How the World Looks Different After Living Abroad for 9 Months

My year abroad in Iceland has come to a close, as has my undergraduate degree (sort of. It’s complicated). My life abroad is just beginning, though. My future plans are, to put it delicately, a clusterfuck and NO I don’t want to talk about it, I just want to drink wine until I get a nice buzz going and stop thinking about how anxious I am.

It’s good. I’m good.

But just like every pretentious ass you went to college with said, studying abroad is a life-changing and formative experience. They were right. And for the extent of this blog, I’m going to be one of those pretentious asses. This is kind of a summary to make up for all the blogs I didn’t write this semester because I was too busy writing for my creative writing class, an in-depth research paper, and, oh yeah, my thesis. (All of which I got an A on, by the way. Yeah, that’s a brag.)

My perspective on America and the world has shifted. There are things I appreciate more than ever about the States, like grocery stores– I am so sick of bagging my own groceries– and things I don’t miss at all, like having to drive everywhere. I do miss driving, don’t get me wrong– I now travel in cars so rarely, and recently only in England, that I’m genuinely confused about which side of the car the steering wheel goes on. This is a life I never wanted for myself. But I like being able to walk places, too.

I like being able to look at the U.S. government and say, “Not my circus, not my monkeys,” but I hate that I can’t divorce myself completely. For one thing, U.S. politics have global ramifications, and for another, it’s still my home. Even if I never live there again, I’m still an American.

I’ve been increasingly aware of free speech laws, and other things I’ve taken for granted growing up in the U.S. I still remember the Böhmermann affair in Germany a few years ago, and English YouTuber Count Dankula’s recent fine for teaching his girlfriend’s pug to do a Nazi salute. These things mean more to me now as a developing comedian, especially one anticipating a future in which I perform comedy in these countries whose free speech laws are not so broad as those in the States.

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My little anarchist soul has become ever more validated as I seek employment in these very countries. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been hit with a “we’d love to accept your application to work here, but we can’t because of the government.” This is mostly directed at the UK. Look, you guys. You’re a garbage island that voted yourself into irrelevance. 80% of your teachers have seriously considered quitting in the past year. And you’re still going to make visas irrationally hard to get? Your own citizens don’t even want to stay there! And your “youth mobility visa” applies to every former colony except America? It was 200 YEARS AGO, YOU NEED TO GET OVER IT.

Look, I’ll do almost anything for love. I’ll even share my Girl Scout cookies. But I’m no longer willing to move to England. Same time zone is the best you’re getting, Ally.

I constantly carry around the pain of losing my dog while I was away. I probably will forever. It’s hard to be away from my family and loved ones, which sounds like a no brainer– and in a way, it is. But it’s so much more complex than simply missing things. It’s guilt for leaving, it’s reconfiguring communication, it’s feelings of loneliness and isolation. How can you ever love enough from across an ocean?

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I am constantly befuddled by measurements. Europe is mostly metric, and I still barely know what that means. I’m willing to adjust to the metric system, it is more consistent. Fine. I’ll even adjust to writing the date backwards– after a lengthy debate with my English boyfriend, we agreed that one’s preference for date style is linked to one’s preference for inductive vs. deductive reasoning. Fine. But I still have to look at every date twice to figure out which format people are using, and that’s annoying. But it’s not as annoying as the weather. I said I’d conform to the metric system, and I will, and I said I’d conform to the date style, and I have. But I will never conform to Celsius over Fahrenheit. Celsius has its 0 and 100 degree points based on water. Fahrenheit is based on human bodies. Celsius is for water, Fahrenheit is for people. I WILL NOT MEASURE THE WEATHER IN WATER DEGREES I WILL MEASURE IT IN PEOPLE DEGREES.

I have loved living abroad. I’m preparing to stay abroad. It’s not easy to make a home in a different continent. It’s not easy to straddle three countries as you leave one, live in another, and have a boyfriend in a third. I have roughly 1.2 meltdowns a month over it. But I’m glad I’ve done it. And I’m excited to keep doing it.

Don’t fuck this up for me, Britain.

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One Comment

  1. Clodagh O'Carroll

    Nice to hear from you! Where in the UK are you going to live?

    I’ve nearly finished my degree too (6 months until graduation, holy shit) and it is scary. But it sounds like you’re getting your shit together so well done!

    Fahrenheit will never make sense to me. Humans are like 70% water so doesn’t it make sense to have 0 degrees be really cold and 100 degrees to be really hot? Lol.

    Also the UK has recently made it harder for New Zealanders to get visas there too, so I guess my generation won’t be copying our parents and doing an OE over there. Goddammit UK!

    Like

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