A Love Letter to England

I feel like my heart is floating somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic.

It’s bobbing somewhere between Tim Hortons and Nando’s, George Stroumboulopoulos and Mary Berry, somewhere between my first home and my chosen home.

When I was fifteen my best friend and I would spend our weekends watching movies like Wild Child (classic film) and googling how much it would cost to go to boarding school in England like Emma Roberts (I’ll give you a hint, it was more than my bank account had ever seen).

It has been six years since I sat on that bed, pining for a country that I had never even been to, and I’d like to think that teenage me would be proud, knowing that I finally got there.

There are so many things that I have done this year, so many people that I have met, that have become such integral parts of me, that sometimes it’s hard to separate that life from the one I had lived for the twenty years before it.

I’m glad I wasn’t able to live in England when I was younger. I don’t think I would have gotten as much out of it. I still would have been in high school, I still would have needed a chaperone everywhere I went. This way I was really on my own. I had to figure things out for myself, without any guidance (at least for the most part).

There’s an Audrey Hepburn movie from the 1950s called Sabrina, and at one point she says, “one day, the girl grew up and went beyond the walls of the grounds and found the world”, and that’s kind of what going on exchange is like.

I’m back in Canada now, and it’s bitter sweet. I love it here; I love Vancouver Island, I love UVic, my friends, my family, but that doesn’t make leaving a place I now consider a home any easier. It’s hard building a life for a year, only to have to leave at the end of it.

I found the world this year. I took a bath in the biggest Bath House in Europe, baked strudel in an underground kitchen in Austria, drank a cup of tea in some unexpected places, lived in a city with a 1000 year old castle, dabbed across seven countries (okay, that one I’m not as proud of), and even ate poutine in the heart of London.

Sorry, I know that was a lot of pictures, but to be fair, it’s a lot of memories.

I went to seven countries, sometimes just for the weekend. I took classes about 11th century cathedrals in 11th century cathedrals. I made a best friend. How do you come back from that? But you do, and I did.

To say this was one of the best years of my life would be a severely cliche understatement, but sometimes there is no other way to describe it.

Usually when you move across the world to go to university it is astronomically more expensive than if you went at home (trust me, 15 year old me did the research), but somehow, this year I managed to be okay, and that’s because UVic has one of the most amazing exchange programs that I’ve ever seen.

This year I paid the same tuition in England that I usually pay in Canada, and that’s because even though I was on a different continent, I was still technically a UVic student. The Study Abroad program gave me a gift that I used for ten months, and that I’ll be thinking about always.

Gertrude Stein once said, “America is my country, and Paris is my hometown”, and that’s how I feel about Norwich.

So thank you, England, for being everything I hoped you would, and UVic, for letting a 15 year old girl sitting her bedroom finally meet the world.

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