One of the girls in my house moved back to America after being here for only a week. I am still in shock over it. How could someone give up on this so quickly? One week isn’t even enough time to adjust to the time difference, let alone to get used to everything else. You have to give yourself time. But my other housemates and I were talking about it today, and she (the girl who moved out) just isn’t suited for traveling, and she knows that now. As my friend (and flatmate) Sydnie has said, it takes a certain kind of person to do this. She’s right, but honestly? I’m surprised I am that kind of person. I went back and forth over whether or not to come a number of times. Even after submitting my application, I wasn’t completely sure. It wasn’t until mid-November that my mind was made up.
My school’s Pre-Departure meeting was Friday, November 11, 2016. That was a stressful week for me. It was the elections, which played a part in it, but I was also having a lot of doubts about studying abroad. It’s so expensive, you know? And I get stressed really easily—money stresses me out really easily. Especially money that I don’t have. I was having an impossible time separating the cost with the experience.
Wednesday, November 9, I woke up and talked to my parents about helping me out with financing the trip—through a parent plus loan or whatever. It was a topic I had been putting off. I wanted to wait until I had officially heard that I had gotten in, because I knew it would be a stressful conversation. Why put myself through all that stress if I didn’t need to? It was a difficult conversation, mostly because I know how badly my parents want to help me, but they can’t do as much as they want to. They have a lot of other responsibilities. So as we were having this conversation, every other doubt which I’d had about the program started to creep up on me.
I love UNCW. I love the friends I have there. I am so much happier there than I was at my old university. And I was afraid—really still am afraid—that that will change when I go away for a semester. I have a couple friends who will graduate while I am gone. I am going to miss so much there. That’s a fact. But I let my fear of missing out on the familiar cloud the possibilities that study abroad will bring. Swansea and studying abroad have been dreams of mine for so long. They are what made me want to go to college in the first place. When I was looking at transferring to UNCW, I saw that it had a study abroad program in Swansea, and that pretty much sealed the deal for me. But with all the stress, it was easy to forget that and to concentrate on the negatives instead—like the missing out on things, and what ifs. What if I hate my classes? What if I don’t make friends? What if I don’t adjust in time to enjoy the experience?
Studying Abroad is also kind of delaying my graduation. I am 22. I graduated high school in 2012. If I were on a four-year plan, I would have graduated in Spring 2016. Transferring to UNCW set me back a year. Changing majors when I switched schools (from a degree in Fashion Studies with minors in Dance and Creative Writing, plus being in the Honor’s Program which was essentially a third minor to a BFA in Creative Writing with a minor in English and a Certificate in Publishing) has also delayed things. I have all of my gen eds fulfilled. I only need one more class—not offered at Swansea—to finish my minor. And barely any creative writing classes are offered here. Studying abroad is not furthering my transcript any. So, I got to thinking: maybe this isn’t the best idea. Maybe I should just go abroad after I graduate. I would be sacrificing the intimate knowledge of Wales which I’d hoped to get by being there for five months, and I probably wouldn’t meet as many people or make friends…but maybe that would be okay. Maybe then I could move out of my parents’ house and get my own place, which I have been wanting to do but haven’t been able to because I have been saving all I can for 2+ years to study abroad.
That was my mindset on Wednesday. I was all set to throw in the towel. Except, I wasn’t happy about it.
Then, along came Thursday, November 10. I was still feeling pretty crummy, and then my mom texted me while I was at work. She’d applied for a parent plus loan, and she was approved. Things started to look up— a little bit. I started to get excited about going again. And then on Friday, November 11, I got even more excited. As I was checking in at the pre-departure meeting, one of the International Programs advisors heard my name and said, “You got good news today.” I’d already been accepted to Swansea, so what could that news be? As it turns out, I got a partial scholarship to study at Swansea. Suddenly, everything was falling into place. I could visualize myself going again, and it didn’t fill me with absolute dread.
Now I have been in Swansea for over a month. Yes, I still get a little stressed about money. I live with my parents when at home, so I am not used to having to pay for things like food and laundry. But I have been doing what I can to keep things cheap. Sydnie and I buy our groceries together. We cook just about every meal we have, and honestly, I have my best food at home. (People aren’t lying when they say the U.K. isn’t known for its cuisine). I deny myself things which I would splurge on at home. I’m trying to spend my money more on doing than on things, and I don’t regret it at all. I just went to Paris for the weekend (more on that another time) and all I bought as a souvenir was books from the Shakespeare & Company Bookstore. Normally, I would love to buy clothes or some other keepsake items, but instead I am using that money towards going somewhere else.
What I am trying to say is not to let money get in the way. Yes, you have to consider it, but it is not the only thing to consider. There are so many things to do and see in this world, and there is so little time to see it in. Take every opportunity that is offered to you. Find a way to make it work. I was so scared to study abroad for so many reasons (leaving my cat being one of the greatest ones), but I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything—and it’s only been 5 weeks. It is only going to continue getting better.
That’s my mindset now, anyway. So if you’re like me and money is the biggest thing holding you back, do everything you can to separate yourself from that. Think about what you’d do instead of studying abroad. If it feels like a little piece of your soul was just ripped out just thinking about an alternative, chances are that you are the kind of person who needs to go abroad.