Grad School Abroad- What I Didn’t Expect

I moved to England 38 days ago. It feels like years ago. I have nestled in to my one bedroom apartment above the famous Fitzbillies across the street from Pembroke College, my new home. Pictures hanging from string lights adorn my walls and the softest velour throw pillow lays haphazardly on my bed. My planner is filled with notes from each day, quickly scribbled as not to forget the memories as time flies by here.

There were so many images that filled my head when I thought about grad life before moving here. I pictured lonely nights in my room because friends would be hard to make in the graduate program. I pictured endless hours in the library with no reprieve because graduate school is incredibly difficult. I pictured a previously very involved student becoming solely focused on her program because there would be no time for anything besides books. I had built up these expectations of grad school being scary and hard and nothing like my undergrad because that’s all I had been told by mentors and friends.

Well, they were wrong. All of it was wrong…sort of.

I am at home here. In my month of being here, I have forged some of the strongest friendships I have ever known. I joined the university women’s football team and my college’s May Ball committee. I don’t spend countless hours in the library. Not because my program isn’t hard and doesn’t require work, but because I only have one class a day and a lot of time to prioritize. I’ve had many sleepless nights, due mostly to friends and club nights, rather than studying and stress-induced insomnia. In fact, I’ve only cried twice since being here, and one of those times was listening to the cast of Wicked sing “For Good”. Don’t get me wrong, I do get homesick quite often. The amount of times I have looked at my phone screen and quietly whispered to myself “I miss my dog” is too many to count. But I also have created this incredible support system here, fostered through shared experiences and the art of listening. And this is just the beginning.

As a graduate fresher I am constantly asked how I like it here so far. Sometimes it feels a little arrogant to say that I absolutely love it here and there isn’t anything I don’t like because I know that is not the case for everyone. Maybe I am still in the honeymoon phase and the homesickness hasn’t fully hit me. But I would like to think that these feelings are real and they are here to stay.

I truly love grad school, and that was not a sentence I ever thought I would utter.

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Moving to a New Country

Here I am, sitting at the Oakland International Airport, waiting for my flight to London. Of course I am here a full two hours early so I have plenty of time to reflect on my move and maybe watch an episode of NCIS.

I couldn’t help but smile as I walked through the security line. I’ve never bought a one-way ticket before. It is a little exhilarating knowing I have no plans set in stone of when I will return to my home country. I wonder how long it will take for me to start referencing Cambridge as “home”.

I am sure moving to a new country will not be easy. There is a whole new culture I have to learn, different customs and practices, and a new language practically. I have to figure out a new monetary system, a new town, a new apartment, new classes. Everything I do from here on out is…new. And that is the most exciting part. I truly believe I was meant for travel. My soul is restless when it is resting.

Every person who knows that I am moving to England has asked me the inevitable question- Are you excited? I think what they are really asking is- Are you scared? I used to think I was terrified, about the unknown, starting over, knowing no one. But as the date drew closer and closer, I realized I’m not afraid at all. Am I stressed? Yes. Scared? No. I know in my heart of hearts I am meant for this adventure. I am meant to conquer this goal. I am nothing but hopeful of my new future.

When dropping me off at the airport, my brother said, “I’m sure you will do great.” and I started to respond with, “I hope so,” but I stopped, because I am not “hoping” anything. My future and my time at Cambridge is what I make of it. I don’t have to hope for a good time and an easy transition- I will make it so.