Now that I’m home from my year abroad, surrounded by the streets and friends and city I love, part of my heart knows I just left another home. One I didn’t know I was going to make in just a year. People ask how my exchange went and how can you describe the feeling? I’m glad to be back — I was ready to come back — but still, a part of me wishes that Bristol was where my life was.
It’s very bittersweet.
I had the best hot chocolate of my life in Prague. I met some of the highest respected professors in my field of study. I learned about Danish chair design and München beer halls. I visited ancient churches and Michelangelo’s. I ate cheese and wine on the banks of the Seine and climbed volcanoes in Scotland. I saw buildings older than societies and more paintings than I think I’ve ever seen before. I met some of the most amazing people.
When I look back on my year abroad, it’s not the trips or sights that I miss the most. It’s the nights going out with my friends. It’s making dinner with my flat. It’s the days I spent in what became my city. I miss the evenings hanging out, just watching some show. I’ll miss going to the pub with everyone and just enjoying being there.
England may not have been an “exciting” choice for my year abroad, especially since I was outside London, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I was able to become as much as a local as anyone with a Canadian accent could. I was there for the fall out of the Brexit referendum. I was there for a critical election — I could have voted in it if I had wanted! I was there during Manchester and everything London’s went through this year. I was a part of the country as much as anyone around me and that’s what a year abroad should be about.
Would I recommend a year abroad? In most cases, yes. It’s not an easy decision. I lucked out on a number of things that made my exchange even remotely possible and when I was there my transition was rocky at best. But going on my year abroad has given me something I didn’t know I wanted. It gave me so much more than I expected.
While I’m trying hard not to be one of those “I went on exchange and it changed me” people, I think it has. I don’t have a new accent, but I have a new perspective. And I think that alone is worth it.