I'm sitting in the airport, waiting for our gate to be listed, and trying to find the words to sum up this experience. I will admit to having felt some apprehension before leaving about how well I would manage being away from home for so long a period. I do not generally tend towards homesickness, but I've never been so far away before.
However, everyone is always saying that a study abroad is a life-changing and wonderful experience, and they are certainly not wrong. I do not regret for a moment my decision to come here, even if it does mean that I have had one less semester to spend at William & Mary. I loved living in Exeter almost as much as I have loved Williamsburg, and I am as sad to leave it behind as I will be come next spring and graduation.
I made so many new friends: students from the University of Exeter, other exchange students from around the world, and even some from back at William & Mary whom I might never have met otherwise. I saw new places, both in the British Isles and in continental Europe. Although I certainly hope that I will have more opportunities to travel in the future; I still have a very long list to get through, and quite a few continents that I haven't even begun to explore.
I think that being here has taught me so many things about myself that I never knew.
I can survive on my own in an unfamiliar place, helpful knowledge, considering my looming graduation and entry into the real world. When traveling, and probably just in general, you will get lost and things will not work out the way you had planned, but if you just relax, things do work out. People are nicer than you expect.
There's also the little lessons: learn some of the language (be it an entirely new language or just some changes in slang), don't overpack (you need less than you think), take advantage of the opportunities you are given, and above all, don't panic.
After this, I am no longer so worried about how my life will change after I graduate; I know I can handle what comes my way.
I am a bit sad to be leaving, but I also think that I am ready to go home. I plan to put my new life lessons to good use and to be much braver than I was before. Over the past few months I have realized how much there is to see back home, and how little of it I have seen.
Hopefully it won't be too long before I get another chance to travel abroad; but if it is, I will simply have to find some new adventures closer to home!