Friday, 7 December 2012

Oh, how bittersweet...

I'M HOME.  Yes, my last blog post is being sent from Ferdinand, Indiana, USA.  But my thoughts are of a country manor in England...

I'm finally home and rested after staying awake for 45 hours straight, minus the few times I dozed off on the plane.  I can't believe it was only two days ago when I was finishing shoving and squooshing my stuff into my suitcase and taking my final British Studies exam.  I then had an hour to say goodbye to Harlaxton, both the house and my Harlaxton family.  It was a long, emotionally taxing hour.  I lived with these people and in these rooms for over 3 months, and I was leaving without knowing exactly when I'd be back.  But rest assured, I WILL be back.  By the time our coach was pulling down the drive, away from my Harlaxton home and many waving faculty, staff, and friends, I was emotionally exhausted.  But my friend and I spent the next two hours talking about Harlaxton, then about things to take our minds off Harlaxton, then back to Harlaxton memories again.  I ended my time in the UK with a performance of Phantom of the Opera.  It was icing on the cake.

It's hard to put into words what this semester means to me.  I remember dreaming of Harlaxton every day of the summer; it completely blew away my expectations.  I planned trips to several different countries; I saw even more than I imagined I would.  I remember watching a 5 minute YouTube video to introduce me to the United Kingdom and realized how little I knew; now I know about Britain's history and culture and can write an essay about British national identity.  I remember looking at pictures of Harlaxton Manor; now I know that pictures don't do it justice.  I was told I'd love my Meet-a-Family; there is no doubt that I LOVE my Meet-a-Family.  I was warned about British Studies and flying with RyanAir and public transportation; none of these were as bad as I'd thought.  I can sum this all up in three words:  I LOVE HARLAXTON.

I traveled to Scotland, Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, and many places in England this semester.  I loved being immersed in each vastly different culture and getting a different vibe from each place.  Some of my favorite memories include viewing London by night on the London Eye, visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh, seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle and taking a boat tour in Paris, visiting Mozart's house in Salzburg and Dachau concentration camp in Germany, walking through ancient Rome and Vatican City, seeing Stonehenge with my aunt and uncle, and exploring London with my parents.  I surprised myself by adapting quickly to public transportation:  subways, buses, taxis, and trains.  Woah.  My public transportation record before Harlaxton was riding the Washington, D. C., metro one time.  I could go on and on about my weekend trips.  I took at least a day trip every single weekend this semester.  It was fabulous!

Life on campus was also exciting!  I loved our many House competitions and the opportunities for competing in different events.  Bistro nights allowed us to relax and socialize.  As a music major at UE, I am always swamped with classes, homework, and rehearsals.  I must practice for my weekly lessons, orchestra, string ensemble, any tech class I'm taking, and my music therapy practicum.  That leaves little time to play whatever I want and participate in extra, fun things like choir.  This semester, I had little formal music, which gave me many opportunities to be involved in other music activities I wouldn't be in at UE.  I was in choir, which was relaxed and fun.  I was able to sing a few solos and in a quartet.  I performed in two variety shows, playing violin and singing, and a flute quartet.  All of these were low stress and tons of fun!  I also performed in a murder mystery.  It's one of my favorite memories from Harlaxton.  I always enjoyed rehearsals and loved the thrill of performing, and I know that acting would never fit my UE schedule.  Another great experience was traveling to London with my fellow music therapy majors to the Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy Centre in London.  We had a 3-hour private visit that included a presentation, improvisation session, discussion, and observing a session.  We'll take what we learned back to the States.

One of my best Harlaxton experiences was the Meet-a-Family program.  Stephen and Veronica were so similar to me!  I played violin with them at their church and spent lots of time at their house.  They took me to Belton House and out to eat and really gave me a great English experience.  They even had a cat which helped me not miss my own cats so much! :)  They hosted an awesome birthday party for me, and I just loved spending time with them.  I miss them so much already!  But now I have a place to stay when I come back to visit... :D

I'm really going to miss the simple things, like having classes in such beautiful rooms.  My professors.  The staff.  Having one class on Thursday and no classes on Friday. The Christmas tree.  Tea being so readily available (though I'm going to change that at my house!).  The accents.  And especially my Harlaxton family.  I told myself I'd try not to sound too mushy, but the Harlaxton class of fall 2012 is truly a community that I will always remember and keep in touch with.

Right now, my heart is both happy and sad.  I'm glad to be back on American soil, but I can't wait for the next time I get to see my Harlaxton home.  Nothing has (or probably ever will) impact me in such a way.  I've grown incredibly as a person and will never view the world in the same way.  As I reflect on this amazing semester, I must keep this in mind:  "Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened."
And smile I will.

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