I returned from Keele at the beginning of the summer, approximately 14 weeks ago. Though obviously my time abroad changed me greatly, I now struggle to remember a huge percentage of the day to day happenings that characterised my study abroad experience, and despite the apparent distress of losing large portions of my experience from the holes in my apparent sieve of a brain, I am in fact not terrible bothered by this prospect. Allow me to explain.
To understand my situation now, it is absolutely necessary to understand the situation I left behind when I left for England last semester. I was part of a very tightly knit social group, who spent the majority of their waking hours together in some capacity. We shared classes, we worked on homework assignments together, we ate together and hung out after dinner each and every day, and we knew each other really quite well. One thing we didn’t do, though, was leave our bubble. We rarely experimented with activities outside of our norm, and so one of the things I took advantage of while studying abroad was the opportunity to try as many new things as possible.
I attended archery club, I partied and drank until I was quite unable to think rationally (note that these two things almost never happened at the same time, luckily). I taught myself to cook, and I attended the occasional rave (also not at the same time). I struggled with the British style of teaching, and I constantly indulged in the delicious food found there. As an aside, everyone who says that British food is terrible is terribly misinformed; cheese and onion sandwiches are simply the best thing ever, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
I did so many different things, and yet I know that I spent probably eighty percent of my time just hanging out and/or sleeping. I can tell you that, remarkably, apart from the occasional difference (such as driving on the left side of the road), the important parts of everyday life in England are quite similar to everyday life here. People in both nations are still people. Students in England worry about money, about love, about their next class, their next test, and how they’ll ever finish that one essay on time. They still suffer through very similar things, and they still find ways to cope. The things I did while I was merely coping, merely getting from one day to another, while I was sharing daily life with the other students at Keele, I can no longer recall in any detail. I have lost these memories, perhaps because they pale in comparison to the things that truly defined my time abroad: the times spent experiencing things I never would have had I stayed in America and hung out with my friends here. And yet, I am strangely happy to be losing that eighty percent. I feel that I simply do not have enough space in my memory banks to store all of the time I spent doing effectively nothing important, so I do not mind that they should disappear to make room for the things that were traumatic or inspirational (or both) to qualify as “life changing” experiences. I would rather lose that vast quantity of experience like so many leaves on the breeze than give up any one of the memories that I know for a fact changed me as a person.