Study Abroad Year 2011-2012

Annie Windholz

Study Abroad Year 2011-2012

Leciester: UK

With my first steps on English soil last fall I was embraced by my soon to be Leicester University family. Swept up into a world of culture, laughter and friendship I met amazing people from every corner of the world. I was never alone for the whole nine months I was in Europe; whether I was relaxing with my English roommate, exploring the continent with my international crew, studying with my scholarly course mates or drinking tea with my loyal “Hastings House” pals.

Hastings House was an epic Edwardian mansion on campus that the University assigned me; Harry Potter-esque stairs, a magical garden, secret nooks and crannies and every room complete with an ancient fireplace.  This eclectic place accommodated the twenty odd co-ed students that became a tight knit family to me that year.

My courses that year were great- I took everything from Politics to Art History to Classical Latin. I met so many English students in class and they were always excited to compare cultures. After classes we frequented the campus pubs and learned about each other over chips and pints.

During the two month winter break I stayed in Berlin, Germany with family friends. It was my first time being on my own in a non-English speaking country. It was, to say the least, a very humbling experience. After the confidence boost of the first semester abroad in England- this trip spelled out just how much I had still to learn about the world. Sauerkraut, currywursts and my lovely German host family helped make the transition easier.

When I got back to Leicester second semester I wanted to travel more, so I became involved in the International Student Association. We went on regular weekend trips around England, Wales and Scotland. Whether it was soaking up Liverpool on Saint Patrick’s Day, shuddering at local ghost stories in Edinburgh or scaling castles in Caernarfon, we did it all. When I had free time I drooled over my favorite English bands and took informal language lessons from my international friends.

Spring break came out of nowhere- and suddenly my friends and I had a month and a half of European travel to plan. By the end of the month we had traveled to Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands and France. Visiting friends in their home countries made the traveling so much better as opposed to merely being a tourist. In Belgium we stayed with our friend Loic and his family. We ate waffles in the busy Brussels streets, chips in romantic Bruges and tried local beers in Liege.  In France we stayed with my good friend Eva; her family fixed traditional French meals for us nightly and we tried everything from foie gras to escargot when we weren’t too busy climbing Monmartre, getting lost in the Louvre or picnicking in the French gardens.

By the time it came to get on the plane again and say goodbye with hugs and kisses and tears- I knew it wouldn’t be the last time I saw these wonderful people. I had become an international citizen that year, we all had. The world was going to be ours from now on; borders, oceans, cultural differences and language barriers now irrelevant.

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