Creating a new identity is harder than I expected it to be. Going into studying abroad, I expected to morph overnight from an introverted, shy girl into a daring, adventurous one world traveler. But as I rolled my suitcase through London’s Heathrow airport, I felt the same as always: passively accepting the surroundings around me with no sense of wonder or place. Here I was in a new country, on a new continent, and I was treating this new location like old, familiar Glenside. Of course, I was operating on 2 hours of sleep, so that didn’t help.
Jumping into a new country should have been like…jumping into a new me. A me that backpacked, bicycled, and tested my physical limits all over Europe. A me that felt at ease hanging out with groups of friends in bars, not letting my shyness stop me from having a good time. A me that thrived academically because of the new Scottish school system, rather than struggling with the change.
But, alas, the best laid plans are not always meant to be.
As our orientation days in Edinburgh rolled on, I realized that I really wasn’t changing. Rather than exploring the city during our free time, as I said I would, I found myself going to bed well before midnight, book in hand. I quickly tired during group excursions and often strayed far behind everybody else. I chose to stay in my dorm and study rather than explore Stirling. Although some of my behavior was the result of a bout of depression brought on by culture shock, much of it can be attributed to plain old introvertism.
I wasn’t necessarily alarmed at my behavior. After all, it made sense with my personality.
But I was disappointed.
I believed that by simply flying to a new continent, I could craft a brand-new me. Which, now that I think about it, is ridiculous. There is nothing wrong with the current me. There is nothing wrong with having your favorite hobbies be reading historical fiction, writing young adult literature, and walking around the neighborhood.
But there is something wrong with not opening your heart to new opportunities. I have not done what I want to do here because my introvertism and sadness are killing my love of adventure. I have not traveled to castles and upscale shopping districts and historic landmarks. The thing is, that’s why I wanted to come to Stirling and worked hard to get here. I plan to rectify that situation by working to step out of my comfort zone, starting now.
And I will see the world on my own terms: spending a few hours exploring historical sights, then retiring quickly after dinner to work on writing my third novel. Even if my way is a little boring, that’s the best way for me. In the end, when I look back on my study abroad experience, that’s all that will matter.