I am grateful to have been able to have gone abroad as a second year. I finished my first year at Northwestern full of new, eye-opening experiences but also with a sense of stalemate and dissatisfaction with myself. Maybe it was being so close to home (Chicagoland suburb) or feeling the remnants of high school memories but I still felt very trapped in a bubble. I couldn’t help but always focus on small, immediate things and struggled to engage myself with what I was doing in a manner that I found personally fulfilling.
My time at UCL has not only allowed me to meet the people, explore the places, and take the classes I have previously mentioned in my posts but also to sort myself out. Situated in a big city like London, I strangely found it a lot easier to be alone. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy being around all the lovely people I met, but I felt just as content strolling and sketching in Regent’s Park by myself as I did brunching with others. When I was a freshman, I always wanted to be around people, so as not to miss out on anything. It was frankly exhausting at times. There are also many other things that have changed, but are harder to put into words. Much of these mindset changes can probably be attributed to the novelty and brevity of the whole exchange program, rather than any real revelation on my part. However, I am no less happy and appreciative of this experience as I look back on the best three months of my life.
In retrospect, the “bubble” that had so restricted and frustrated me was pretty much all self-constructed. Now, I’ve come to realize, more consciously than ever, that my experiences are largely shaped by the mindset I choose to approach them with rather than the actual contexts they occur in. Freshman year me would say that’s a fairly obvious conclusion, but current me actually has that experience and can hopefully apply this understanding to everything else that I do at Northwestern and beyond.