They say that going off to college is finding a type of freedom. The freedom away from parents and some rules. It gives a lot of students a new start and the opportunity to reframe their way of thinking. It is a place to find yourself and get away from things that might have tied you down.
They say that- but I never understood that kind of independence until now. Going from homeschool straight to community college, and then choosing a hometown university to get my four-year degree, provided me with a great academic career but never gave me the freedom of college.
My senior year of high school was spent only taking dual credit classes at community college. I then opted to do a two-year degree at the same community college based on finances. When it was time to find a university to finish my degree, I chose the school that I could (semi) afford but also gave me the academic options that fit what I needed. It happened that it was down the street from my house. When I graduate next year, I will actually be ending my school career on the same. exact. street. that I started on so many years ago.
When I started at SMU last fall, one of my priorities was to study abroad. I made a silent vow to myself when I accepted their offer. If I was going to stay in Dallas, I needed to spend at least a semester away to gain experience before graduating into the real adult world.
I have been abroad for a month now and already, I am getting to know the freedom of being away from familiarity. For the first time in my life, I am in a place, in a city, where no one knows me. There are no people here who saw my embarrassing middle school moments or have any pre-existing assumptions about me. I have to figure out which shops are best for a budget and so many of my habits have gone out the window.
When you live in the same place for such an extended time, you start to establish daily and normal rituals. How you cook food (or what food you eat), how you spend your free time, who you see, even how you think. I had those rituals. I lived by them and my life felt stale. I felt tied down to this mediocre life where I wasted time and if my life was a movie, it would be a very tragic and boring film.
This past month, my daily rituals have changed dramatically. I have had to adapt in ways that I never have before. Dealing with so much unfamiliarity forces you to acknowledge things about yourself. It sounds stereotypical but I feel like I am finding myself in London. There are so many tests that have already come my way, some big and some small. Finding out out how to pass these tests are teaching me about what I can change in my life and how to embrace things about me personally.
I have never been one to be heavily dependant on someone or something. Or I have never been one to want to be dependent. However, the indepence that I am getting while in this city makes me feel more prepared for my 2019 graduation. Moving to a massive European city for a season, practically alone, is a good start to grabbing the adulthood handle.
When you move, especially when it’s to a new country, there is often nothing to lean on, something to rely on. You have to be the one to find that base or create it. Even if a student does the average university route, study abroad should still be a option for them. Nothing teaches you more about life than getting away from yours.
There is freedom in opportunity. I still have two more months here, but I already see my life changing because of what I get to do in this city. Staying in one place felt like I was stuck at a train station, watching people move forward and off to other places while I sat looking at empty tracks. Living in London has given me the chance to finally jump on trains, literally and figuratively, and now I am slowly but steadily heading out of the station.