Back to Basics

March 21, 2014

in England, Europe, Katherine Jensen, Spring 2014

I’ve never really lived in a big city before. When I was born I guess I lived in Minneapolis for about 8 months, but that hardly counts. Even though it’s only been a little over two months, I love living in London. I’ve said this before and I won’t bore you by groaning on even more. This life is pretty fitting for me, as I never did well with not being near something to do for too long. That being said, I spent most summers and vacations being in the middle of nowhere, doing far more outdoorsy things than picnicking in Hyde Park (not that that isn’t lovely). So, while I love city life, I do need a break every now and then to get my hands dirty.

This desire is what inspired me to sign up for our program’s weekend trip to Wales and it ended up being more beneficial than I imagined when I signed up. Our situation, living with 16 other people, sharing bedrooms, bathrooms, and a kitchen and doing about everything together, is a pressure cooker. It makes everything a little more extreme. So, getting out to the coast of Wales was the breath of fresh air. I went with three other girls from UW, but the rest were from other schools in the States. It was cool meeting other people doing the same thing we are doing, too.

It takes about six hours on two trains to get to Pembrokeshire on the southwest coast of Wales. In case you’re a Harry Potter fan, this is where Dobey’s death was filmed and possibly one of the prettiest places I’ve seen in person. When we got to the resort we were staying at the stars were in full force. I always forget how much I miss the stars until I see them again. From that moment on I couldn’t have been happier to be out in the country.

Throughout the weekend we got to do a seven mile coastal hike, coasteer (which is traversing rocks, exploring caves and jumping off cliffs into the ocean), and surf. Although the ocean isn’t necessarily my thing, having an active vacation is. It felt like I was back in my element a little more. It wasn’t until I was back that I realized the value of feeling in your element in a study abroad situation. Study abroad is all about getting yourself out of your comfort zone, making you feel completely self-conscious so you can get a better idea about who you are. This is all fine and dandy because it works, but can be pretty exhausting at times. Allowing yourself time to do what makes you feel confident and like yourself is what gets you through the grittier times when you feel out of place.

So if you’re abroad (or not) and feeling a bit shaken, my suggestion is do something you love, something you’re good at. For me, it was being active in a beautiful place. For others it may be sitting by the pool, listening to music and reading a book or running or I don’t know, knitting. It may seem hard to do this when you’re abroad since there are so many other opportunities to take advantage of and your norm seems mundane, but it’s worth it. Everything else, including you, will be better for it.

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