I spent the majority of my childhood playing dress up and living in an imaginary world full of exciting travels, spectacular balls and visiting the most grandeur palaces. In my head, I travelled from place to place completely ignoring the realities of time and life. I would be having tea with the Queen in London one moment, and the next I’d be off performing in a Russian ballet, or skiing in the Swiss Alps with royalty. My mom used to say that it must have been good to be me, for my imagination would always take me to the most exquisite places.
When I wasn’t lost in my crazy imaginary world, I would spend hours flipping through my mom’s old scrapbooks from her semester abroad and pester her for stories. I spent years making lists with names of cities and countries that I wanted to visit during my own time abroad. My list varied from wanting to go to every winery in Italy to riding camels in Morocco to even wanting to skydive over the Swiss Alps.
I used to make up stories in my head about the people I would get to meet on my trips through Europe. I would laugh trying to picture how my materialistic, high-maintenance self would ever be able to backpack through Europe and stay in hostels, and when I got older, the travel bug just bit me even harder. The places my four-year-old self visited while playing dress up, started to be more concrete. I was able to see myself travelling through Europe as a college student, and my eagerness to start my time abroad could not be contained.
Studying abroad not only pushed me out of my comfort zone, but it allowed me to experience countries I would never have thought of visiting.
I got to ride bikes through the colourful streets of Copenhagen, visit the Berlin Wall, and stand on the exact spot where SS headquarters used to be, generating chills within me for hours. I got to take surfing lessons in the Mediterranean while visiting Spain, and I was able to walk the same cobblestoned streets and run through the same green hills as my favourite authors, Jane Austen, J.K. Rowling and Frank McCourt when visiting Bath, Edinburgh and Ireland. I was able to enjoy a delicious brunch with friends while looking out at the beautiful blue water in a small Swedish town. I was able to see what the Oxford-Cambridge rivalry was about, and though I was partial to Oxford, both cities were the epitome of the England I had always pictured when I was a young girl.
My time here was not just about me using the world as my playground, for it was also political. I watched as women throughout the world came together in solidarity, marching for their rights following Trump’s election to presidency. It was beautiful seeing hundreds and thousands of strong female faces from different countries — so far removed from the realities of the United States — marching and standing up for their rights; fighting to end the objectification of women, fighting for the right to their bodies and showing their support for women in the United States. I partook in three anti-Trump rallies and protests while abroad after he passed his new travel ban, and I experienced what Israel Apartheid Week looks like on UK college campuses.
It was an exciting time to be in London. Tensions were heightened, and everyone was talking about Brexit. There were constant debates and talks wherever I went. I spoke to people who were happy to leave and people who were terrified of what the UK’s future will look like concerning immigration and human rights.
My time abroad was everything I hoped it could be. It was full of exciting travels, new friendships, trips to famous museums and monuments and proved highly educational but fun.
I cannot believe my time in London is coming to an end. Soon I will have to say goodbye to the UK. Still, what amazes me most is that all of this experiences was real and no longer the vibrant imaginings of a four-year-old’s imagination.