Thursday, November 5, 2015

TK and Drake in Leicester, England!

Hello, all!

I’m TK and my dragon buddy Drake (named after the English pirate Francis Drake who circumnavigated the world… not the “Hotline Bling” singer) and I are having a smashing time in England!

Drake at Shakespeare's Globe

I am studying in Leicester, a city about the same size as Greensboro, and about 2 hours North from London. Leicester is quiet, but quite beautiful and has a ton of character. There’s a lot of diversity here, and the students at my university (local and international) are friendly and seem eager to get to know me and more about America. 

Leicester church

The highlight of my time abroad so far (and probably will be even after I’m finished) was going to London for 8 days with other Honors students from UNCG, and Drs. Chris and Hope Hodgkins. It was the most exhausting week of my life, but it was more than rewarding. From climbing to the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral (528 steps!) and getting a breath-taking (and tear-inducing…) view of the city; to simply sitting down and having a family dinner over English tea and scones (to die for, by the way)—I had a blast and would not trade it for the world. 

View from the top of St. Paul's Cathedral

Literary London Family Dinner

Despite the fun I’ve been having, my entire time here hasn’t involved baking cakes filled with rainbows and smiles that I can eat and be happy (I just have a lot of feelings, okay?). I’ve been dealing with homesickness, something I thought I could avoid, for a while, and it’s been a bit difficult to get out of the rut it’s put me in. Not to mention I’m getting over a terrible case of Fresher’s Flu.
To those of you who are planning on going abroad soon, I can say that planning excursions (whether weekend-long or a day trip) outside of your host city definitely helps. It’s easy to get comfortable with staying in the bed all day watching Netflix (although I am hooked to RuPaul’s Drag Race right now), but do try to make yourself go out and explore your city! There are always things to do and places to see—you are only a Google search away from finding out what they are!

St. Martin's Church

It also helps to talk to other people about how you’re feeling. I have other friends that are abroad too, and it makes me feel better to know I’m not alone and that my feelings are normal. If needed, check out the counseling center on campus and make an appointment with someone. I had to do that during a particularly tough time and coincidentally, I ended up having the best counseling sessions I’ve ever had. Do keep in touch with friends and family back home, but make sure you’re not leaning on them completely, or it could backfire. 

Being abroad is a spiritual experience and it’s important to take full advantage of your time while you’re gone. My time is winding down to a close, and while I’m excited to return to America (and eat Bojangles), I also want to make sure I travel as much as possible while I’m still here.

It’s okay to lose your sense of self. It’s okay to want to go home. But you were brave enough to come here, so you are strong enough to get through it, and make the best of what you have. 

TK Willis-Finney
University of Leicester 
England, UK