6 Years in the Making
I have always known I wanted to study abroad when I went to France and Italy when I was in year 9. From the moment I landed in Paris, to the moment my plane took off in Rome to go home, I was completely blown away by all of the people, culture, cobblestone streets, and especially the food.
When my parents finally gave me the “okay” to study abroad my second year of college, I immediately went online and figuring out which University/country I wanted to study in. I knew I wanted to study in an English-speaking country (my two years of high school Spanish has already left my memory), so my choices were pretty much Great Britain, Canada, and Australia. Canada was too close to home for me, and Australia was too secluded from everything else as I wanted to travel to many places while abroad. Within Great Britain, I chose England because it was the easiest accent to understand. I knew I wanted to either be in or near a big city, so that helped narrow it down as well. I chose the University of Reading because it was the closest University—offered in my program, at least— to London. (Other than London, but cost of living is outrageous.)
The Nerves Kick In
If you have studied abroad, you would understand that literally everyone asks the same questions before you leave the country. “Where?” “Is anyone you know going with you?” and my personal favorite, “Aren’t you soooo excited?!” Clearly. I am leaving the country for 5 months 45 minutes from one of the most incredible cities in the world. Of course I was excited,that is until a week or so before I left. I had to say goodbye to all of my friends from school, and let me tell you that is not easy. Those ~10 people I hugged before I left were a huge part of my life, and I honestly didn’t know what it was going to be away from them for so long.
Time to Take Off
My flight left on New Year’s Day. I knew travelling 4,500 miles across the world alone was going to be a big feat, but I was ready to take on the challenge. 16 hours after leaving Kansas City, I landed at Heathrow Airport in London. I was exhausted, but the adrenaline from being so excited took over me. I figured out how to get to University of Reading (UoR from now on) by bus, then took an Uber from the bus station to my flat. I landed on a Tuesday, orientation was Thursday, and classes started the following Monday, so I had plenty of time to settle in, unpack, and get some groceries as I had a non-catered accommodation.
Finally Meeting People
It took me until orientation to meet anyone, since regular UoR students would not be showing up until the day or two before classes started. At orientation, everyone introduced themselves by saying their name, what they were studying, and where they are from. Something that really took me by surprise was that although I intended to study abroad to meet people from all over, I almost instantly flocked to the other Americans. By the end of orientation, we had our own little posse of 6: 5 Americans, 1 Australian. Little did I know I will be travelling to many, many places with my new friends in Reading. So far, we have gone to many places in the UK for weekend trips: Warwick, Windsor, London (twice), Cardiff, and Bristol, and I cannot wait to go to even more places with them.