Exactly 5 weeks ago today, I rolled two suitcases up a steep hill to my new home-base in Leeds, England.
Writing that one sentence was pretty unbelievable. Though, my entire exchange experience so far has been pretty unbelievable.
As I write this I’m about a week into my month-long Easter break, and only a few hours away from starting my grand European adventure through Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Venice, and Milan. Once the break is over, there will only be 3 weeks of classes left before finals, and as of June 2nd I will have officially wrapped up the studying part of my semester abroad.
During my pre-exchange orientation sessions I heard a lot about how much I would change by the time I returned to Toronto. At the time I thought that was just a standard part of the presentation script, but looking back on these past few weeks, I can honestly say that living abroad has impacted my life in a huge way. While I’ve only been here for a little over a month, it’s been more than enough time for me to learn a lot.
I will admit that being an only child of immigrant parents has resulted in being coddled for much longer than most children, but I feel like I’ve found a new sense of independence while living in Leeds. I’ve become 100% responsible for every aspect of my day. From the moment I start hitting snooze on my alarm to when I finally decide to stop watching Full House for the night, every decision is within my control, which is exciting and daunting all at once. I feel much more confident in my ability to take care of myself. Being in a new city on my own has made me more comfortable with change. Having to learn a whole new way of doing things – even things as basic as grocery shopping and crossing the street, has made me more comfortable adapting to new environments. While I’m still not a total fan of change, being in Leeds has made me a little more comfortable with the idea of being in a new place, and having to change up my fairly consistent routine.
While I’m painting a picture-perfect experience being abroad, I should stress that I’m definitely not coming back to Toronto as a totally responsible, mature, sophisticated adult. I still struggling with not over-buying groceries, getting up for morning classes, and many other things that an independent adult is usually able to do on their own. I still have some growing up to do, but being on exchange has been a surprising way for me to finally step outside my comfort zone and (cautiously) take steps towards becoming an adult.
If I feel this way after just a few weeks of living abroad, I can’t wait to see what happens by the end of this semester!