This is my last article from Wales. I return to Oklahoma in less than two weeks. It’s strange to consider. I’ve been in Wales for three months now and it’s become home. It’s where I laugh, sleep, cook, worry, have fun, study. It’s where I live. Now I’m hyperaware of the fact I will leave. It’s as if I’m leaving home for a foreign place all over again.
Three months is a long time. Friendships form, friendships disappear; experiences are had, people are met. No one warns you how different life will seem once you’ve been living far away for so long. I’ve no real idea what to expect when I return to the United States. My day-to-day life has been British and, on the wider scale, European. Yet still I’m American and an outsider to it all.
I’ll go back and be an outsider for another while. Struggle to adjust to who I am. An interesting mix of an American abroad back at home. One who will look the wrong way for a while when crossing the street. One who will miss British foods that are impossible to find in Oklahoma. No one warns you about that, so I will.
That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. You change, you grow, you gain that wisdom adults always tell us we need more of. It’s a good thing to live far from home. It’s a better thing to live in another culture. It opens your eyes. It lets you experience things that are exciting, or scary, or that you wouldn’t dare try in “normal” life.
You learn plenty. You pick up (or have, who knows) odd verbal tics and manners that confuse tour guides into wondering where you come from. You check off bucket list experiences and places. You try different foods. You see different insights into how people live. In several small ways, you live as another version of yourself. One who must deal with constant moldy bread, or one who settles for different shampoo because they don’t sell your favorite brand overseas.
You learn to be better. You focus on conversations more to understand accents better. You aren’t as impatient because, here, you’re the tourist in the way, trying to get that perfect picture of a place you’ve always wanted to visit. You learn to not be as picky because they really don’t sell your favorite shampoo. You learn to try new things because flavors can surprise you.
You learn to be more grateful about what you have in America because things aren’t the same everywhere. You learn about what you want out of your life a bit better. You learn you’re as capable as changing as you are holding onto what makes you, you.
You learn it probably would have been a good idea to have a basic understanding of the metric system before you left.
You learn you really shouldn’t have brought those boots or that jacket with you because Britain really does rain a lot.
You learn budgeting would have been great.
Most of all, you learn you’re entirely capable of living alone, more than 4000 miles away from your friends and family.
Thank you to everyone who followed me along. This has been an amazing experience and I’m honored to have represented Northwestern in Wales.