Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Break Out the Wine Because This Good-bye is Going to be Cheesy...

How do you sum up an experience like Harlaxton?  I've been here 104 days now; I've been on 13 trips; I've caught the Harlaxton plague twice; I've taken four classes; and I've written nine papers.  But I guess I can't really put a number on the good times I've had.  I've met too many amazing people to count, seen too many beautiful places, and done too many cool things.  How do you put a number on that?  I will miss living in a Jacobethan English country manor house with students and teachers that have come to feel more like a vast extended family rather than almost perfect strangers.  I will miss the kind English hospitality I feel wherever I go, even to the grocery store (I think the cashier there calls me "love" at least twenty times per visit).  I will miss a little bit of everything here.  Harlaxton has become my home.

Proof of me kissing the Blarney Stone
But mostly, I've learned a lot.  Not just in British Studies and my other intensive classes, but about people in general.  I've become close to people I didn't think I would and learned more about some of the people I now consider close.  But mostly, I've learned about myself (I know, I know, but just bear with me).  I learned that I can be gutsy.  Not just brave, but gutsy as well.  Brave is moving to a new place where you don't know anyone, and I'd already done that when I moved to Evansville.  Gutsy is something entirely different.  Being gutsy is doing something stupid or crazy and passing it off as being brave with spirit.  After this trip, I can proudly say that I have plenty of spirit.  I've had plenty of interesting conversations with strangers--like the Welsh man at the bus stop who only liked Americans and Australians and the two Irish men who laughed at American politics while we had a cup of coffee--and I actually spoke to them without tripping over my words and sounding like an idiot, a common side effect that my shyness usually brings on.  I was also able to ask for help without feeling stupid and self-conscious.  I also went on several ghost tours to explore the haunted sites the UK had to offer: a big feat for someone who hides under the covers at the mere mention of ghosts.  These may all seem like small things, but they're big for me, and they only keep getting bigger.  For instance, I learned that I'm gutsy enough to travel by myself.  I had a brilliant time wandering around London, and it was fun to see all of the things I wanted to see without worrying that I was boring my travelling companions to death.  Most importantly, I learned that I can do all my own stunts.  Before I never would have thought it possible for me to bend over backwards across a four foot gap to kiss a stone 400 feet above the ground just to receive the gift of the gab, and I certainly never would have guessed that I would climb all over the ruins of a three hundred year old castle just so I could get a view of the Irish countryside 700 feet above sea level.  There are so many more things I did that I know the me four months ago would have called me crazy for.  Therefore, gutsy is waiting in a queue for two hours in five degree (Fahrenheit) weather in a skirt and light jacket, purposefully looking ridiculous in photos when you know they're going to be plastered all over facebook, planning a trip based on what train is the cheapest, running all over a city so you can see as much as humanly possible, trying foods like haggis when you know perfectly well what they are, sleeping in an airport terminal so you know you'll catch your plane, meeting new friends over drinks in the Bistro during karaoke night, and getting close to an English family you didn't think would mean that much to you, but actually turns out to feel like family.  So, my advice to any incoming Harlaxton students, as well as to the world in general is be gutsy.  Get outside your comfort zone and surprise yourself at what you can do.  Just be sure to do it with plenty of spirit!

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