Phew. Last post.
I am, perhaps appropriately, sitting in a Starbucks in West Portal (my neighborhood in San Francisco) to write this post. It’s no Café Nero at Blackwell’s, and I’m not surrounded by British accents and the smell of books, but it is a café, and it did require a 15 minute walk, so I’ll take it.
I read our Whitman OCS advisors’ tips about returning to home, and I was prepared for experiencing reverse culture shock, for realizing no one wants to hear about my experiences as much as I want to talk about them, for being unable to explain even when people do listen, and for that horrible feeling that the moment I land in San Francisco, the time I spent away is no more than a dream.
Those feelings have come, but being prepared for them has helped them to feel less intense. My roommate from Oxford stayed in the UK a week longer than I did, and I’ve been able to live vicariously through her a bit and remain connected, so the experience still feels real. I’ve also kept in touch with the friends I made better than I expected to (of course, it’s only barely been a week since I’ve been back, so it’s not saying that much).
There are feelings and memories and people from Oxford that I know that I have left behind, that I can’t bring with me now that I am back.
But there are other things that I found there that I can keep with me, although it’s going to take some work to keep myself from falling back into all of the same patterns.
I only just realized as I was walking here and thinking about writing this post that I haven’t felt the same sense of self-appreciation and confidence I often felt in Oxford, and that is something that I know I can hold on to and that I am determined to foster now that I’m home. I think it comes from being independent, from accomplishing goals, and from feeling authentic. That means I’m going to have to set myself some goals for the summer, make sure that I get out and do my own thing and am active on my own, and that I hold onto those parts of myself and the comfort I found with them while I was abroad.
There are 2 important things I think I need to do to as this experience comes to a close: the first, to remember and validate my experiences; the second, to ground myself in the reality of my present and set goals for myself so that I can maintain the positive changes I made while abroad in this old/new context of being home.
So for the rest of this post, I’m going to dedicate 100 words to memories of Oxford that I don’t want to forget, and 100 words to goals looking forward at the rest of the summer and the following school year.
watching Harold and Maude with Sam for my birthday, everyone surprising me when I got back to the room, going out to the pub crawl at the beginning and feeling quite tipsy off cider, stepping into Blackwell’s for the first time, the long walk back from my tutorial in Summertown, dumplings at the Gloucester Green market, swimming in the Cherwell with Emma, watching Game of Thrones and Rick and Morty with Sam and Jack and then having a dance party just the three of us, talking to Lily for hours, high-fiving Jeong-Hwan on the way to tutorial and everything feeling better, walking in the park with Micayla conversation ranging from cannibalism to higher education, studying in the Bod for the first time and seeing Simone, picnic dinner in Port Meadow with Megan, Wednesday scaf bean burger night, getting back from Rome with Emily and the Magdalen bells ringing, Catweazle club, picking up Ben’s cookies to share– okay that’s over 100 words, need to stop for now.
do a little bit of creative writing every single day, read the Inda series, finish playing Bioshock and Borderlands, spend lots of time with my sister, find the best places to go out in the city, prepare plan for Watson fellowship, draft Fullbright application, visit New York, relish being able to make my own food and BAAAAKE (with an actual oven!), keep up a regular meditation practice, work out regularly and build up strength and endurance, enjoy and appreciate my body, be honest and open in my interactions with others, listen, visit Breakthrough and say hello to the kids I taught, practice driving so I feel more comfortable, do some sort of trip on my own, spend time at the ocean, fall in love again with my beautiful city.
I don’t know if this post really feels like a conclusion… I guess maybe it doesn’t have to, because even though I am home, my study abroad experience hasn’t “concluded.” I’m going to continue adjusting– to people driving on the right side of the road, to bars instead of pubs, to lines instead of queues. And regardless of how much I stay in contact, the memories I made and the people I met will stay with me (y’all know the Dumbledore quote).
When I got back to San Francisco, the first thing I did (after dropping my luggage at home and showering) was go out for Chinese food, and the second thing I did was go to Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Clay theatre in the Filmore, and the next thing I did (after sleeping for a little bit) was go to the Pride parade. All of which really reminded me of what it feels like to be in my city, in San Francisco. So I guess I’ll end with a picture of Pride, of a float that was pretty perfect: