Back in November of my first year, 2018, a lecturer mentioned something about doing a semester abroad, I am good for saying yes, so I went to the meeting to find out more. It was overwhelming, I’ll be honest, but it took my interest immediately and I knew I had to further pursue it. I messaged my parents and told them I was interested and sat there worrying about what they’d think. I was saying to myself, ‘they’re going to think I am crazy’. They were so up for it! They told me if they had the opportunity to go abroad to study whilst at Uni, they would have too. So I started to look into it more.
My University mentors warned me that going to an American University would be harder to get into than some others, but I wanted to try anyway. It was a year of back and forth between the Universities, and I kept it quiet from a lot of my family and friends. Honestly, it was because I didn’t believe in myself, but I do now.
In that time, I had turned down the chance to move in with my good friends, as I couldn’t commit to a tenancy for a whole year, with my plans to go abroad, that were still uncertain. I worked as hard as I could, getting firsts in my assignments because I wasn’t going to give my University a reason to not believe in me.
During the Summer of 2019, I travelled to Canada to work in the most incredible little summer camp. I caught the bug for travel before then, but it was at this camp where I knew I needed another adventure lined up after.
It wasn’t until the end of 2019 when I received my confirmation pack from Georgia Southern University, USA, that I knew I was in. I went to London to get my visa, and even then, it didn’t feel real. I didn’t think it was actually happening. I kept convincing myself that something would go wrong, I just felt it was all too good to be true, but it was everything I could have dreamed of and more.
Over that Christmas break, I was working hard, I wanted all of my assignments done before I left for my semester abroad in January. It was difficult at times. I got to see a few of my great friends before I left, little did I know, the pandemic was right under our noses, and I wasn’t going to get to hug them again for a very long time. A year later, I am still waiting patiently.
January 8th 2020. I woke up in the early hours of the morning, pitch black, all packed and ready to go. My parents took me to the airport, Mum was tearful of course, but I felt good. I remember landing in JFK airport ready for a changeover and feeling for the first time a bit of confusion. It was the first time I felt worried that I wouldn’t make friends, or be able to keep up. Nonetheless, I boarded my next flight and was sat next to a psychic medium called Karen. It really set the tone for the trip, I knew I was in for an adventure.
When I landed, my Dad had booked a driver to take me to my apartment that I was sharing with three others in the same boat as me. He was telling me all about the exotic animals that they had in the area, like rattlesnakes and alligators, which I prayed to never come across. I was so fixated on the palm trees and how it wasn’t cold, but still a January evening.
From there, I fell in love with my classes, I got to produce my own shows, and documentaries, as well as getting to meet the most incredible people. I remember saying to my Mum just a few weeks in that I had learnt so much and grew tremendously in less than a month, and if I had to leave tomorrow, I would leave feeling truly fulfilled. Being British, so many people loved my accent, it was an easy conversation starter, and I met so many kind people who wanted to show me all the delights of Georgia.
I was so fortunate that I could travel at the weekends, to different cities and states, starting with Savannah, then many more, one of which even took me back to Canada to surprise my best friend for her birthday. I got to see so many different sights, from the White House to Harvard University and the first Primark in America. Yes, I went all the way to Boston and did a shop in Primark.
I felt freer than I had ever felt before.
I made some incredible friends, people with talent and passion like nothing I’d ever seen. I experienced a Tornado, boarded over 20 planes and produced work that I would have never thought I’d be capable of. It sparked so much creativity for me, and I loved hearing all my lecturers stories, they were all so cool!
Unfortunately, 2020 did take a turn as we all know, but following guidelines, I said goodbye to my friends for spring break, little did I know that would be the last in-person class for the foreseeable. I remember my friend, Nisha, saying ‘you’ll come back, right’? I was definite it wasn’t the end, but it was, and it wasn’t. It was the end of that normality, but none of it was normal for me anyway. It wasn’t the end of that great friendship. I had my last few trips away and eventually flew home, like my flatmates, to do classes from my bedroom in England. This did mean staying up till 1 am sometimes in lectures, but it was still a huge thrill. All of that was a huge part of my journey.
I am a true believer in everything happening for a reason, my semester abroad was cut slightly short, but I got to come home right at the time when my family needed me most. I was blessed in so many ways.
Nowadays, I look back and it feels like a huge dream. I still can’t believe that was me and I did all of that, purely through taking a chance. I would go back and do it all again, the highs and the lows.
If you’re considering a semester abroad, do it. You won’t regret the great people you get to meet, the freedom you feel, the thrills you experience or the lessons you learn. It was the best choice I made, and despite 2020 being probably the most difficult year so far for so many, it was also one of my best.
Be that person your younger self dreamt of.