***This last post should be read while listening to the slow songs on Ed Sheeran’s most recent album and eating the last of the digestives you smuggled back from the UK. Not that I have any experience with that. It just seems like a good idea.
I’ve thought about what I would say in this last post all semester. I still can’t believe I’m actually writing this. I spent the last week in Georgia trying to come to grips with the aching in my core. It feels like someone has stuck a knife in my gut and twisted it, like someone is squeezing my heart, like the weight of my love for London is sitting on my chest and slowly suffocating me. Sometimes it’s hard to breathe I miss it so much.
It’s been almost two weeks since I left London but this post is just now happening because I haven’t been able to bring myself to write about this semester. I keep waiting for the words to hit me and for all of the writing to just flow so I don’t have to dig deep and think about all of the feelings that I have about this semester. But regrettably, the words are needing to be needled out. How can you write about something that has made all of the difference in your life?
So without further ado, and probably not a whole lot of organization, here comes a monstrous essay about all of my thoughts and feelings on studying abroad, thanks to the feelings that reemerged while sitting on the couch in my new apartment scrolling through all of the pictures and videos I’ve taken over the last four months, and also my long-winded English major tendencies. You’re welcome.
One of the first things I ask people is where they want to end up. Where do they want to live five years from now when they’re all grown up and graduated? Which means they end up asking me where I want to be and I tell them New York. Or D.C. or London or Boston or Chicago or just any big city. Which leads to the question of why the city? And then I say I love it, and then, if they’re extra inquisitive, they ask why. And that is a question I don’t always know how to answer.
So here’s the answer, the one I don’t know how to simplify. I like who I am in the city. I like how I get up and do things. How I go out every day and walk everywhere and learn the tube map. How I’m happy and on top of things. And that’s not something two-years-ago Mallory would do.
The first half of my college career is not something I’m proud of. Thanks to a combination of stressful situations and also poor mental health, I was not a fan of college. I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t living up to my own expectations of success, and I just felt like an all around college failure. The semester before London, I started to catch a glimpse of what college could be like, thanks to good friends and a lot of letting go on my part. However, living in London is what really made all the difference. This whole study abroad has stood as a testament of hope to me. Hope for happiness, hope for peace, hope for a life full of color and emotions.
There’s a buzz in the city that rejuvenates me. I’ve battled depression for parts, if not all, of every semester in college, except for this one. My therapy is the tube. It’s a flat a block away from Hyde Park. It’s walking for miles through clouds of cigarette smoke and flocks of pigeons. It’s £1 croissants from Tesco and day of concession tickets to West End shows. Even after the streets all became familiar, there were still moments where I’d be walking around and it would hit me that I was living this dream, this dream that I had had for so long, this dream of living in London and studying abroad and really being a local city dweller. And I would spend the rest of the day trying to hide my goofy grin from my friends because I knew they would laugh and roll their eyes at my sap and how much I loved the city and this whole experience. Having something be a dream come true has never been more real for me than it was the last four months.
Studying abroad taught me that I will find amazing people wherever I go. One of my biggest hold ups with going to London was leaving my friends. I was straight up terrified to leave these friends that were the best people I’d ever hung out with. However, I went to London, holding on to something my cousin told me when I told him my fears of leaving behind a life that was just starting to fall into place. He said, “if your life fell into place before, it will fall into place again. You don’t just get one chance at it all working out.” So I said a lot of prayers and hugged my friends extra tight and just hoped for the best. And you know what? I made some of the best friends. People I just love with my whole heart, people I never would have met if I didn’t go to London. And it didn’t mean that I loved my friends in Provo any less. In fact, there were moments where my heart felt like it could burst with all of the love I had for my Utah friends. Instead of forgetting my American friends, my heart grew to hold room for my London friends. And now I’m back in Provo with a bigger, fuller heart and more friends than freshman year Mallory ever could have imagined when she hopped on that plane from Georgia to Utah, going to a school without a single person from high school to fall back on. If I had known about the friendships a study abroad gives you, I would have started studying abroad on day one of college.
More than anything, studying abroad taught me that I can do this, whatever this is. London instilled in me this kind of confidence that I had been searching for for years, and the best part is that leaving didn’t mean leaving that feeling. I got to bring it back to Provo with me. London worked wonders for my mental health and my self esteem and all of those other words millennials and psychologists are all hung up on.
At the risk of wrapping this up like a Molly Mormon, the most overwhelming, overpowering, overarching feeling that came from this whole experience is the love and understanding that the Lord has for each one of us, personally. Heavenly Father knew that I needed London, and that I needed it winter semester of 2017. He knew, when I was falling apart during my sophomore year of college, completely crumbling under the weight of the stress of the life I’d been given, that it would all work out. That it would be okay. That those hard things I was dealing with would make the joy and the blessing of the London Centre that much sweeter. I would do it all over again if it meant that I would be going to Easter mass at St. Paul’s, or paddle boating around Hyde Park, or spotting Big Ben from random spots around London, or convincing half the center to go to Shake Shack for cheese fries and a chocolate shake, or riding the tube to church and playing piano while a bunch of tiny British children got their wiggles out.
London, I love you. Call me sappy or dramatic or what-have-you, but there hasn’t been a moment since coming home where I haven’t been thinking about London and how much love I have for everyone and everything from the past four months. If you’re ever wondering if you should study abroad, stop wondering and go. If you need to be taken by the shoulders and given a firm shake, I volunteer, because without those pep talks and kicks in the back to go, I wouldn’t have done it, and that would have been the biggest regret of my college career, and potentially my life. Who knows, we’ll have to see where the next 60ish years takes me.;-)