During the Spring of 2016, I chose to take an independent study abroad trip to Birmingham, England. Most people are surprised that I did not study in London but I have two reasons for opting for the West Midlands. Firstly, I was told that London was must more international and while lovely, I wouldn’t get a feel for typical British life. Secondly, I do competitive Irish Dancing and the school I wanted to attend was in Birmingham.
While studying abroad it became clear to me that I am capable of creating anything I set my mind to. Everyday it was an amazing feeling knowing that this was just an idea I had my sophomore year that I had willed into a reality. The English school calendar also allows for a month long break before finals. I saw this as an opportunity to travel all over which is rare while in America. A majority of my finals were papers so I worked ahead and planned every aspect of my trip beforehand. The lack of major issues I encountered made me realize that I am at a point in my life that I am able to set a goal and take the necessary steps to achieving it without the help of an “adult” (I wouldn’t consider myself an adult just yet).
On the other side of that, when planning was over it became important to enjoy what was around me. I’ve always appreciated my time as a Buckeye but I believe even more so, I realize that this is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It is so easy to be overwhelmed by all the errands you have to run and tasks on your to-do list. These moments pass so quickly that it is important to look at what is around you and realize that you will never be in this same place again. That can be obvious when traveling to places that you legitimately may never visit again but even during a seemingly daily routine at no moment will you be in the same physical, emotional, or mental place at the same time.
I gained a new sense of confidence when I traveled through Mainland Europe. When I left, I did not realize the set-up of the British school system so I did not anticipate having an entire month off. I think it is clear that I am quite ambitious when an opportunity presents itself so I knew that this would be my chance to see the world. Until now, I thought I was quite knowledgeable about geography and landmarks but I had to do copious amounts of research in order to create a list of what I wanted to see and how to see it. Next, I had to meticulously plan my trip by finding the right (and cheapest) transportation, places to stay, and the timing of it all. During some of my trip, I was joined by my friends Quinn and Victoria but since I would be traveling alone some of the time I created a detailed itinerary so my family and friends could follow along. I planned all of this and finished my final papers in March before leaving. I ended up never missing my transportation, trying a variety of foreign foods, meeting new people, and seeing more than I planned. My newfound confidence came from being able to plan and execute the entire trip which at first seemed daunting. In the end, I had traveled for 27 days straight, visited 11 countries, explored over 20 cities, and traveled over 5,000 miles.
While in Birmingham, I felt compelled not only to appreciate my time there but also my time at Ohio State. Although everyone was very welcoming, I was homesick being over a thousand miles from my friends and family. I realized how amazing my time at Ohio State has been which, I could have never anticipated when I accepted my place as a member of the Class of 2017. I had a new sense of wonderment that out of shear luck I met people that share the same heart as me and now are some of my favorite people. Although I missed this while in England, I knew that when I returned, things would be so much better because of this acknowledgement. I quickly learned that having friends on separate sides of the Atlantic would prove difficult. What I really needed was to be able to pick up one world and move it to the other. I understood my time there was limited so I focused on embracing it. A turning point for me was when I was exploring Europe. My tight schedule only allowed a few days in each location so I knew it was important to take a mental image of the cities. One of my favorite things to do was visit a site high above the city in order to get a good view of the skyline and landscape. When presented with such beauty, it was easy to get lost in the moment. When I returned to Birmingham, even more so than before, I was grateful for every dance class I attended (only finals remained at the university) and this amazing opportunity.
These changes have led to increased confidence and awareness. Both of these skills will be crucial as I finish out my time at Ohio State and enter the “real world.” While in school, confidence will be important when I’m feeling discouraged about my workload or overwhelmed about the future. Upon graduation, I will need to be confident in my work and my abilities in order to pitch myself to employers.
On the other hand, gaining a good sense of awareness is an important aspect of aging. The present always seems to pass slowly but it is gone before you realize it. When looking back, freshman year seems much closer than almost four years ago. Taking a moment to stop and smell the roses will help me appreciate the present, de-stress about the future, and create lasting memories that will, hopefully, slow down time.