Caramel macchiato and boarding ticket in hand, I take off running full sprint down the station’s platform. I imagine myself looking like a flash of wool coat, plaid scarf, and blonde hair as I barely reach the train’s closing doors. Squeezing myself into a small space on the car, I inhale a deep breath and lean against a standing pole. The train begins to move moments later and I laugh at my close call. Several commuters look at me curiously, then look away. I know many of them caught a glimpse of me a few moments ago – out of breath, out of time, but still smiling.
That experience marked the two week milestone of my 109 day adventure in London. On that day I was on my way to a town called Windsor, located quite a distance from central London. On a whim my roommate and I (along with a couple of newfound friends) decided to hop on a train and find what is claimed to be “the oldest teahouse in the UK.” It was meant to be an adventure, a sort of stepping out of our comfort zones. It was a huge step for me as I:
A) never do much on a whim,
B) have never used anything but the Tube in the UK, and
C) had no idea where we were going.
And yet, I joined in on the adventure. Maybe it was because I had nothing else to do, or perhaps it was because I was actually beginning to blossom into someone I had never been before.
I’ve heard many rumors about the changes people experience when studying abroad:
– “You’ll come back an entirely different person.”
– “It’s like you grow up because you have to and because you want to.”
– “Seeing the world inspires you to become someone you usually are not.”
I can testify to these claims more in depth upon my return from England, but right now I can fully say that I am certainly changing in several ways. Not by choice, but by experience. For example, I’m becoming more culturally aware by interacting with London’s diverse community. At the same time, my communication skills are improving drastically as I learn how to engage in conversations with people from all walks of life. I’m also becoming more independent every day as I explore London and learn how to commute solo using buses, subways, and train stations. While doing that, I’m slowly learning how to expand my mind to new things too.
Traveling alone from a small town to a country with a census of 8 million people isn’t the easiest decision I’ve made. I’ve had to go out on a limb and try new things and pretend to not be scared – because that’s how you learn. I didn’t originally sign up to study abroad to learn about myself. I thought I knew who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. The truth is that I am only nineteen years old, and I have a lot of learning to do before I can ever claim to know who I am. I’m glad I’ve learned that now.
As for the “oldest tea house in the UK?” It was evicted, unfortunately. I guess another thing I’ve learned is that a little research never hurts–