It’s a little over halfway through my study abroad semester now. The semester is broken up in such a strange way for American students studying abroad at Lancaster; our orientation program was a month long, there’s a two-week break, and then the actual term is only ten weeks. It really is starting to feel like I’m halfway there, though, even if it’s a bit past the halfway point.
Prior to leaving, I wrote myself a letter with some questions I had for my future self about this experience:
Hi Future me!
How’s it going? Is it cold? Are you still alive? Did you get there okay? I’m hoping the answers to those are good, a little, yes, and yes, but studying abroad seems like such a big, scary adventure right now that I would totally understand if those answers are a bit different. I guess my biggest questions are about classes – what’s it like at a big university? Right now, I’m kind of worried about how I’ll do in such a different setting. It seems so impersonal, whereas at Rollins I’m used to accidentally spending an hour in Carnegie just running into professors and having conversations completely outside of coursework. Is it difficult not having that close of a bond with your professors?
And how’s the school newspaper? Right now, I can’t imagine a semester without constantly having a Sandspur article to work on. Does the Lancaster University paper work the same way as The Sandspur?
I guess my last major concern is keeping in contact with people from home. It all seems so weird, going away for that long and not being around my sisters, my girlfriend, my family, or anyone. Right now, I imagine Skype will become my best friend, but how do you really keep in contact with people at this point?
Good luck, dude!
So, I’ve written a letter in response to Past Me’s very inquisitive letter:
Hi, Past Me!
Well, you’re right on the answers to those questions, for the most part – it’s going well, it is very cold, I’m somehow still alive, and I did eventually get here okay, even if my original flight plans did fall apart almost immediately upon entering MCO. Studying abroad definitely is a big, scary thing, but I’m doing okay with it. Almost everything here is out of your comfort zone, and eventually, being out of your comfort zone becomes your comfort zone. That’s pretty cool though, because that’s where I’m learning the most.
Classes are extremely impersonal. My professors still probably don’t recognize me as anyone but “the girl who always wears several layers of clothing and still looks cold.” It’s not what I’m used to, but they’re all nice, so it’s okay.
I actually haven’t ventured into the realm of SCAN – the Lancaster University newspaper. I did submit to the Lancaster Flash Journal, which is kind of like Brushings, and had a short story published in there about a month ago. That was probably the best part of my study abroad experience so far – I never expected to go abroad and have my first piece of fiction published.
As for keeping in touch with people from home, that’s a little tricky. I’m using Messenger constantly, Snapchatting as often as possible, and glued to Facebook in a way I never wanted to be. I Skyped with people from home for the first couple of months, but then when the semester got busy for my friends, we stopped and started relying more on Messenger again. It’s not too bad keeping in touch this way, but I miss everyone.
I hope that answers your questions – soon, we’ll be home, and we can reflect on the second half of the semester I’m now calling “Sianna Takes