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.
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.