Between Worlds

Wow, the end of the year already!  I know it’s clichéd when people say good times fly past, but it’s true.  Flying away from Canada today, I remember the feeling of the girl who, 8 months ago, was flying away from home for a year abroad, not knowing what to expect.  That feels like only last week.

I’m actually in JFK airport just now trying to get internet connection, but there’s none so I suppose you’ll get this when I get to my hostel!  I’m sitting waiting for my sister to join me from Scotland and can’t wait since I haven’t seen her in about 9 months – 9 MONTHS!!

Leaving Kingston was a strange, overwhelming bombardment of everything: celebrations, finishing exams and essays, packing, sending stuff home in boxes, saying goodbye to those who left early, tying loose ends here and there, cancelling phone accounts, selling furniture and possessions not likely to fit into my suitcase, good times, sadness and excitement for what comes next.  The most amazing part of being abroad for me was meeting such amazing people who I hope to keep in touch with as much as possible.  Ironically, it’s this amazing part that makes you extra emotional and sad when it comes to parting ways.  The great thing is, though, although it’s hard to say goodbye to the people who have become like a family to you and the place which has become your home, there’s the lovely feeling of knowing what you had together was special and that you have friends all over the world, so you’ve no better excuse to keep travelling.  And don’t forget, there’s also the magical miracle of SKYPE!!!

Everyone left in a scattered kind of way really, whenever their exams were finished or they’d planned their travels.  Most people are going travelling for 3-4 weeks now, most going to the West coast of Canada, some to the East, some to the North, and some travelling around America.  Some people have gone with friends they’ve met here and some have family or friends coming out to travel with them.  I’m one of the latter, and once my sister Lucy and I have spent a few days in New York, we’re heading to Las Vegas where we’re gonna rent a car (after a wee try at a the penny-slots of course…maybe a Poker table or two…) and have a road trip round California for 3 weeks ending in LA, then it’s back to bonnie Scotland for me!

It’s a lot to take in, reflecting on the fantastic times I’ve had this year, as well as some of the harder ones, being sad to leave friends and happy I met them, excited for another trip and also looking forward to going home to see my family and friends and worrying about a kind of backwards culture shock when I go back.  It’s a little strange being in a transition period where I’m travelling, but with family, between being with my friends and home in Canada and my friends and home in Scotland.

If I had to summarise this year, it would be that it was an extremely educational, exciting, challenging, enjoyable, unbelievable, interesting, incredible, enlightening experience, all crammed into only 8 months – It’s like an intensive course on life and yourself, and brings a new meaning to the word ‘cool’.  You find out how you handle yourself in situations, how to be independent, learn about different cultures, lifestyles, countries, languages and look at your own culture and life from a different perspective.  It is a learning experience in every way possible, as well as a chance which gives you such an incredible opportunity to travel so widely whilst living the student lifestyle.  In every way it is worth going.

Personally, one thing being abroad has taught me (amongst many, many other things) is that the possibilities of life are often as wide-ranging as you make them.  There have been so many random things I’ve done this year which I would have never even considered before, like going to Tennessee for Christmas or going dog sledding or cross-country skiing or planning a road trip round California.

One of the things I liked and laughed about most was the difference in colloquial lingo.  Words like ‘gutted,’ ‘chuffed,’ ‘ned,’ ‘numpty,’ ‘hoodie,’ ‘trousers,’ ‘fresher’s week,’ and ‘bin’ all caused a great deal of hilarity for me and Canadian or international students.

I think the hardest part for me was being away from my support network.  It was challenging to deal with stresses or worries without my family at hand.  But, I have to say that Skype is a brilliant fix for that problem.  It’s fantastic and so easy and cheap to use (it’s free unless you call phones which are extremely cheap anyway) and has helped me to get over these difficulties.  Also, you’ll realise that you build a family wherever you are as well, so when I needed someone there were plenty of people here willing to help out or listen or give me a hug and understand.  All in all though, I think I was very lucky with my time here as the hard times were very rare; and kind of overshadowed by the extent of the good times.

Right, well, I’ll give an update on my travels as soon as I can get some internet connection, but for now, I’ve got to meet my sis coming off her plane…6 minutes and counting – WOO HOO!

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