8 Things About Being Abroad

Calton Hill

“Calton Hill”


It’s so hard to believe I’ve been in the United Kingdom for almost 3 months on December 11th!  This is a bittersweet feeling for me, but mostly sweet.  🙂  Returning to my life and favorite people is what I’m looking forward to the most.  Right now, it’s just getting through essays and exams since teaching finished last week.  22 days to go!

I’ve been so busy with school and trying to squeeze in whatever left I want to do in the UK.  My friend studying abroad in London visited me here in Edinburgh last weekend and we had a blast checking out the Edinburgh Christmas Markets and of course, doing pub crawls!  It was so much fun and I am so glad he made it over here.  I plan on going to London in 2 weeks to visit him too!

This weekend, I went to the Edinburgh Castle and did some much needed shopping at Princes Street.  I needed to buy some more gifts to bring back home.  We call them “omiyage” in Japanese and they are a must-buy on every trip I take.

I thought I would write about 8 things I’ve found regarding being abroad in general!  Hopefully they will help give you some more insight as to what being on an exchange is like, especially in the United Kingdom.

Time Doesn’t Stop

On any exchange, time does not stop for anyone!  There are always a million things to see or do in the area, multiple events going on at the same time or a pile of work awaiting me at my desk when I get home from all the chaos.  Not to mention, job applications for when I return, the search for a summer internship, scholarship applications, or figuring out appointments for winter break and my upcoming vacation with my family.

Being abroad is exhausting because you’re dealing with not only things in your new country, but also back home.  Keep in mind that I have 2 homes now:  one in my hometown of Hilo, Hawai’i and at UW where I attend university.  It’s like living multiple lives and being able to keep up with all at the same time!

It’s chaotic, exhausting, yet thrilling all at once.  My days are full from the time I wake up until I go to bed late at night.  I’m a person who loves being busy, so I enjoy this jam-packed schedule!  Although I am ready for a break at home soon, being busy makes time pass by faster… which is definitely a good thing!

A Temporary Feeling

Studying abroad feels temporary.  I know it’s an exchange.  I know the amount of time I am here for and when I am returning to the states.  This feels both limiting and liberating at the same time.  Since it’s only a few months, it’s a little break from my life back home to explore and try new things.  I came here to do something different and enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I couldn’t see myself missing out on it.  However, it’s also difficult to establish myself here because I’m leaving so soon as well.   This goes for making deep connections and getting attached.  I really value stability and consistency in my life, so this temporary feeling isn’t always my favorite.

My Travel Bug… A Lot Smaller Than I Thought

Traveling is fun… for 2 weeks or so.  Personally, I like to travel for short bursts of time.  Why is that?  Because I’m fortunate to love my life in Seattle so much!  🙂  There are many things I’ve missed while I’ve been here, such as having my close friends to go out and do things with.  Going to pubs or having parties just isn’t the same without the people I’ve known for a long time, trust and feel comfortable with.

It’s been great getting to know people in Scotland and at my university, but the level of friendship is different in both places.  I find myself having many Skype sessions, late night chats and Facetimes with friends back home because I miss the close relationships I have!   I value them so much and they’re really important in my life.

Learning to Adapt

There’s always room to learn to adapt to new things and a completely different culture.  I thought because I went across the Pacific Ocean to college and transferred universities that I’d have an easier time.  But that wasn’t really what actually happened.

I didn’t expect the UK to be so different from the United States.  I thought coming to an English-speaking country like Scotland would be a great idea before taking the huge step of going to Russia to improve my Russian.  Coming to Scotland was a big leap of faith even if it is an English-speaking country.  Don’t let the fact that a particular country speaks English fool you.

For example, there are many times where I don’t understand what people are saying here due to a thick accent or the speed of their voice.  Most people here speak incredibly fast (it’s just a cultural thing) and often even talk over me when I’m asking for more information.  This always frustrated me at the beginning and now I realize it’s purely a cultural thing.  An Italian friend of mine told me I speak slower than the Australian students here… and it’s true!  I never realized it before, but Americans speak much slower than many other English-speaking countries.  It’s difficult at times, but adapting is important and necessary.

21 vs. 18

I am 21 years old and in my fourth-year of university.  By this point of my college experience, I’ve already transferred universities which was a huge step in finding myself, my interests and my goals.  I’ve always been independent and enjoyed doing my own thing.  But I’ve never been the same person since I transferred to UW.

Coming to another university in another country is definitely strange, but even stranger once you’ve found a permanent university (UW for me) that you’re completely in love with after hating your first.  I didn’t expect to prefer UW over the university here.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve gone back in time and am at my first university, which wasn’t my favorite.  Living in a dorm full of 18 and 19-year olds also adds to this feeling.  A 21 and 18-year old differ in many ways due to being at different points in their lives.

Securing Identity

Experiencing the European and Scottish culture has made me realize that I am truly an American.  It’s been an amazing opportunity to learn about life in Scotland because I wouldn’t have known if I wasn’t selected by UW to come here.  But I also realize it is not my own culture.  I respect it a great deal, feel more connected with my Scottish heritage and am proud to be of Scottish descent.  However, that does not change the fact that I am an American, am from Hawai’i and love living in Seattle in the continental U.S.  It’s okay to know who you are and be proud of it.  There’s always room to try new things, but not every new thing needs to or will change who you are.

Incredible Personal Growth

The amount of personal growth I’ve gone through on this exchange is incredible and something I couldn’t have done by not coming to Edinburgh.  It hasn’t always been easy, but it hasn’t always been hard either.  Throughout my time here, I’ve become more aware of myself, what makes me happy and what I want.

I’ve re-evaluated a lot about my life and realized certain things I want to change and improve on.  I’m always focused on school or moving my future ahead, but I realized it’s about enjoying the journey, who you surround yourself with and what makes you truly happy!  Without all the little things in life, it’s so hard to be happy.  I’m so thankful for everyone and everything in my life that makes it fun and worthwhile!

Returning with a Completely Different Perspective on Life

I am returning to both of my homes in Hawai’i and Seattle with a completely different perspective on life after coming to Scotland.  I’ve really come to appreciate what I have even more than I did before.  I now have come to the conclusion that “settling” and being happy are two completely different things.  I was always scared that if I didn’t travel or do everything I set out to, that I was just settling.  But that’s not true.  You’re only settling if you’re not happy or not staying true to your values.  It’s okay to be happy with what you have and want to return.  I know I am!  🙂