Holy hell friends, have I got a how-to for you. Angry Ian is driving, so buckle up as tight as you possibly can. All strapped in? Good, ‘cause we’re about to get violent up in here.
But first, some soothing backstory. I’m a college student. I’m a college student who’s about to graduate. I’m a college student who’s about to graduate with a B.F.A. (Bachelor’s of Fine Arts) in Acting. This is the part where established adults ask, “So what do you want to do with that?” When I say that I want to go into film acting (or really, if I say anything at all) they follow with, “Oh, okay. So what’s your backup?” Then I tell them that backups are for chumps, punch them in the face, and ride into the sunset on my hover board, flipping the bird to all and sundry.
Or at least, that’s what happens in my head.
So to begin with, I’m looking at little to no support for my prospective career path from most adults in this world. Totally fine, I can handle that shit. I know that I’ll be making damn near no money when I get out of school, even if I do wrangle a money job or two.
But then, this college thing; it costs money, y’know? Like, an ungodly amount of money. So much money that I can’t even conceive of how some people pay for college upfront. I’ve got a hefty amount of scholarships because I put just enough work in in high school, but I’ve still got (four year total here) tens of thousands in loans both to the government (hey, Big Brother!) and to private assholes like Sallie Mae.
Let’s add that all up then: I’m planning on going into a very competitive, low-paying field (that I have a passion and training for, mind you) when I graduate, after which I’ll need to pay for housing and basic needs (food, mostly) by acquiring one (or two) money jobs, while at the same time paying off my megatons worth of student loans and trying to maintain some semblance of happiness and sanity in my life. Have I mentioned that jobs are hella-difficult to come by when all you’ve done for six years is work as a lifeguard at various pools?
I’ve gotta tell you, friends; it’s kind of a bleak outlook. Living at home is out of the question, my parents are public school teachers, and I’ve got no rich aunts or grandparents, so I’m about as on my own as it gets. Even with a paying job, I’m in the hole ‘til the loans are paid off (and stop accruing a daily interest of almost two dollars), which is unlikely to be anytime prior to my death. AND I actually plan on having a family at some point in my life; how the fuck am I gonna support that?
Guys, gals—people have told us all our lives that to do what you want, to get a good job, you HAVE to go to college. Although that’s painfully untrue, I’ve had a great four years here; I’ve been in shows, I went to New Zealand, and I met my significant other of almost two years (whom I love the most) here.
Now, money against experience, was it worth it? I honestly can’t tell you, because I don’t know how I’m gonna fend out there. On darker nights like this one I find myself cursing the system that tells us we can do anything and then severs all lifelines the moment we reach for them. I find myself despairing that I’ll be homeless and broke in a couple years, unable to support myself, much less anyone else. The shackles of loans weigh heavily, friends, and I haven’t even started paying them off yet.
Older generations speak of us as being greedy; they call Millennials self-centered and the “Me” generation. But I find that, if one simply asks us what we want, the responses are remarkably simple. “I want my own apartment.” “I want to pay off my loans.” “I want a job that I can enjoy.”
On nights like this I can get lost in the fears and the woes and the worries that plague our generation more than any other in our nation’s history. Collective student debt is in the trillions, and unemployment rates and depression among young adults are higher than they’ve ever been.
But there’s something that I tend to overlook on nights like this. I forget that it’s not just me, that we’re all having these struggles to stay afloat. We know who we are. And we have to know that we’re together. So when you find yourself getting angry about all the injustices that we face when we’re literally just trying to survive in corporate capitalist America, call up a friend or two, or twelve. Get angry together.
We’ve all seen the power of people tired of being screwed over who rally to a cause. The system is big and the system is scary, but we can be scary too. And here’s the thing: we’re the ones in the right.
Don’t let the nights like this eat you up, because then they win.
Start something. Who knows what you’ll do.
It started on Valentine’s Day.
I know. Cliché as fuck, right?
Most single girls on Valentine’s Day eat their weight in chocolate and binge watch rom-com’s like The Notebook. However, that is not my idea of a good time. So let’s flashback to Valentine’s Day 2013.
I was in London, studying abroad for the semester. At this point I’d been in the city a little over a month. I had made friends and knew my way around the city fairly well. So when Valentine’s Day rolled around, I knew exactly where I wanted to go. O’Neill’s. The only way I can describe O’Neill’s is that, at best- it is a shit show. But I had not yet experienced it such as my flat mates had. So my friend Johanna and I, and her friend Lia decided that we were going to make Valentine’s Day our bitch.
Lia had met us at our house in Kilburn Park and greeted us with chocolate and wine. Because really, what is Valentine’s Day without chocolate? We got ready and my flat mates (and Lia) all ventured out for the evening.
The night did not begin at O’Neills. We went to a place called Strawberry Moon first, which was entirely too boring for us. Essentially we were looking to get wasted and hookup with beautiful British men. At this point in the night, we decided to head to O’Neill’s.
I wish I could tell you how much fun I had or how much money my bar tab was but the truth is… I don’t remember. I went from 0 to drunk real quick. I lost Johanna and Lia at one point. I met a British man named Alex who I then started hooking up with. He also paid for all of my drinks and eventually helped me find my friends. I found Johanna upstairs in a corner attached to an Italian man’s face. Lia was dancing with everyone because she is beautiful and everyone wanted to dance with her. We had all found “our guy.” Eventually it was time to go home. Alex came back with me, but Johanna and Lia exchanged numbers with their guys.
Alex left my flat VERY early the next morning, and that next day we laughed and tried to recall drunken memories from the previous night. Now, you may think this is where this story ends. However you are very much wrong.
Not thinking anything of it, Johanna’s guy had texted her later in the week and also found her on Facebook. He wanted nothing more than to see her again. Crazy right? Who would ever expect a hookup at a club abroad to turn into another date? Then again, if you knew Johanna, she IS a beautiful, blonde, bombshell from SoCal. So if I were an Italian man, I’d want to date her too. She wanted to see him again, but also did not want to put herself in a bad situation, after all she hardly knew this guy. So, because I am such a great friend (and because Antonio- her guy- had hot friends) I agreed to go on a date with them. The only requirement was that Antonio had to bring a hot friend for me as well. We made plans to go to a local pub on a Thursday night.
I sat through my dreaded three hour marketing class that Thursday night until 10pm. I quickly got changed at school and then met up with Johanna. We texted Antonio (Johanna’s guy) to try and find them. After some miscommunication, we eventually found them in the tube station. But Antonio didn’t just bring one friend…he brought three. Now again you’re probably thinking “Four beautiful Italian men, how lucky are these girls?” Again, WRONG. Four of them, and two of us. That’s a lot of fucking testosterone. Additionally we went to greet them and quickly discovered the three friends he brought BARELY spoke English!!! All I could think was “What the fuck did I just get myself into…”
We headed to the pub and got drinks. I wish I could say it was smooth sailing from there, but that would be the understatement of the year. It was like trying to communicate with brick walls. We all barely understood each other. I used Google Translator half of the “date” (PS shout out to that pub for having free Wi-Fi so that I could even use Google Translator.) On top of the language barrier we realized we barely had anything in common with them. I also found out one of them had a girlfriend back in Italy. It was just a mess. A hot mess. Literally a hot mess, after all they were easy on the eyes. Eventually we finished our drinks and headed home. We cracked up about how weird the date was the whole way home. Johanna and I must have sounded like little school girls giggling on the bus ride home.
From this date though I did learn a few VERY valuable lessons.
1) You will never fall in love in a bar.
2) You CAN in fact hookup with someone in a bar and be very unaware they barely speak English.
3) When all else fails, there is nothing a good drink can’t fix.
We live in a society where everyone asks, “What’s new?” or “How are you?” but no one seems to care about the response. We reply with a dull “not much” or “good, how are you?” And then wait for another meaningless answer. We ask these questions to be polite, but how often are people genuinely interested? Especially when your response is a lot more exciting than theirs would be. We are jealous, bitter people– it’s in our human nature. But we ask these questions because it’s common courtesy, and we don’t want to seem rude (even though we are).
The worst case comes when you study abroad because you have so much to share, but to be honest– no one back in the small town of Glenside, Pennsylvania wants to hear anything about your life-changing experiences because while you spent a weekend partying in Amsterdam, your friends went to another shitty house party that probably got busted before midnight. Your constant traveling and experiences in a foreign country will never fail to make everyone sitting back home hate their boring, routine lives. And you.
Some people who study abroad understand this, while others think that everyone is fascinated by their experiences. This doesn’t mean absolutely everyone isn’t interested. I’m sure your mom and dad actually care. But the stories you really want to share are probably the ones best kept from your parents. But how many times can your friends handle listening to you go on and on about your beautiful foreign roommates before they start ignoring your messages. You can’t be mad at them for this. They want to be interested in your life. But while they’re staring at the same four walls of their Oak Summit apartment, you’re out getting a taste of all different parts of the world, and they’re going to get tired of hearing about it.
Even if someone is honestly interested in your trip and wants to hear “all about it” you would never be able to describe it all. Too much has happened. I would never be able to explain in detail all the amazing opportunities I’ve had, the people I have met, and the adventures I’ve taken without wasting hours of someone else’s time. When someone back home asks me, “How’s Australia?” I couldn’t even begin to describe the highs and lows and craziness of everything that has been happening. Maybe I could tell them about how I spent an entire weekend on North Stradbroke Island learning how to surf and sandboard and kayak, and didn’t have to pay for a single thing (thanks Arcadia!). Or I could mention how last weekend I went to the most beautiful beach in the world, got to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, and found my potential Australian husband (just kidding, maybe). I could tell them about the first time I got to hold a koala and pet a kangaroo. Or explain the difference between a nice Australian accent and a bogan one. But no matter what I tell them, it just sounds like I’m bragging. Instead, maybe I could tell them how I felt really homesick so I stayed in bed all day watching Netflix and eating overpriced Nutella out of the jar. Or that even though I’m in Australia, I still have classes to go to and essays to write and all-nighters filled with red bull WITHOUT vodka. But how lame does that make my entire semester seem?
We can partially blame social media. Most likely everyone has already seen all your pictures on Facebook and read all your tweets and hate you enough as it is. The constant upload of beautiful pictures from weekend excursions and simply everyday life in a foreign country is enough to drive anyone crazy with jealousy. Especially when it’s somewhere they wish they could be. Or somewhere they’ve already been that they wish they could go back to. Or when it is winter in PA, and your friends are dreading leaving their heated apartments, meanwhile I’m posting pictures of the beautiful, sunny beaches around Australia.
But what else are we supposed to do? We have to share our experiences with someone. And we shouldn’t have to feel guilty about it. I guess that’s why blogging has become so popular. But while it may seem like we are having a much better time than those of you at home (and not gonna lie, we probably are), we still get that FOMO too. Sometimes there is nothing I want more than to be hungover on my best friend’s couch eating mac n cheese and watching Food Network. No matter what great experiences I have abroad, there will still always be a nostalgia for people and places (and pizza) back home. So to all the friends who haven’t had the opportunity to travel and are stuck listening to our awesome stories, try to be patient with us. We’re not bragging on purpose. And I’m sure you have cool stories to share too. Even if it is just about another drunk night at Towers. And to anyone who has studied abroad and has had this problem, try not to brag TOO much to your friends. Keep it subtle. Start a blog. Or share your experiences with us at WanderLUST. And in the midst of all the bragging, don’t forget to remind your friends back home how much you still love and miss them.
by Ponsius Hanz Odaga
So, a few weeks ago I was at the DMV to get a state I.D. While standing in line, I met a couple of nice folks who were getting their driving licenses renewed. We began talking about how driving makes you incredibly lazy. Now please don’t be offended, but if you drive often, there is a high probability that you have been afflicted with this curse. And if you think you haven’t, then look back and just think of the last time you were in a parking lot and you refused to park in the back. You’d rather embark on an endless quest to find the coveted, elusive, and mysterious “good spot”.
Don’t get me wrong though– I think cars are pretty dang cool, but our bodies are parade-worthy amazing. So why don’t we walk? Sure, driving is easier and it gets you wherever you need to go much faster. But because of this, we tend to miss out on a lot, or spend our whole time screaming at other drivers. Seriously, I believe that more than 70% of drivers in the northeastern United States have road rage.
Anyway, I have an idea for all of us to just take a walk, whenever we travel somewhere or if you live near/in a city. Or take public transit and leave the driving to someone else. (Except for taxis, which tend to cost too much and be a poor experience.) Think about it, you will save money, meet new people or have time to yourself. I propose that we all become the Wayfarer in just 5 easy steps.
Step One: Plan to Leisurely Walk
Advice: I know I am redundant, but take your time. And don’t expect too much, just expect to see something new.
Story Time: I am currently interning in NY and every day when I walk home, I take my time to take in all the sounds & places around me. I love running into good musicians and dancers on the street & subway.
Step Two: Distraction
Advice: Plan to get distracted and walk wherever you see something interesting.
Story time: When I was in Paris, I was walking with a friend in search for dinner and we stumbled upon a bar where they were playing some nice funky soul music. We were dancing as we were walking by, and a lady came out and encouraged us to go in. Actually, it was more like she pulled us in. Anyway, we went in and partied it up for a hot minute with all of the people there. Then the bartender told us it was a private party and then we begrudgingly walked out. For the record, the people wanted us there and invited us in. AND they danced with us! But then again, they were drunk….
Step Three: Join In
Advice:When you see people doing something you think is cool, just hop on in. More often than not, if people are having a good time, they don’t mind other people jumping in who just wanna have fun too.
Story time: A couple weeks ago, I went to Bubble Battle NYC 2014 which I thought was fantastic. The amount of bubbles in the air seemed never ending. I swear we were the best kind of public servants because we definitely cleaned up Union Square that day.
I was there with a couple of friends and once in a while people came up to us asking what was going on. Later on, I noticed those same people jumping in on the action with bubble-creating items they just bought.
Step Four: Talk to your neighbor
Advice: If you are on public transit and someone is doing something, wearing something or reading something you like– talk to them. Be courteous and friendly, but know your boundaries because not all people will want to talk.
Story time: I was on the NY subway and working on a spoken word poem that I was going to perform at an open mic when I noticed the man next to me looking at what I was doing. He then said, “Hi, are you a poet? That’s a good line there” to me, and we began to talk about poetry. His wife was also on the train, and they asked to read my poem. In the end, they complimented my writing and gave me confidence in what I had written, which greatly reduced the pre-show jitters.
Step Five: Be I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T
Advice: When you get on to public transit be prepared to spend some time to yourself. Bring a great book to read, portable video games to play, journal to write in or music you want to listen to. Basically, keep yourself happy.
Story time: I can’t even begin to mention all the papers, assignments, readings, books that I have completed on megabus. There was one time I was reading a book that made me laugh loud enough where I had to apologize to the people next to me. Then megabus turned off the lights and I let out a big awww! This made all those around me laugh at my plight. In fact, I edited part of this article while on public transit.
Overall, the point is to take a walk through any interesting area you see and experience as much as you can. Talk to people and do what you want. It’s the fastest way to get to know an area and enjoy your time there. Public transit isn’t as bad as some people make it out to be. Chill out, accept the instability of life, and don’t forget to be awesome.
by Katie Sorino
Let’s set the scene here.
It was my last night at my home school in the states. I was helping my friends pack up their things to go home for break and saying my goodbyes. Though it was only halfway through the school year, I was not coming back in the spring. I had decided to study abroad in London and was the first one out of my group of friends to do so. I was scared shitless. I had no idea how I was going to survive without my tight knit group of friends. We did everything together– ate together, got drunk together, cried together…you name it we did it together (for the most part).
Four of my closest girls had decided it would be funny to lock me in a closet before I left. They had hoped that this would make me stay, and not leave for London. But nonetheless the ticket was bought and though I was nervous, I was pretty fucking excited too. I had always pictured myself living in a big city, living a life that I had only dreamed of or seen on shows like Sex in the City. Because let’s be honest, what 20 year old girl doesn’t want to be Carrie Bradshaw?
My friends and I were trying to focus on how much fun I was going to have rather than focus on being sad about me leaving. They knew I was wild, and knew I was going to tear up London and have the time of my life. Then… we got on the topic of boys. The ‘what if’ questions started swirling around in our conversation. Eventually my friend asked, “What if you kept a hook up list while you were in London?” At first I was shocked. A LIST? Did she think I was going to lock lips with that many beautiful British men?! I thought she was out of her mind…but then I sort of didn’t. Call me crazy (or maybe just super competitive) but I wanted to see how many guys (or girls, I guess, if I was drunk enough) I could put on that list. So I packed the journal that my friend Brittany had given me, and I was on a mission.
I boarded the flight to Canada and sobbed the entire way there. I skyped my mom in Toronto, listened to her words of encouragement, and got my ass on a connecting flight to Heathrow Airport in London. I landed and it was like a dream. Something out of a Mary Kate and Ashley movie, for all you 90’s babes. To make a very long story short– I took a bus to my house, met my flat mates, and got settled in. I didn’t go to a club that first night, but I did go to a bar. First night: unsuccessful. And I was kind of pissed. Did I not look hot enough? Did I not have enough liquid courage to make moves? What the fuck was I doing wrong?
That all changed mid-week. And by changed, I mean I had added five people to the list by the end of the week. I had gone to a club called Los Locos, which wound up being my very favorite club in London. Los Locos was located in Covent Garden, in central London. I had downed three bottles of cheap wine before going out, so needless to say, I was pretty drunk. I stumbled off the tube (no, literally– I fell on the cobblestone, but got right back up like the champ that I was) and headed towards the club with some old friends that had come to London with me from my home university and my new flat mates as well. I paid to get in, immediately went downstairs, and started dancing instantly. I definitely didn’t leave my “Jersey” at home, if you know what I mean. I was talking to guys left and right and was making tons of new friends. Then: it happened. I made out with someone. All I could think of while it was happening was “HOLY SHIT, I FINALLY have someone to put on the list!” And so, the list had been christened. The sad part is I couldn’t even tell you the guys name if my life depended on it. I knew he was from America though, which was pretty disappointing. But no worries. This tale includes many other British men. After I had made out with Random #1 (as he is named on my list) four more guys quickly followed. Three American men made the list, A British guy named Connor, and Connor’s friend who was black (again, this is exactly how they are named on my list.) That makes a total of five men in one night, ladies and gentleman. Something I had only accomplished one time in the states during my visit to Rutgers University. Now, I am not saying I am proud of this. But it was my first week in London, I was bound to go a little crazy.
Some of the other names on my list included neighbors of mine such as:
- Mitch the boy in the CAPA program poor life decision (not joking, that is how his name appears on my list)
- Alex Henry Thomas the hot British man I kicked out of my flat at 5am
- Strange Turkish man at Walkabout
- Random #7 super hot guy in plaid shirt at Roxy
- Guy I made out with at the bus stop
- Harry Fowler the Royal Guard at Buckingham Palace (YUP THAT HAPPENED)
…. and the list goes on and on. My friends gave me a goal and I completed it. By the time the five months was up, I had kissed (or maybe done more with) over 50 people. This may seem like a lot but over the course of five months, and the amount of times I went out, it really wasn’t.
Not very many people knew about the list until now (sorry mom). But you know what? It’s my life. And I truly don’t give a shit. If you think I am a slut, that’s fine. You’re entitled to your own opinion. I’m not saying what I did was right. However, this is how I like to think of it– I had one shot at London. Five months to let go, re-create who I was, in a city with seven million people. That list even served as a sort of confidence booster for me. After a long line of bad boyfriends in the past, it was nice to meet guys that treated me well. They were not all drunk hookups or scumbags. In fact, I wound up going on dates with some of the guys I had met. Though not all of them were successful (such as the date I went on where I had to use Google Translator the entire time to attempt to make conversation in Italian), it’s still a memory I made in the city that I love. And it’s not like ALL I did while I was abroad was get drunk and find random people to hookup with. I did a lot of cultural things too. I attended Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, went to almost every museum in London, traveled to other countries and saw all the sites. I regret nothing.
As for the list…well I still have it. It is now a document on my computer. I had started it in the journal my friend had given me, but I wound up using that journal for a class so I ripped it out, typed it up and saved it to my documents. For me, it’s a memory. Since it’s in chronological order, I can very clearly recall which night was which, at what point it had happened in my trip, etc. I would update my friends as the hookups progressed but they did not see the “finished product,” we will call it, until the beginning of last May. We all got a good laugh out of it, and it gave me plenty of stories to tell. Hopefully, the same stories that I will remember when I am 80, all because I wrote it down.
Photo credit: Stephany Yanez via Creative Commons.
by Bri Wink
To Those Abroad In London:
First and foremost, do not take your time abroad for granted. Go ahead, indulge in a few days of wallowing in homesickness upon arrival, use jet lag as an excuse to curl up in your bed, skyping your friends and family and crying into your pillow that is nowhere near as comfortable and fluffy as the one at home. Take a few days to adjust, but then move on. Get out of those sweatpants, walk out that door and go out and do things. If you spend your whole time abroad stuck inside your room, hiding behind your laptop and complaining about your lack of live stream feed, then you shouldn’t have even studied abroad in the first place. You didn’t travel over 3,000 miles to stay up until five in the morning watching Pretty Little Liars. Go experience real things instead.
Take tourist days. Don’t be afraid to freak out crossing Abbey Road. Pose in front of those red telephone boxes with pride. Galavant around the Victoria & Albert Museum and take as many photos of St. Paul’s Cathedral and Big Ben as you want. Tourist days are the best days because you can let go of all that nonsense about blending in and just enjoy yourself. Bring your camera, bring a friend and leave the embarrassment of being an American behind. Just go out and knock things off that checklist of yours and don’t be ashamed of your enthusiasm or excitement or even your American-ness while you do. With that said, take a few non-touristy days, too. Travel off the beaten path and find a café or a bookstore or a pub that you can call entirely your own. Don’t pre-plan, either, Google searching “best unknown pubs in London” because that is cheating. Go out and find it on your own.
Visit the markets. Brick Lane is my favorite but go to all of them. Camden, Portobello Road, Borough Market, Old Spitalfields….They’re all unique and different and are such a great way to experience the vast and rich cultures that London is known for. Eat loads and buy loads and for just one day, indulge yourself in being a hipster. Just walk around and take in the charm of the city through the eyes of the vendors. You haven’t experienced the real London life until you’re chowing down on cheap empanadas while haggling down the price of a leather jacket.
Go out on the town, ride the Tube drunk, and get lost on the night busses with your crazy friends and the even crazier strangers you meet. Open your eyes on these 4am journeys and take in the view of the city at night without the hustle and bustle. Sit back, relax, and let the beauty of the lights and the stillness of a city that’s half asleep mesmerize you. Then get off at the wrong stop, stand around for another twenty minutes and do it all over again when the next bus pulls up. Also understand that not every night has to end in vague memories and hangovers. Sitting around, gorging on pizza and bingewatching American Netflix with your flatmates is just as satisfying as feeling the bass pump through your veins and seeing the neon lights flash behind your eyelids at a club. Some may even argue that it’s better.
Steal something. I’m not saying to break into a jewelry store or hold up a bank, but sneak out a pint glass from your favorite pub. Rob a fork from that restaurant you fell in love with. Take a few leaves from your favorite tree or flowers from a garden. Conveniently never return the notepad from that hostel you stayed in when you traveled and don’t hesitate to steal a few kisses from the boys and girls that tickled your fancy.
When you get sick (and you will get sick- Freshers Flu knows no discrimination) you will miss your mom and your dad and your own bed more than anything. You won’t have the slightest idea what cold medicine to take, how to work your insurance, or what to do with yourself other than wallow in the self-pity that comes with a runny nose. I think the days I was sick were the days I missed home the most, simply because all I wanted was my mommy, my teddy bear and an America’s Next Top Model marathon to cure me back to health. But eventually, I stopped moping around and started ingesting that Vitamin C, slurping down some of that soup and went to the pub to drink away the headache. In Britain, a pint can cure just about anything.
Meet people. Meet local people, to be exact. This is the most important part of the experience, the one that you’ll cherish the most once you return home. Befriend the Americans on your program but don’t forget to set out to make some of the best friends you’ll ever have. My entire semester became infinitely better because I spent my time playing it up with a bunch of British idiots I was lucky enough to call my friends. Knowing people, hanging out with people, and understanding people from the city that you’re in or from cities and areas around it makes the whole study abroad experience vastly different. These are the people who can show you the ins and outs; the ones who know the best place to grab a bite or the perfect spot to watch the fireworks on Guy Fawkes night. These are the people who will think you and your American-ness are fascinating, and together you’ll understand new things about yourselves. They’ll help you figure out the basics and provide vital information on how to live outside of your comfort zone, and in return you can help them see the city through a new set of eyes. Also, you get the benefit of hearing those precious accents daily and nothing can be better than that.
Fall in love: with the city, with a boy or a girl or maybe even both, and most importantly, with yourself. Cherish the way the air smells before it rains, and be captivated by the way he/she holds your hand when you’re drunk on Jack Daniel’s and their smile. But, more than anything, get on that plane ride home loving yourself. Love who you are in the city, love who you’ve become (because those pamphlets really don’t lie- studying abroad does change you) and the way you’ve grown to care more about people and the world around you and less about your own problems. Studying abroad is about the whole “once-in-a-lifetime” experience, sure. But really, you’ll notice the best memories come from those little moments that shape you.
And if you do fall in love with a boy or a girl that captivated you, don’t run from it. Let that feeling of a foreign romance wash over you. There really isn’t anything that can compare to a European love affair. It might not work out in the long run, of course, but that doesn’t mean you have to immediately give up out of fear of the future. Sometimes the city really is better when you have someone’s hand to hold.
But above all, understand that you’re going to have to leave. It’s inevitable; when you study abroad you have a clear expiration date and sooner rather than later, the day is going to come where you’re going to have to re-pack your entire life into a suitcase, hop on a plane, and go back to the place that you once considered home. Cry. Cry a lot. It doesn’t help, really, but it’s not something to be ashamed of, either. Freak out. Go crazy one last time. Sob the whole way through the packing process and the whole way to the airport. Hug your new friends so tight that it hurts to let go. Be weak. Listen to The Weakerthans “Left and Leaving” on repeat the entire 7 hour plane ride home. But then promise yourself that you’ll come back eventually. Get off that plane in your home airport rejuvenated, ready to return one day. Tell yourself as you fly back across the Atlantic that it’s going to happen. There’s so many things you haven’t done yet, so many sights and places and sunsets over the Thames that you haven’t seen. Do not doubt for one second that a return is possible. Because it will happen one day, as long as you believe that it will. Studying abroad is temporary, but the feelings that you leave with are for a lifetime.