Article: 4 Ways Living Abroad Changes You Forever

So I’m scrolling through Facebook (once I finally get my VPN to connect and stay connected) when I see my cousin’s friend (with whom I am friends on FB and who is currently in Spain studying abroad, I think) has liked an article on someone’s page called 4 Ways Living Abroad Changes You Forever.

So here is my take on Russell V. J. Ward’s 4 Ways Living Abroad Changes You Forever.


 

I think for me it started long before I made a choice to go abroad, let alone visit. By the time I started high school, we had lived in three states, four cities, and I had attended school in four different districts.

Phoenix, AZ – born; Charlotte, NC – 4 years; Greensboro, NC – 1 year; Kernersville, NC – 2 years; Jamestown, NY – 4 years

My thirst for traveling abroad started with the first Harry Potter book. Even though I knew Hogwarts wasn’t real and that I couldn’t catch a train from King’s Cross Station to the magical school, I still remember thinking “I want to go there.” London was really where I wanted to go, but I’d settle for anywhere in that area (even now, my geography skills are subpar).

When I went to university, that’s when I started making plans of how to study abroad. I had a plan from freshman orientation on how to get there. And so I went. In the summer of 2012, I went on a cruise with my gramma, aunt, and cousin (Turkey, Greece, Croatia, Italy) and I didn’t want to get off that ship. Except in the fall of 2012, I studied abroad in Ireland.

Kernersville, NC – 4 years; Wilmington, NC – 4(ish) years; Maynooth, Ireland – 1/4 year

Between moving home and back to school every winter and summer break (I lived on campus and wasn’t allowed to stay) and my study abroad experience, I moved sixteen times in the span of my four-year degree. Of course, by this point the wanderlust had settled in completely, so I was home for the summer after graduation before I moved to Colorado to live with my gramma. Then, of course, I moved to China, which is where I am now.

Kernersville, NC – 4 months; Lakewood, CO – 9 months; Langfang, Hebei, China – 12 months

My contract in China will end in May (but I might end up staying until June? I’m not sure) and I’ll return back to Kernersville, NC, which is obviously where my parents live. Ten years and they’re still in the same house, I’m impressed! Of course, I’ll be heading off to Dublin, Ireland in August/September so… Anyways. Here’s the four ways:


 

1. You’re not the same person you were.
Boy howdy. If that’s not the truth, then I don’t know what is. Even my trip to Ireland, which was only a few months, was life-changing to say the least. These twelve months in China, even more so. Ward talks about how you might not realize it immediately, but I think somewhere as vastly different in culture as China is to the US makes you realize it a lot sooner. Once you’re over that culture shock, you start to think back “Remember how hard this was when I first got here?” My personal huge oh my god moment involves a lot of “Remember how frightened I was when I first got here?” Now I can navigate my way around Beijing, I’ve gotten used to the way things work in China (even if some of the practices still annoy me), and I have the courage to travel from one end of this giant country to the other — on my own. (In fact, I’m heading to Shanghai in a week and a half.)
You learned about you.
Before I spent the summer here, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. As a driven 22 year old who always had a Plan, that terrified me more than moving across the world. I thought my problem was that I liked too many things and couldn’t pick between them, but it turned out to be my strength, in a way. After a summer on my own – 100% on my own – I finally figured it out. What I want to do, what I want to be, but most importantly, who I am.

(China 2014) New friends I met in China and I in Xi’an! (Thanks to Erin for the lovely picture)

2. You can never go back home.
I think part of this is also me growing up. I hear about things from my family well after they happen now, I’m not constantly up-to-date like I was when I was just living across the country. I can’t call my mom just to chat when I’m walking somewhere and I spent my first summer without my brother for the first time since he was born. When I first studied abroad and had a taste of what it was like to live not-there, I came back and tried to go back home. It didn’t work. People had gotten so used to my absence (a mere semester!) that they forgot to include me in things later. It hurt at first, I was so used to being in that place and being surrounded by people that it was hard for me to let go and do things on my own. Plus, I missed Ireland a lot and didn’t want to return in the first place.
At some point, you realize you couldn’t go back even if you wanted to.
Admittedly, I currently want to go go go and not stay stay stay, but these are the times I realize who I miss the most and who misses me the most. (Shout-out to Katie, my bff since high school, Gagey-poop, who I miss dearly, Marcus, for constantly asking me when I’ll be back in Ireland {SEPTEMBERISH}, and my family, cause well duh.) I don’t want to go back to what I was, to where I was before. I love the people I miss, but I’m ready to go go go!

3. Your world became a whole lot bigger.
Holy moly the world is huge. But at the same time, it’s really not. Since I’ve been here in China, I meet new people every time I go to Beijing. My world is a lot bigger, but the world itself seems a lot smaller. It’s a lot more manageable now. I used to think “Gosh, I don’t know if I’ll ever visit [insert place here], it’s so far.” Now, it’s not. I can go anywhere. “I always wanted to visit” has become “I’m gonna visit…”
And there’s no turning back.
I always wanted to go go go, but I was afraid. “What if” I asked myself a lot. Now I know, the only room I have for “What if”s is “What if I don’t?” I have never regretted a single thing I’ve done in my life (no, seriously) and the only thing I regret is not having done. I was afraid and living in the What if zone too much, but now I know. The world is huge and completely, utterly manageable. I am no longer content to be in one place for very long. I wasn’t before, but even less so now.
Let’s go.
Because it’s all good.

4. Anything is possible.
Let me repeat that:
Anything is possible.
This, I think, is the truest number on this list. When I graduated college, I was so afraid. I was afraid I’d end up “stuck”: stuck in a job, stuck in a place, stuck in myself. And I did get stuck for a bit. Now, though? Now I can do anything. I wanted to move (back) to Ireland. I wanted to go back to school. Now I know I can and I will.
You proved you can live abroad – and you survived.
And I’ll do it again. The US to China culture jump was terrible. There were days I didn’t want to leave my apartment because it was just so overwhelming. Eight months in and I still get those days. But eight months in and I know this is the hardest thing I’ll ever do. And even if it’s not, I’ll survive that just as I survived this. Anything is possible and anything is survivable and there will be times in the future when I will be afraid, but I will think of this time in my life and say to myself “Well, we did that. Let’s do this.”
You did it.
Almost. I have a few months left, but when I’m done, this will be the thing that gets me through everything. I’ll be going back to school and everyone says how hard that is, but I will think of the drive and determination that brought me here and kept me here and I will pull those up and say “Okay, well. We can do this. We can do anything.”

 

12/07/13: Reminiscence

I got to Ireland in September and left in December, it’s now July and I miss it more than I thought I ever would. If I had been paying attention, I would have known how much I would miss it, but I was too busy having the time of my life to pay attention to how much I would miss something. Currently trying to find a way to go back. But of course, that kind of stuff is really hard, especially since I have a bachelor’s degree with no job. I have heard the benefits of getting up and moving somewhere, no money, no job, but I don’t think I can do that. It would be awesome, but I may try and get into a university for Masters program instead. Hopefully it works out. I hope you’ll hear about another adventure soon, but I don’t know what that adventure will be.

17/12/12: The End of an Adventure

I’m leaving today. My room has been emptied and I’m waiting for my taxi. It’s going to be late.
I’ve been here for three months. I’m not ready to go yet. I came here because it was the easiest to get into, but now it’s hard to leave. I haven’t been thinking about leaving, I think I’ve been avoiding that. But here it is, staring me in the face like an empty room and full bags. I’ll miss it here, more than any place I never left. I’ll try to come back, but things like that are hard.
I guess, in the end, it’s not about which school is the easiest or hardest to get into, it’s about what you do when you get there. There’s no merit in where you go, only how you go.

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Fall 2012: Ireland - 0153

06/11/12: My last full day :(

Hostel 9:58
I’ve been lollygagging this morning, but I did manage to get up in time to have breakfast in the kitchen. Anyways, after I left the tube station, I walked over to a place called the Natural Kitchen for tea, a croissant, and a raspberry custard pie. Once done, I walked over to the Sherlock Holmes Museum.

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Of course, I had to walk to the gift shop to purchase a ticket, but what else is expected? I went through it, crowded by groups of people while trying to get my own pictures. Apparently, “all you have to do is push the button” isn’t a good enough instruction, since most people try to push the button only halfway. Regardless, I managed to get a shot of me in Sherlock Holmes’ chair.

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Once I left Baker Street, and made my way back towards the London Eye, but decided it was too cold to wait in line. Instead, I walked the suggested route in my guidebook before heading to Buckingham Palace. I snapped a few photos before walking through Hyde Park to get back to the hostel. Halfway through, I was ready to give it up and try to find a bus or something, but I was too far in to find a bus. I made it back and had some tea and Ritz crackers before I went out to see about tickets for Mamma Mia! Luck was in my favor because I got tickets in the front of the dress circle for 35£ instead of 65£.  it was an AWESOME show and I had a blast. Now it’s 10:15, I think my camera’s charged enough. Time to go!

Shaftesbury Theatre 19:17
I really didn’t do much today, there wasn’t much left that I absolutely wanted to see, so I got on the tube and went to the Natural Science Museum.

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I went through the part about the earth and the part about the dinosaurs, but there were a lot of kids groups so I didn’t spend much time. After all, natural history is pretty much the same in museums anywhere. After that, I walked to a café that had Wi-Fi and plans to charge my camera (apparently my spare battery is also dead…) and have some tea. I left the café and went back to the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is definitely my favorite. Hopefully, I’ll end up somewhat well-off living in/within two distance of London and I’ll be able to afford a membership. That would be awesome. After I left  V&A, I hopped tubes over to the National Gallery where I wandered around until I deemed it appropriate to walk over to the Shaftesbury Theatre. Unfortunately, portraits of dead Brits didn’t hold my attention long enough and I went to a café to use the toilet and Wi-Fi. I played checkers with my brother over iMessage until the appropriate time to go to the theater for real. I managed to get tickets to Rock of Ages, at Mama’s suggestion, for 25£ in pretty good seats. Show’s starting!

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20:40
I usually go to much more… Understated shows than this…

Wahaca 22:29
Dad’s going to be so jealous he finds out where I’ve been. I practically just lived the perfect Daddy-Daughter Date tonight. Rock of Ages followed by Mexican food? I’m living the dream. 🙂

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Suggestion for dad (as I know he reads my blog):
When the summer nights have passed  and the fall parties have to move inside,  wait until the cold settles in and, at the perfect winter party, try some Mexican hot chocolate with a slash of spicy tequila.  I’ll try to make a recipe for you.


Interested in photos? You can see all of them from Fall 2012 and from London at my Flickr page!

05/11/12: And the show begins

Novello Theater 19:35
I think this is going to be the best part of my trip. But before I tell you what it is, I should go back to yesterday (was it only yesterday?!) and catch back up. I did leave the Hummingbird Bakery to go back down to Westminster. I got on the bus that took me past the theater, but the theater was closed. So I rode the bus a bit farther and caught the tube to Queensway (or whatever it is). Then, I went to a Starbucks, got some tea, and wrote before heading back to the hostel I sat in the lobby and chatted until I decided to go to bed. There weren’t many people staying in the usually full room, so none of them were in the room and I took the chance to re-organize my things. Hopefully, I’ll have the same chance tonight and tomorrow night so I can have my stuff ready to go on Wednesday. I can’t believe it’s almost time to go. I’m not ready to leave yet!

This morning, I got up a bit later than intended, but it’s not like that makes much difference, since it’s just me and I have no real plans anymore. I hopped on the tube and got off at Baker Street. Exit the station and came face-to-face with Sherlock Holmes, really, a Sherlock Holmes statue.

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Interested in photos? You can see all of them from Fall 2012 and from London at my Flickr page!

04/11/12: Oh, my poor feet

The British Museum 12:51
The only exhibition I have paid for in a museum is the one I’m currently sitting in. I haven’t been writing much since I’ve been here since I’ve mostly been walking for three straight days. NaNoWriMo has begun, but I haven’t been writing. I think I’ll pick up a small notebook to try writing in. Then I can write whenever I’m sitting. It’s not like I don’t have a million notebooks or anything. Whatever. Let’s see, back to recounting my trip. On the first day, I walked through Tate Modern and then went on the tour through Shakespeare’s Globe. After the Globe, I ate at some shoddy little café before heading back to my hostel for a nap. Once I woke, I went to Chinatown / West End and wandered around before going to Rocky Horror at the Prince Charles’ Theatre.

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That showing was missing the call-outs, shadow cast, and ACE Films, but at least it had men in drag and prop bags. It wasn’t the Rocky I love, but it was still Rocky Horror Picture Show. After that, I went back to the hostel and went to sleep.

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The host, a lovely Dr. Frankenfurter
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A costume contest!

The next day, I spent most of my time shopping around Regent’s Street and West End. I’m looking for the perfect coat and the perfect bag, though I haven’t found either yet. I had brunch in a Nordic Baker, I had a potato pie and a cinnamon roll; the potato pie had butter and egg on it. Both were delicious. I had dinner / lunch in a dinky little chain restaurant while waiting for my friend to come find me. Once he did, we walked around Regent’s Street some more as he tried (but failed) to get me lost. After all, I had been wandering around that area all day. We finally got tired of walking, so we stopped at a Starbucks and another friend came to meet us. Both guys had studied at UNCW, so it was nice seeing them again before we all three went our separate ways.

Yesterday, I started off by walking through Hyde Park and ended up outside the Victoria and Albert Museum.

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A glimpse of the London Eye from Hyde Park

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I walked around in there before walking (in the wrong direction) to get my lost Irish phone.

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Inside the V&A (my favorite of the museums I visited!)

I finally broke down and caught a bus to where my phone was and then decided to go over to the London Eye are.

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The London Eye at night

In my attempts to find the Eye’s entrance, I found Big Ben and a festival-thing. Unfortunately, the line to get on the London Eye was extremely long, but I caught sight of a Dalek on a poster and decided to go through the London Film Museum instead. Inside, they had props from Harry Potter, Batman’s suit, two Daleks, and a TARDIS, among other things.

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There was only 1 other person inside the museum and he took a blurry photo 🙁
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Harry Potter room!
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I took multiple pictures of Unfogging the Future and ALL of them were blurry!

After the museum, I walked back to the other side of the River Thames because I had seen the Sherlock Holmes Pub and I was going to eat there.

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Since it was too crowded, I got out my trusty tour book and tried to find a new place to eat. Unfortunately, the next place I tried was closed permanently, so I ended up in a place called Princi, where I got a slice of pizza and a delicious dessert that started with “C” and had strawberries on top. After eating, I wandered around a bit more before heading back to the hostel where I read a bit before going to sleep.

This morning, I got up at 10, later than I intended, and missed the free in-house breakfast. Instead, I went to a café called Milkbar where I got French Toast and English Tea. The French Toast was amazing and had a fried banana on top. It was so good, I ate every bite. After eating, I walked over to the British Museum, where I currently sit in the Shakespeare Exhibit.

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Fall 2012: London - 0094

I don’t know what else I’ll do today, I might try to go back to the London Eye one more time and maybe get tickets to see a musical (preferably Mamma Mia!).

The Hummingbird Bakery 16:15
I spent almost as much on tea as I have been spending on lunch and dinner, but it’s still been less than 10 pounds. I tried to go through every room in the British Museum (and I did, except those that were closed). I think now I’ll head down to the theatre where Mamma Mia! is and see about getting tickets. I’m worried it might be expensive, but I think it would be worth it. I don’t really know how to get there, so I think I’ll just take a bus to Westminster and then take the bus I was on last night to the theatre.


Interested in photos? You can see all of them from Fall 2012 and from London at my Flickr page!

01/11/12: HELLO LONDON!

Tate Modern 11:30
Modern art isn’t really my thing. I like to look at the people more than the art. Art is stagnant; every time you look at it, it is the same. People, especially strangers, can change in a glance. The first time you look, you see one thing: a couple holding hands. The second time, your perception has changed: she’s pulling him through the museum. I guess people and art are the same in that regard. When you look at the same painting a while later, you have changed and so has its meaning. I guess with people, you’re both changing, so it seems like a more drastic change. All the same, I still prefer to look at people. I can see that some of the others do, too. Particularly the children.

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Shakespeare’s Globe 12:45
When I was walking across the Millennium Bridge to get to Tate Modern, I could see the Globe in front of me, the London Bridge off to the side, and the London Eye off to the other. I couldn’t help but think to myself “I made it.” Now I’m at the Globe Theatre, a place I didn’t think I’d be at so soon after my course on Shakespeare. Only a few months! I thought it might take years to get to London and here I am! I made it!

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Fall 2012: London - 0019


Interested in photos? You can see all of them from Fall 2012 and from London at my Flickr page!

31/10-01/11/12: A Trip Summary

31/10/12 18:41: On the train to Dublin
As I was walking to the train station, I realized this is going to be the first time I travel by myself. No one is going to drop me off at the airport, no one is going to pick me up when I get there. I have to take a train to the bus to the plane to get there and I have to do it all on my own. So it makes a bit of sense that I’ve given myself about two hours between the bus and the plane in my “schedule”. After all, the bus might have troubles or I might get lost (always a possibility with me). Who knows, there might even be trouble at the airport. (I am now begging every god or deity that there are no troubles at the airport. I’ll even resort to old superstitions.) Quite possibly the dumbest part of my trip being the first I have to do 100% alone is that I have never flown out of the Dublin airport and I have never flown in or out of the London Luton airport. This probably would’ve been easier if I was going from Greensboro or Denver or something because I’ve flown out of them numerous times since I was young, I’m not afraid of those airports. The only time I’ve been in the Dublin airport, it was 6:55am and I was completely jet lagged.
Here’s to my luck holding out.

1/11/12 1:36: I think I lost my Irish phone. Shit.
I’m at the hostel. Where is my phone?


Interested in photos? You can see all of them from Fall 2012 and from London at my Flickr page!

20/10/12: Boyne Valley

11:27: Monasterboice
I can feel the stillness of this place, as if everything has come to rest. Everything except the birds. They caw and sqwak, ugly noises disrupting the peace. Even the cows on the other side of the wall seem peaceful. I don’t feel cold any more, I feel content. As if the peace of this place has warmed me. Or perhaps I have simply become accustomed to the cold as I have the stench of the cows. Regardless, there is solace in the quiet, peace in the air. A settling feeling.

1:13: Visitor’s Center
We have an hour to spend at a cheesy visitors center because they want us to spend our money. There’s a cheesy “film”, which is really just a narrator with pictures and a few crappy graphic animations. Other than that, there’s a gift shop and a restaurant.

1:45: Newgrange
Boarded another bus to get to the actual site. We were divvied up into two groups based on what color our sticker was so we could go through the small passage and into the equally small room. Once in the room, the lights were cut off to simulate the solstice when the sun would go through the center of the room. I had a small panic attack, but thankfully lulu let me hold onto her sweater and put her other hand over mine. I ended up with nail marks in my hand from digging into my palms. Once we left the tunnel again, we walked the circumference of the structure, which has been standing for 5,000 years.

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4:00: Tara
Just because you’re not superstitious doesn’t mean it’s not nice to wish.

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Interested in photos? You can see all of them from Fall 2012 and from Ireland at my Flickr page!

29/09/12: That Damned Mountain

I was intending to go into Dublin by myself on Saturday, but at 1:30am or so, I got a text from another international student inviting me to go to Glendalough with him and a few other internationals. I figured, why not? and decided to go.

We met at the train station at 9:30am, much earlier than I was planning on going into Dublin, so I was pretty groggy and tired (plus I’d only had one cup of tea before I left). Nansen (from Canada) and I walked together where we met up with Simon (from Germany), Sebastian (also from Germany), Marton (from Hungary), Mariola (Spain), and LuLu (Spain); we got on the train to go into Dublin so we could catch the bus that would take us to Glendalough. We managed to find where the bus left from about a half hour before it left, so we loitered outside the bus until we could get on it. Since I was the last person on the bus, I ended up being the one sitting behind everyone by myself, but LuLu and Mariola decided they would come sit by me (even though they both fell asleep on the trip up there). The bus ride itself was rather bad, the bus needed new shocks and the constant swaying back and forth made me a bit queasy. But we managed to make it up there without me dying.

Once there, the boys got out the maps as the girls went to the rest room (after all, girls always go together). They figured out where we were going to go and we set out. Due to my extreme lack of time-framing, I have no idea how long the entire walk took, but it took a really long time. I often had to half-run in order to keep up with everyone, although I did give up on trying a couple of times. Trying to walk with people that are between a half foot and a foot taller than you is sometimes rather difficult, although Mariola (who is only an inch or two taller than I am) managed to keep up just fine.

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LuLu and I were generally at the back, talking about Hobbits and how the guys were out to kill us with that hike. Once we got on the path that took us up the mountain, LuLu and I got even further behind, but we kept with each other. At least we had each other’s company. Once we got to the top, we sat down and rested for a bit on some nice, flat rocks that were by the stream-thing that ran down the mountain.

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After that, we continued to go up the mountain because apparently what we thought was the top wasn’t the top at all. So we kept climbing.

And then we got to what was the top again.

And that wasn’t either, so we kept climbing.

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Finally we went down about 600 steps to the bottom but still had to walk about 20 minutes to where we started, where we kept walking, but on a flat(ish) surface. We finally got back to where we started, but there was still enough time to go see the old monastery and the different headstones (most of which were really old). The monastery was cool, but headstones always make me think of how sad it is that no one leaves flowers on some of them anymore. That’s the thing about death: people are really sad for a while and then they die, too. After the monastery, we went back to the bus so we could get back to Dublin so we could get back to Maynooth. The trip down wasn’t so terrible because I looked out the window a lot more. When we finally made it back to Maynooth, I think it might have been 8 or something? I don’t really know, I’m bad at time.

Once back in my apartment, I had dinner and sat down for a bit before heading over to Gavin’s house (Irish, lives off-campus) to play Arkham Horror.

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Luckily, the guys I was with (all Irish; Gavin, Anthony, Stephen, Peter, and Aaron) didn’t mind that I wasn’t really paying attention and had no idea what was going on. I did manage, much to their surprise I suspect, to figure out how to play, but I wasn’t actively playing I mostly just did what they wanted me to. We ended up giving up on the game at 3am and I finally made it into my bed at 3:30am.

It was an exhausting day, but I still had fun.


Interested in photos? You can see all of them from Fall 2012 and from Ireland at my Flickr page!