As you’re reading this, I’ve been back in Canada for a little over a week after a whirlwind 8 months in England. I’ve gotten used to driving on the right-hand side of the road, met up with friends and started a new job, all while slowly getting over jet lag!
It’s hard to believe that my English adventure has come to an end – I feel like I’ve been doing it forever while simultaneously feeling like I just started. I can honestly say it was one of the best experiences of my life, and if you ever have the chance to go on exchange or live in a different country do it! I saw a lot, did a lot and learned a lot both personally and academically.
If you’ve been keeping up with this little blog for a while, then you know all about the wonderful places I visited and the adventures I’ve had. 38 cities and places in 9 countries (I counted) over 8 months whilst going to class and handing in assignments is not too shabby, if I do say so myself! There are still a million places in Europe and the UK on my list, but I’m very happy that I’ve started to make a dent in it. The only problem is that all this travelling has done nothing for my wanderlust and I’m already itching to get back out there!
I’m extremely lucky to have been able to have travelled so much, and if you’ve ever wondered how I managed it, it’s a combination of looking for student deals and ‘budget’ tours, spending the summer before saving up, and only taking first-year level classes meaning I had a lot of free time! My classes weren’t particularly difficult or challenging, so that part of my exchange maybe didn’t live up to the point, but they were all interesting and it was cool to see the British university system in action. So academically-speaking I didn’t really grow, but as a person I think I was challenged in ways I never imagined and I kind of feel like I can do anything now.
Travelling on my own forced me to take chances and talk to people (so I could, you know, eat), and also made me be more organized and aware of myself and everything around me, which are obviously good qualities to have. I wasn’t totally alone, though, because most of the trips I took were with a tour company so there were always other travellers and guides around. I’ve grown to love tour groups because you get to see and experience a lot in a short amount of time, visit places you may not have considered visiting, and be under less stress because you don’t have to worry about organizing how you’re getting to wherever you’re going or where you’re sleeping. You don’t get a ton of free time and can’t stop when and wherever you want for photos, but for a first time in a new city or country I think this is the best way (for me at least). All of my travelling was full of nothing but good experiences, for which I’m very lucky and extremely grateful, and now I find myself in the wonderful predicament of having a ridiculous number of photos!
My exchange as a whole was nearly completely positive as well. I met great people from around the world (including family), learned some new things, and definitely grew as a person. I’m happy to report that in the 8 months of cooking for myself I have successfully mastered the art of making the perfect single portion of pasta in the microwave and taking advantage of every sale!
Now, to be perfectly honest, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. For whatever reason it never occurred to me that moving across the pond on my own for 8 months, to a country I had never been to, and where I didn’t know anybody would be anything but easy. I was not expecting to feel a crushing loneliness for the first couple of weeks and then an acceptance of that loneliness for the subsequent months. I guess I thought if I was crazy enough to do this in the first place, it wouldn’t matter what happened next! I don’t really know why, but I found making close friends really difficult, and a few that I did make left after a semester. Maybe it was because a lot of people came with their school friends, maybe I travelled too much, or maybe I’m too introverted and didn’t try hard enough or weird or had a funny accent, but whatever the reason I had lots of lovely acquaintances but next to no close friends to spend free afternoons with. I survived, obviously, by chatting with people in my classes and exploring and making the most out of my being in Europe, and in the end there are a few people I can see myself keeping in touch with!
So other than my little lonely hiccup, I had an absolutely amazing time in England and already want to go back! Oxford has become my second home and will always have a special place in my heart. I have nothing but amazing memories of my time away, and even if there’s a memory that’s less than amazing it’s still good because it’s shaped me and helped me to grow as a person. I think you need a smidge of insanity to do what I did, but I have absolutely no regrets so I’d call that an overwhelming success!
So now what? Well, I’m officially 3/4 of the way through my degree and if all goes to plan (and my university gets its act together and stops striking) I should graduate this time next year! Before then, I’ll have some pretty intense classes so gone will be the days of 1,000-word essays and one or two articles to read… But the classes I’m looking into seem interesting and this was my plan all along so I really can’t complain! In terms of ‘The Globetrotting Bibliophile’, I probably won’t have as regular a posting schedule as I did this year, but if I read a particularly amazing book or visit some particular incredible place I’ll be sure to blog about it. I definitely plan on continuing to post on Instagram, so if you want to keep up with me, that’ll be the place!
And I guess that’s about it! If you’ve been reading my rambles regularly, I hope they haven’t been too boring and that I’ve maybe instilled some wanderlust in you or piqued your interest in a new book to read. This whole blog thing was really a way for me to document my exchange but having other people read it has been a cool bonus, so thank you!
Here’s to an incredible adventure, and to many more!