By Celine Aenelle-Rocha
I didn’t get any sleep the night before I left for England. It was like starting college all over again, but in a different country with passports and blue money and preconceptions about what people and classes would be like.
I was worried that I’d fall behind everyone else, that I wouldn’t meet new people, that the adjustment would be too difficult. Besides the fact that the British drink a lot of tea, I was wrong about almost everything.
Both my parents lived and studied abroad at one point: my mother spent a year in Paris between college and law school, and my father spent his junior year abroad in London. They have always pushed me to leave the nest and explore the world. My mother, on a whim, took a semester off from college to live in Mexico ﾗ she got on a plane with the intent of staying a week and came back six months later instead. They instilled in me a need to travel simply because they had.
Nevertheless, studying abroad seemed daunting from a chair in Rosse Hall during the mandatory off-campus study orientation. I chose to go for a year abroad with the Kenyon-Exeter program instead of a semester on my own, and though that meant getting to travel with a group of students and professors
I already knew, the word “year” sounded ominous. It was a lot of pressure. It really hit me in September when I was trying to pack ﾗ how could I unearth a year of my life? How was I going to pack for a year when I had no idea how I was going to live it?
I left because I wanted to visit the places I had read about in so many books, in the classroom and outside it, and I wanted to see where they had been written and what about and why.
Exeter sits in the English countryside of Devon, where still in October everything is green and wet. A train ride away is London, the city I wanted to see all my life and have been able to explore twice now. I’ve lived just outside a big city my whole life, but London seems more than big. It sprawls, never-ending, stretching past the edges of England. It makes no effort to see sense; it is impossible to navigate. I think the Tube is bizarre, though my father loves it ﾗ “I took it everywhere!”
I am a foreigner and a student and a tourist. I say sweater instead of jumper and French fries instead of chips.
But there are things I’ve found myself doing in this country that feel less foreign every day, like having tea and biscuits twice a day when I never drank tea at home, or looking the opposite way when I cross the street.
After a month I finally feel settled, busy but endlessly ecstatic to be living in England. With the Kenyon-Exeter program I’ve been to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, seen plays all around London, explored historic sites where ancient kings lived, and taken long walks through the country and by the shore.
I study literature with both British and Kenyon students, and I’m learning to adjust to a new approach to reading books and writing papers.
It’s difficult to be away from the U.S., from Kenyon especially, for a semester ﾗ let alone a year.
But the experiences I’ve had so far, and the ones I will have soon, have made me incredibly grateful to have this opportunity to meet people and cultures I wouldn’t necessarily encounter back at home. And now I have my own stories to share with my parents ﾗ they’re so eager to see my new home that they’re coming to visit me for Christmas.