Posted by: mandaleigh | 18th Dec, 2011

The end of an era

So here it is. The obligatory reflective post where I throw out life lessons about my life abroad! I’m about to lay some knowledge on you and get real cheesy, so prepare yourself.

ASE threw us a final tea at a classy hotel. We were served tea, cakes, the infamous clotted cream and sandwiches. After tea, the program director Jonathan (affectionately dubbed JHope) showed us a slideshow of hilarious pictures to “Don’t You Forget About Me.” (The song was chosen specifically because of our Halloween costume, yeah we’re that influential.)  We all clamored for pictures with The Butterworth, the smartest little British man you’ll ever meet and someone who will be at UMW in February to talk about ASE!

Butters!

 

We met for drinks afterwards, and then it was off to Jamie’s Italian, Jamie Oliver’s restaurant! The menu was so impressive we all had a hard time deciding what to nom. We shared wine, more reminiscing, more laughs. Everytime someone would bring up leaving or travel plans, we’d eschew that and say no no, we’re spending New Years in London right? And St. Patty’s Day in Dublin? We’re not leaving. OCCUPY PRIOR PARK! START A REVOLUTION! Last night out—we went full circle by returning to PoNaNa for Squeeze the Cheese night. And saw a fight between two morons. So what an interesting send off!

 

Forgive the logo, I didn't make it lol

There was no way we were going to sleep. Despite having to leave the house around 7:50 to catch my bus to Heathrow, we stayed up all night cooking, talking and stopping the tears because it’s NOT goodbye, it’s see you later. We engulfed each other in bone-crushing hugs and promises to plan a reunion. I left just as the sun was coming up, and indulged myself in a few quiet tears as the bus went by Nelson and the Abbey. Had to get it out of my system, because an airplane/airport is not the best place to have a mental breakdown 😉 I did get to grab lunch at the airport with my beloved roomie and partner in crime though! We took off just as the sun was setting. So it’s another full circle affect—I first flew into London during sunrise, I left during a sunset.

 

The flight was just over 8 hours. The only bump in the road was the family of screaming toddlers one row over—the parents seemed completely oblivious. But that’s alright, I had a window seat and the ability to watch Harry Potter and lots of Curb Your Enthusiasm. We made an obligatory Taco Bell stop on the way home, and it was everything I remembered and more…so special. It was surreal to wake up in my old room and NOT in my little room at the top of the stairs in Prior Park, feel the sheets that aren’t mine, hear my Dad’s deep rumbling voice instead of lilting feminine laughter, not have to wait in line for the bathroom. It’s insane to think that yesterday afternoon I was in England.

My semester's worth of reading

So what did I learn? What did this experience open up for me? Let me just say I now require a job that allows me either enough flexibility to travel often, or a job that consists of traveling, because there’s no way I could stay stationary behind a desk all day. I need mobility, adventurous co-workers, a spark of life in my work. After all the places I went and the people I met this semester, I can’t imagine staying in one place forever.

I learned sleep doesn’t matter so much. You can hit your second wind, and your third, and your fourth. Apparently, a collective seven hours of sleep within a 50-ish hour window is enough for me. I learned that you shouldn’t buy £1 frozen pizzas from Iceland unless you want to throw up in an airport bathroom the next day. I learned that you should never go anywhere in England without an umbrella and 3 layers of clothes—there will literally be snow one minute and bright sunshine the next. I learned:

1) Never turn down an Irish party

2)Prague is the most beautiful city in the world

3)Always pee before leaving the house

4) It’s impossible to laugh too much

5) Never bring your credit card when you go out clubbing

6) Give people chances, they may surprise you

7)Friends are just the family you choose for yourself

8) Don’t EVER settle

9) Get your ass off the couch and go do something outside, even if it’s raining

10) Buy toilet paper in bulk in a house full of tea-drinking girls

11) British men are NOT sissies, they just sound like it

12) Tea cures everything

13) Go to Europe at least once before you die

14) Dance often, it’s good for the soul

15) Turn off the stove so Sarai doesn’t die

16) When facing culinary strugs, always ask Hannah

See you later, Bath

No words could ever adequately sum up this experience for me. It was without a doubt the most incredible time in my entire life. I met so many amazing people, explored so many breath-taking places, took many chances. I shared my writing, got published in a magazine, climbed a mountain, explored ancient ruins, visited my homelands, loved worthy people. I’ll always carry a piece of Bath in my heart. When life gives you lemons, you shoot those lemons in the face and laugh at the remnants. The world is waiting, so GO GET IT!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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