Yesterday was my official last day in Swansea. This morning I frantically packed the rest of my things, hugged the roomies goodbye, took a taxi to the train station, and somehow managed to get my overflowing suitcases over the gap and onto the train to Paddington. That’s exactly where I am writing this right now. Just a couple more days in London and I’ll be boarding a plane back to good ole’ Maryland!
On Monday, I had to give my first (and last) presentation at Swansea. Public speaking is definitely not my forte, so I was dreading this more than anything. Luckily, I think my American accent worked to my advantage, and it seemed to go pretty smoothly. Meg and I checked out Swansea’s little Christmas Market’s set up in town. Our favorite find were welsh cake cupcakes, topped with the cutest little baby welsh cake you’ve ever seen. We also got the cutest gingerbread and sticky toffee latte’s at Costa, which consequently kept me up until 5am. This whole week I’ve been feeling like a little kid on Christmas eve, anxiously excited to see my family and friends SO soon. The bags under my eyes keep growing, but that can’t rain on my parade. On Tuesday, my house went to a local restaurant for our last house nine dinner (+ Meg of course). The rest of the week mainly consisted of running into town to pick up a sufficient supply of welsh cakes to bring back home, packing and unpacking my suitcases over and over, and finishing up some papers. On Thursday, there were real live reindeer on campus.
These fuzzy little Dancer, Prancer, and Vixens were so unbelievably friendly, which definitely made my day. Later that night, Meg, Abby, and I made one last celebratory venture to Joe’s (Swansea’s favorite ice cream spot). Which we ate then of course froze to death in the cold rain while waiting for the beloved 82A to get us back to the village. Then yesterday, Meg and I walked halfway to Tesco’s on the beach before realizing our legs were going numb, walked to the road and caught a bus back home. Pretty bizarre that I just called House 9 home, I guess I have lots of homes these days.
So I guess this is the time to make some sort of cheesy reflection of my time here abroad. Ultimately, my entire study abroad experience was not at all everything I thought it would be, and that’s ok! Nothing ever goes exactly as planned, and I wouldn’t trade my study abroad experience for anything. Did I expect to arrive smoothly, make lots of friends who I would have loads of cute photos of us on the beach and taking adventures around Europe? Yes (haha…). Reality hits you pretty hard when you realize how difficult planning a trip actually is, and when you get lost simply trying to walk to campus. In the end, the small victories are my proudest accomplishments. Mastering the buses, raising my hand in class, cooking a piece of salmon, and navigating the metro in Paris. The little things that may seem minuscule accomplishments to others make me feel infinite. I’ve learned countless life lessons and even more about myself and the significance of loved ones. To me, studying abroad isn’t a competition of going the most places, or how many nights hitting the pubs and clubs. If I had to name the most important lesson learned it would be, “Don’t count the days, make the days count.” It took a lot of time to figure this one out and it seems pretty straight forward, but it makes a worlds difference. I’m not saying that I didn’t celebrate my halfway point and my number of weeks left, but it’s what you decide to fill those days with. It’s important to give yourself new fun experiences to look forward to, but I also learned the importance of letting yourself take a break and just sit in bed and watch a movie with your cuppa when needed. Sometimes the going get tough and everything goes wrong and you don’t have your best friend to lay and talk to for hours and the weather is always depressing and you can’t even find a decent tub of peanut butter, and this is about when homesickness always kicks in big time. But ultimately these are when you learn your best lessons, and you just have to remember you are abroad for a reason and that your time there is meant to be enjoyed. There’s so much in life to live and to look forward to! I’m blessed to have this experience as a chapter in my book, and I can’t wait to begin the next.