Four months ago, I arrived at Harlaxton, bleary-eyed but ready for adventure. The possibilities offered by a wide-open semester felt endless. There would always be time, it seemed, to see something more, go someplace else, try something new.
But tomorrow, tomorrow I leave this magical place. My bags are packed, and, despite the rather unreasonable amount of shopping I’ve done this semester, my bag weighs in at 48.4 pounds. Success. Less tangible things are not so easy, however. I’ve tried writing this blog half a dozen times, but I just don’t know what to say. How can I summarize this crazy, exhilarating, stressful, glorious semester?
I have visited places I never dreamed I’d be able to see. I have been to London FOUR TIMES already. I have gone to a service in Westminster Abbey and seen some of Michelangelos and Titians in the National Gallery. I’ve shopped at Portobello Market not once, but twice, a dream I’ve had since seeing “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” as a little girl (although no suits of armor came to life that I saw, I am sad to report). I have been to a castle built in the 11th century and seen ruins from the time of the Romans, for God’s sake. I’ve had a drink in a pub in Dublin and seen manuscript of Yeats’s The Stolen Child in the Irish National Library. I’ve had a twenty-minute conversation with a sweet old gentleman in a pub in Wales and made a fool of myself trying to pronounce Welsh place names. I went back to Germany twice and never made a fool of myself while speaking the language. I even got to see Florence + the Machine in England. And I’ve covered all of Edinburgh on foot and even climbed Arthur’s Seat at sunrise—who would have thought?
True friendships have grown deeper and superficial ones have not lasted. Some of my friends here are like my family now. We have had so many shared experiences—travel and wonder, stress and tears, late-night hilarity and pre-paper panic. I’ve also met so many new people, making new friends. Parting will be bittersweet, especially with those who go to other schools. I have even made non-American friends—Jacky, a divinely sweet German girl in our hostel room hit it off with us and we spent a large part of the weekend running around Düsseldorf together, nattering in German (much to the annoyance of Lesley and Amanda). My meet-a-family has been divine, truly welcoming me into their lives. I am very much going to miss Graham and Margaret, as well as their divine cooking.
Harlaxton Manor itself holds so many memories. Late nights watching movies in the Junior Common Room, classes in beautiful state rooms, complaining about food in the Refectory, searching through the library for books related to Chaucer and chivalry for my dreaded British Studies paper, laughing and crying on my friends’ beds, listening to classical music as we troop off to British Studies at 8:30 twice every week. Every Tuesday, I’d take the shuttle into Grantham for tiger bread and black currant jam from Morrison’s, and upon return, gasp with wonder at the manor—the castle—that I call home. And after every trip, seeing the manor was just like going home.
I now know what it means to mind the gap, and will always keep calm and carry on. I have shopped, probably a bit too much, at Primark and Topshop and will be coming back with a refreshingly European wardrobe. I’ve developed a taste for Indian food, black currant jam and parsnips. Pound coins, rather than dollar bills, seem like the most logical currency and I automatically convert prices in my head whenever I want to buy something. I know better now than to ask for a ride, and other than proclaiming quite loudly my distaste for “pants” in public, have had no major language mishaps, and my spelling meanders back and forth between the British and American methods, which is probably quite maddening for my professors. I can navigate the Tube and train system, and know my way around London’s center fairly well, feats which would have seemed impossible at the beginning of the semester when I was still getting lost in the manor (okay, I still occasionally get lost in the manor).
Of course, I look forward to going home, where everything is cheaper. Where I have my own car and my own bed (and own bedroom!) and can shower without wearing shoes. Where I can cook my own food—what I want, when I want. And seeing the numbers in my bank account going up for a change will be extremely nice. Getting a little space, not always being in such close proximity to so many other people, will also be divine.
But I’m not the same person who left. I couldn’t be. I’ve seen so much more, done so much more on my own and tried so many new things. I’ve learned to be more flexible and to not stress so much. To realize that it’s only money, and to take things as they come. Being removed from home has made me more myself, if that makes any sense, and I look forward to going home, but will always carry the memories and lessons of Harlaxton with me. It’s been great, guys.
But now, it’s time for my next adventure. I'm not sure what it is yet, but something will turn up.