The End. Day 138: June 5 2015 (Friday)

In honor of the anniversary of my last day in Leeds, I wanted to finally complete this blog that I so meticulously compiled of one of the greatest times in my life.

Per the usual, and despite my best intentions, I had to wake up and face that today was the last day. I had tea and crumpets accompanied by overwhelming nostalgia and melancholy. Sadness weighed on me from my waking moment until I climbed into a taxi at 3:00 a.m. While I will quickly denote what I did for my very last day (in this blog’s true fashion), I don’t want to focus on just those details. Instead, it’s important for me to retell why I couldn’t find the energy to even write a blog post 365 days ago.

In short, I spent the majority of my day soaking in moments with the amazing people who I’ve met during my time abroad. I finished packing and stared at my bare room for a moment trying to face the reality that I had to go home.

I spent time in all of the places that have held (and still hold) a special place in my soul: I went to D3.1 and had a solid cry, spent time in D1.1 getting signatures on my flag, headed over to Kourtni’s flat to get some final moments with her, sat with my remaining roommates in my kitchen at Lupton, and went on a walk through the cobbled streets surrounded Headingley neighbourhood past all of the now-familiar storefronts.

As the day sank further and further into the evening, sadness settled more heavily on me. I combatted this by allowing myself to go out as I’d come in… heading into uni on a bus full of loud, laughing friends to sit in the Terrace one last time. This is where I first encountered all the people who have become my friends and this is exactly how I want to remember my time with them.

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After an hour or so, a group of us left to head back to Lupton and I sat with Jonny and tried not to count down the time to my departure. He, of course, made me laugh through my tears, changing my focus to the good times I’ve had throughout the semester.

Then the clock struck 3:00 a.m. and the end became all too real.

I gave final hugs to everyone in D1.1 amidst tears and immense sadness. I was the first to truly leave the group, which was both a blessing and a curse. Jonny walked me out to the taxi, and just like that I was leaving behind everything I’d come to love; I was waking up from a dream.

The entire way to the airport, I fought the urge to ask the driver to turn around and take me back. I considered everything from finding a job in the U.K. to transferring over for my final year of uni to simply squatting illegally in order to stay.

And that’s when it hit me that even if the taxi did deposit me back at the gates of Lupton, nothing would ever be the same. See, the thing about studying abroad is that you fall in love with the people and the places and the experiences knowing that you’ll be heartbroken. You take risks you never would’ve fathomed and open your soul up to be changed forever.

Everything you do is a fleeting moment, a picture. Every instance is tainted by the fact that you can never relive it, which makes it all the more beautiful. Every person who touches your life will move on and you will become a distant glimmer woven into the fabric of their past. You realize that you are a small piece of their puzzles while their influence on your life becomes monumental.

And in the short course of your study abroad term, you convince yourself that it could be like this forever and that you will keep in touch and that you can always go back to those places that meant something to you. But inside you know that won’t be possible and so you let yourself feel and absorb every sight, every experience, every person that you grow to care about while you still can.

It is an interesting juxtaposition to open yourself to these things with the knowledge that they must end, but in it comes an appreciation for life, for love, and for change.

I didn’t want to write this blog post because it meant coming to terms with closing the most incredible chapter of my life thus far. But since Leeds, several milestones have passed in my life, and I believe that my experience there taught me to take them in stride and let truly beautiful and fleeting moments alter my heart and redirect my course.

I always wondered why every person who studies abroad comes back touting the value of their experiences and encouraging others to pursue studying overseas, but now I know:

Studying abroad doesn’t just give you insight into another culture or lifestyle, it gives you insight into yourself. You learn to allow yourself to live, to capture every second and to let those seconds turn into moments that transform you. It teaches you to embrace that change and to see the beauty in it.

What I wouldn’t give to go back to a day in D1.1 sitting around sharing laughter and conversation (and drinks) with the incredible people I met in Leeds. I’ll always look back at my study abroad as experience as once-in-a-lifetime.

So of course, while this blog post does denote closure, it does not signify forgetting. Everywhere I go from here and everything I become will be influenced by the people I met and the days I spent in Leeds. They altered me irreversibly, and for that, I’ll forever be grateful.

Cheers,

Meghan

 

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Day 137: June 4 2015 (Thursday) – 1 Day Left. Final API Dinner.

I slept in until about 11:00, and then showered, packed some of my carry-on, and relaxed. At 1:00, Jonny and I went to Sainos for the last time to get ingredients for lunch wraps. He was nice enough to buy me some of my favorite cookies and peanuts for the plane ride Saturday.

We went back to 3.1 and made wraps and then sat in Kristina’s and watched Brooklyn Nine-Nine on Netflix. I left around 3:30 for city centre to print out a picture for Rachel’s gift. I ran all over the place looking for a photo kiosk, and finally found one. That is one thing about the U.S. I’m excited for–convenience.

I finally found a kiosk in the massive Boots near the Trinity Shopping Centre and, photo in hand, headed to the restaurant to meet up with the other API students. We all signed a card for Rachel and also signed the frame around the picture before she got there.

Her gift includes:

  • One of each of our favorite American candies (Sour Patch Kids-Grant, Reese’s-Haley, Caramel Apple Suckers-Huggs, Milk Duds-me, Laffy Taffy-Kourt, and a Zero bar-Tessa)
  • A box of Girl Scout cookies (courtesy of Haley)
  • A signed frame with a picture of the six of us with Rachel at Harewood House
  • A bottle of wine
  • An assortment of moon pies and goo goo clusters (courtesy of Haley)
  • A signed card

When Rachel arrived, we went inside and found our reserved table. We had pre-ordered our meals, so the waitress brought us drinks right away and we sat and watched Rachel open her gift. She loved it and was so appreciative, though it was really the least we could do for her after everything she has done for us over the semester.

I ordered a Leeds Pale Ale (my first one, which I’m sad about because it was delicious) and sat down just as our food began to come. For my starter, I got a creamy soup that was really good. For my main, I ordered Bangers and Mash, a traditional English meal that is basically sausages on mashed potatoes.

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Dessert was a treacle sponge cake, also a British favorite. It was delicious as well, and by the end of the meal I was completely stuffed.

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Kourt and I said our final goodbyes to Rachel after dinner, as we wouldn’t be going to the theater. It was really odd to say goodbye to her, since she’s been like a mom to us all during our time here. We promised to stay in touch, and I even had her sign my flag.

We also got a final group pic, probably my favorite one yet:

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From there, we split ways. Kourt and I walked to Parkinson’s to catch the bus, and everyone else headed to the theater. Once back at Lupton, Jonny and I went for a long walk and had a really good conversation. It was a really lovely evening, weather-wise and just in general, and I’m glad that I chose spending time with people tonight over going to the theater.

We picked Kourtni up on our way back and went to 3.1 to do what we always do–sit and relax in Kristina’s and watch Netflix. Of all of the things I’ve done in Leeds, Netflix in Kristina’s will be the thing I miss the most, I think.

Day 136: June 3 2015 (Wednesday) – 2 Days Left. Warehouse.

Since The Office is over, Jonny, Kourt, and I have started watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which is hilarious. I spent the morning doing that and then completely packed and zipped up my large suitcase. Now all I have to do is weigh it and pray I don’t have to repack it at all.

At about 2:30, I left with Jonny and Kourt and walked to uni to meet Fi and walk to Just Grand for afternoon tea. Haley met us there, and we all ordered food and beverages. I got a full afternoon tea since it will be my last one, and it was just as good as I remembered.

20150603_150548260_iOSWe sat for a long time just talking and enjoying our meals, and I don’t think I could’ve asked for a better group to go with.

Once we were done, we walked back to uni and stopped in a studio to see Kristina’s art exhibit. She has been working on a few large paintings for the last few weeks for her final project, so we went to see it displayed with all of the other final works. To be honest, I thought hers was easily the best one. The studio was packed, so we grabbed some free wine and spent awhile wandering from painting to painting and chatting with Kristina.

It was a beautiful day, so Jonny, Kourt, and I walked home afterward and had dinner. After dinner, I got ready with Kourt and we went over to 1.1 to pre for Warehouse. It is going to be our last night out at a club, and Kristina sold us discount tickets since she is the social secretary for cheerleading and gets a special rate. We convinced Fi to come with us, so in the end it was me, Kristina, Jonny, Fi, Jakob, Sophie, and Kourt who went.

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We caught the bus around 11:30, so we got to Warehouse by 12 and got in right away. It was absolutely packed inside, since exams are almost over, but we managed to run into Kristina’s friend Harriet as well as Kieran.

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Because Kristina is a cheerleading rep, she also got a free bottle of vodka from the bar. She split the entire bottle into enough cups for everyone we’d come with, which was awesome because we didn’t have to buy any other drinks for the entire night.

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The dance floor was packed with people, but we all managed to stay relatively close together and keep tabs on each other. It was a crazy fun night, again, and I’m so glad that I decided to go out this last time.

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We didn’t leave until closing, which was around 3:30 a.m. When we got out of the club, it was almost fully daylight, which threw me.

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We got back to Lupton around 4:15, because we couldn’t find a cab, and I fell into bed exhausted and ready to “have a lie in” a.k.a. sleep in.

Day 135: June 2 2015 (Tuesday) – 3 Days Left.

In the morning, I watched the final episode of The Office with Jonny, and polished off tea and a pack of crumpets, which points to a) the fact that everything feels like it is ending, and b) the fact that I have an addiction I’ll have to curb once I’m back in the states. Not to spoil anything, but the finale was on par with the finale of Friends or Gilmore Girls, and made me tear up a bit.

Anyway, after watching, I packed up my large suitcase almost to completion, so all I’ll have to do is fill my carry-on and backpack in the next two days. I was worried that everything I’ve gotten while here combined with all I brought wouldn’t fit, but I think I’m going to be able to make it work. Now my only concern is the weight limit on luggage. Note to anyone planning on studying abroad: when the study abroad people tell you to only fill your suitcase halfway because you will buy so much stuff, listen to them. If I could go back, I would’ve left so much stuff at home and then had tons of room to work with on the way back.

Seeing my emptying room made me sad once again, so I sat and cried for a bit. I’m trying to get all of the tears out of my system so that I can just enjoy the last few days, but so far I’m failing miserably at it. I pulled myself together and messaged Kourtni. We went on a really long run on one of the first paths we ever followed, and it really helped to get out and see Leeds and get exercise.

When we got back, I packed up my running shoes, so that will be the last run I take while here. I showered and went over to 3.1 for dinner with Jonny. After eating, we went into Kristina’s and watched Kingsman with Kourt and Haley. Fi came in later and joined us until we all decided to go to sleep around midnight.

Day 134: June 1 2015 (Monday) – 4 Days Left, Itchy Feet!

Cheeky cry this morning since it is officially June and I have less than a week left. The morning was again spent lying around watching Netflix and drinking tea with crumpets. It has become a ritual way to begin the day. I packed a bit more and took some items that I won’t need to Jonny’s for him and Fi to use in their house next year.

Jonny and I went for a walk around 3:00 to the park and the surrounding area. Unfortunately on the way back, I took us on a wrong turn and we wound up wandering for nearly an hour trying to find Lupton. We actually happened upon a gypsy compound (basically like a hippie camp where gypsies illegally squat until they’re kicked out) before finding Aldi and making our way back from there.

We stopped in Sainos on the way back to get some ingredients for dinner. After dinner, I went to mine and showered and then Kourt came over and we got ready for Itchy Feet, a night on at the Belgrave that is a 20s-themed speakeasy.

Once I was finally ready, we headed over to 3.1 to pre with Fi, Jonny, Josie, Katie, Hannah, and Renie. Since it is going to be one of our last nights out, Jonny, Kourt, and I made sure to get a few pictures together.

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I really like hanging out with this group of people, as they are all hilarious, so pres was a ton of fun. We played quite a few drinking games and headed for Belgrave at about 11:30. We got in straightaway and started dancing. And it was so much fun. The music was old school, jazzy tunes, but I knew a surprising amount of them and they were easy to dance to.

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Plus, everyone was dressed up, and the crowd was a really unique mixture of people. We found the official photographer and got our picture taken as well.

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The night went by surprisingly fast. It ended around 3:00, so we headed outside, and Kourt, Jonny, and I walked to Parkinson’s to catch the bus back to Lupton. It was definitely one of my favorite nights out so far in Leeds, and I’m so glad Fi mentioned it to us a few weeks ago so that we could get tickets and go together.

Day 133: May 31 2015 (Sunday) – 5 Days Left.

Five full days left after today, and the last day of May. I can’t help but count down, though I’m trying not to focus on it too much, as it makes me cry.

Today was another lazy one, spent watching The Office and laying around, not a bad way to spend a final Sunday. I’ve sincerely started packing up my room so that in the last few days I won’t have so much to do and can chill with people.

Fi’s cousin Pip is here, so I made American-style pancakes for her, and sat in the kitchen with her and Josie before they left for city centre talking and laughing about weird traveling experiences. She was super nice, and it was a really enjoyable morning.

I went for a walk by myself up to the park awhile later (which I wish I would’ve found earlier in the semester), and then went to 3.1 to have a curry dinner with Jonny.

For the remainder of the night, we watched Netflix in Kristina’s room with Fi, Pip, Hannah, Kristina and Kourt. We watched a bunch of chick flicks before finally calling it a night.

Day 132: May 30 2015 (Saturday) – 6 Days Left.

Since the night was so late, I lounged around all morning in 3.1 with everyone watching Netflix and relaxing (of course, with tea and crumpets). I also made American-style pancakes for Kristina, Jonny, and Jalex and we sat in the kitchen talking for awhile after. Around 2:00, Kourt and I went for a long walk up to a park that I discovered on one of my last runs and talked about how hard it is that we’re leaving soon.

We got back to Lupton and went over to 3.1 again for fajitas, and then spent the rest of the night there watching Netflix in Kristina’s room with Kourt and Jonny. We watched Oculus, which is easily one of the scariest films I’ve ever seen (well, listened to, as I had my eyes covered the entire time). Fi joined us after the film and we watched some episodes of the BBC’s Deep Sea. While I have considered trying to do something new in Leeds each day this week, I actually feel more content just relaxing with everyone and getting as much time with them as humanly possible.

Day 131: May 29 2015 (Friday) – The Final Countdown. 7 Days Left.

Even though I technically leave next Saturday, it will be at 3:00 a.m. that morning, so I really only have 7 full days left after today. In case you’re curious, I had a quick cry session over it when I realized.

Luckily, I had a lot planned to distract me from that realization. The first being exercise. Kourt and I went for a run to Kirkstall Abbey, to get one last look at it. When we got back, I did some more packing and relaxed at mine before going to Kourt’s for dinner.

We got ready together, and then headed to 1.1 for pres. We have tickets for Fruity, which is Toga Party themed! But first, we plan on going to James Bailey for more pre-ing for Kieran’s birthday. We’ve been taking our flags around with us for everyone to sign, and it is turning into the best idea ever. I got signatures from everyone in 1.1 and brought it with to James Bailey.

Fi, Haley, Kristina, Jonny, Kourt, and I headed there around 10:30, and arrived to a packed flat.

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Kieran signed our flags and then we just went around catching up with all of the American football players and having them sign our flags. We got to see Calvert, Jalex, Josh, Jack, and Connor, so it was basically the entire crew of guys we met throughout the semester.

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It was really fun to see everyone one last time, and I’m glad I had the flag with me so that they all had the chance to write on it.

Unfortunately, since it is exam season, the warden came and shut down the party around 12:00, at which point we decided to head to Fruity. On the way, though, the football players decided to have a house party, so we parted from Haley (who went to Fruity to meet up with Tessa and get her money’s worth since we’d already paid for tickets) and went to the guys’ house.

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It was a really chilled night, but I’m glad we chose the house party over Fruity, as I won’t have the chance to see many of these guys again after tonight and I wanted to chat with them as long as I could. We left pretty late, around 2:00, and walked back to Lupton for the night.

Day 130: May 28 2015 (Thursday) – BBQ night and Pub Quiz

The majority of the morning I spent watching Netflix and relaxing with tea and crumpets. As my days begin to wane, I’m eating as many crumpets as possible, since I won’t have them in the U.S.

I left around noon to run to Sainos and grab ingredients for sloppy Joe’s and cake. Kourt came over while I made the cake and we chatted while I did a load of laundry (my last while being here!). Everything is beginning to turn into lasts and it is really tough to think about leaving in a week. I’ve started packing up my suitcase, and souvenirs and gifts take up about 1/4 of it so far.

When the cake was done, cooled, and frosted, Kourt and I took our meals over to 1.1 for a final BBQ night. We sat around in the kitchen with Jonny, Sophie, Kristina, Jakob, Jack, Ben, and Haley. Kourt, Hales, and I planned to go to a pub quiz at Old Bar with all the API kids (minus Huggs, who is in Germany), so when we finished eating, Jakob pulled up some trivia on his phone and prepped us for the quiz, which was actually really fun.

As the pub quiz started at 8:00, we left to catch the bus and meet up with Tessa outside of D Block around 7:45. We got to uni right at 8:00, but then ran into Fi and Josie outside of the union and stopped to chat. By the time we got in, found a table, and located Grant, we had missed the first round, but the announcer agreed to read the questions to us during a break.

It was really loud in the bar, and the announcer had a pretty thick accent, so we missed a few questions. The pub quiz was still fun, and we had pints and good conversation between rounds. The questions in general were relatively difficult, as a lot had to do with world geography, and we fit the typical American stereotype of having no clue about geography in general. In the end, we got 50% of the quiz questions correct. For a point of reference, that was 30 out of 60, and the winning team got 54 out of 60. Yikes.

Afterward, we rode the bus back to Headingley and headed to Taps to meet up with Ben, Jakob, and Sophie. It was loud and crowded (per usual on a Thursday night), so we only had one pint and then went back to D1.1 to continue hanging out. I left to go to sleep at about 11:30.

While the picture is pretty poor quality, it depicts my final pint at Taps.

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Day 127-129: 25 May -27 May 2015 (Monday – Wednesday)

25 May 2015 (Monday)

Started the day with a run to Kirkstall Abbey with Kourt. She appreciated it as much as I thought she would, and it was a great run as well. Once back and showered, I took the leftover knoephla soup to 3.1 and shared it with Jonny. The rest of the day was spent in Kristina’s room watching The Office and hanging out. I also got to have a nice chat with Jessie and Mom, which was good, as Mom didn’t know what day my flight got in and I could’ve potentially been stuck at Fargo’s airport for a day before she and dad would be there to pick me up.

Around 6:30, I went down to D1.1 for curry night. Ben asked everyone to pay a pound and we could have as much rice, curry, and paan as we wished. It was really delicious and we sat around chatting for awhile. Harry, Kourt, and I tried to run to Sainos for some dessert, but since it is a bank holiday, it was closed so we had to go to Morrison’s instead. That meant no 70p cookies, but I got some chocolate fingers (basically a bunch of cylindrical cookies coated in chocolate) that sufficed with a bit of tea.

26 May 2015 (Tuesday)

I spent the morning blogging and watching The Office before getting ready to go on a run. I wound up finding a new route as well as a beautiful park near Lupton. After my run, I blogged some more and then made dinner before going to D1.1 for wine night. Ben, Jack, Harry, Jakob, Jonny, Shaunessy, Sophie, and I sat around for a bit. Harry, Jack, Shaunessy, and Ben all signed my flag as well, so I really don’t have many more people to sign.

After wine, I went up to 3.1 again and watched more Netflix on Kristina’s large screen. Kourt came up for a bit before heading to study some more. I stayed in Kristina’s room until about 11, before going to bed.

27 May 2015 (Wednesday)

I couldn’t fall asleep last night, so I slept in this morning, finally getting up around 11:00. I blogged and watched more Netflix all morning until about 3:00, when Kourt and I found a new running route. After the run, we went to Sainos and Superdrug, and then I headed to hers to make dinner.

We sat and talked for a long time after, as she finished an exam today and doesn’t want to start studying again until tomorrow for her next one. It was really nice because it has been awhile since we’ve had a chance to hang out. At Superdrug we bought hair dye, so after we chatted a bit, I dyed Kourt’s hair for her. We talked with James while it set in, and then Kourt washed it out after the allotted 30 minutes. She is now a slightly lighter brunette with hints of red and blonde.

Around 9:00, we went over to 3.1 and watched a bit of The Office with Fi, Kristina, and Jonny and then watched a new movie called Kingsman, which was surprisingly good.