Patriot Perspective: Abroad

Taylor Gray, Contributing Writer

Summing up the experience of studying abroad is extraordinarily difficult; I have experienced many emotions, experiences and lessons.  Four years ago, when I received a scholarship that required me to study abroad, I was overjoyed.  I couldn’t wait to live in a different country and experience all it had to offer. Since that country was England, where they speak the same language, I did not feel nervous.  As time drew closer, however, reality began to set in.  I would very soon have to leave everything I knew: my family, friends, home and even familiar food.    I was leaving every comfort of home behind and starting from square one. Leaving everything behind was the hardest thing I have ever done. From that point on, I had only myself to rely on.

I can honestly say I have never truly lived on my own. Although I had an on-campus apartment, it was close enough to home that I could drive home for a good meal and visit.  If there is one thing I’ve learned, it is that living on your own is no joke.  Walking into an empty apartment is intimidating.  We don’t always realize how much we take for granted. No one really thinks about having to buy different types of pans and utensils until attempting to cook rice in a saucepan.  After the initial shock of being in a different county, it slowly became easier to get into a routine.  I made friends, found places I enjoyed and began classes.

So far, I have experienced many cultures.  I am living with girls from Finland, Holland, France and Russia. I have also met individuals from Korea, Switzerland, Japan, Ecuador, Poland, and Slovakia.  It is amazing to be in an area with such diversity.  My new friends’ perspectives on the U.S. and being able to share my opinions is interesting.  In fact, if I had a dollar for every time I was asked about Donald Trump, I could afford to fly back to the U.S. free of charge.

The class structure is quite different from back at home.  I am currently studying fine arts at DeMontfort University, and I did not know what courses I was enrolled in until the Friday before classes began.  Coming from the U.S., this created anxiety and worry, but it was nothing out of the ordinary for my British peers.  The classes only meet once a week, and all assignments are extremely vague.  This is done to foster creativity and independent thinking, but coming from the very stringent teaching style of the U.S., it has proven very difficult for me to adapt to this method.  Since the classes span a year rather than a semester, there are fewer assignments given and deadlines are much longer than those given back home.

One thing I noticed since day one is the huge difference in lifestyle.  The food is completely different.  There are days when all I want is pack of chicken minis from Chick-fil-a.  It has, however, forced me to step out of my comfort zone and learn how not to eat with the palette of a 6-year-old.  I have learned how to cook for myself and eat things that are better for me.  Overall, this experience has improved my lifestyle, and I plan to continue this once I am back in the U.S.

This experience has completely changed my outlook on life and taught me invaluable lessons, and I am only halfway through.  I will be traveling to Holland, France and Italy and hopefully will be able to squeeze in few more day trips around the U.K.  This experience has shown me how strong I can be and that I do have the ability to live on my own.  Of course, I still have rough days from time to time. However, I have learned so much already.  This is a once in a lifetime experience and will teach you more than you could imagine.  I encourage anyone who has the ability to take advantage of this opportunity and take on the challenge of studying abroad.