Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Lessons Learned

After four months of balancing traveling, school, and being an RA, I've definitely had my fair share of mistakes and wonderful happenstances. Prior to coming to Harlaxton, I wish I would have known just a few things:

1. Don't pack your whole wardrobe.
Though I definitely did not pack my whole entire closet's contents, I certainly brought more than I needed. One (not two) jacket was enough to last me. 3 (not 5) pairs of shoes would suffice. I didn't really take into account how much I would buy over here. Being a T-shirt hoarder, I should have known that I would have ended up with 7 new shirts (a proud collection of 2 Shakespeare, 1 Germany, 1 Harlaxton, 1 Ireland,  1 London Olympic, and 1 BBC television centre) and probably a few more by the time I return from my Italy extravaganza in about a week. Now, I'm worried about the weight of my suitcase upon return to the US, and if the security men at the airport tell me it's too heavy, I plan on wearing as many clothes as I have to so I don't have to pay the fees.

2. Check your schedule. 16 times. 
Too many times did students, in haste and excitement, book a flight before they looked at the school schedule and saw that we had class on Friday, or that a British Studies exam was at the same time they were supposed to leave. Fortunately, this did not happen to me. But I checked. 16 times. Every day. I actually did miss British Studies once when I went to Germany, but I was aware of the conflict and had some spare absences to use. But this is probably the biggest issue for students because they lost a lot of money paying for things they couldn't do because of exams or classes. And professors warned us at the beginning that we couldn't miss exams for traveling. Don't say they didn't.

3. Allow extra time for travel, but not too much.
Being neurotic about being on time and saving money, when booking travel I always made sure I had plenty of time in between legs of my trip. But I got carried away. I wish someone would have sat down and explained to me that it was unnecessary to have 7 hours to kill in Gatwick. My first train to King's Cross left at 9:19 am. I arrived at about 10:45, then hopped on my second train to Gatwick and arrived at about 11:30. The train was even late. And I still had this much time to spend in Gatwick by myself lugging around my heavier-than-me backpack. I did the same thing on the way back, finding myself wandering around King's Cross for 4 hours before my train arrived. I didn't want to be one of those students that didn't think about travel time and missed a flight, but I went overboard.

Me in front of Luxern in Switzerland

4. If you want to do something, do it. 
For the first month I was here, I was intent on spending as little as I possibly could. I panicked about having enough money to last me four months. While I have depleted a large sum of my bank account, I have a small amount to spare. I realized by the time I went to North Wales in mid-February that I was probably never going to be back here, or if I was, it wasn't going to be in the next 8 years or so. So I'd better start doing things that I really wanted to, and I should suck it up and pay money. I have been so much happier since I did. Yes, I'm going back with less money than I initially intended. But I've done so many incredible things because of that. And if I could go back and do this semester again, I'd spend more money on the first places I went because there are some things I missed that I regret not doing. And my parents have been hugely supportive in this process, helping me out whenever they were able.

I've learned so much this semester, and as it comes to a close, it's a strange feeling. In one sense, I could hop on a plane now and rush home. And I'd love that. But in another, it's going to be weird back in the states. Driving again, paying sales tax, ordering tea and forgetting that it generally comes cold with ice. I'm so ready to go home, but I know I'll miss this place as soon as I leave.


  1. Great words spoken from a true traveler. Enjoy that last leg of your trip!!

  2. From your first post:

    "The packing, though, I haven't given much thought to. I imagine I'll wait until the last day to pack (though I'll have sworn to my mother that I start weeks in advance), and I'll probably regret waiting until the last minute to try and cram as much as I can possibly fit into my suitcases as physically possible (even using vacuum space bags)."

    Lesson learned. ;)