Friday, 1 June 2018

My Erasmus Exchange

December/January: The big leap
A while back, I announced that I was starting to lower my medication. I hoped this would be an easy process, one I'd be able to finish before going to England. But that didn't happen. With half the dose, the awful thoughts found their way back to me. And while I'm pretty good at shutting them out now, it's still difficult. Especially while dealing with two theses, the prospect of going aboard, and winter weather (I hate that this has such impact, but it does). So I'm still on half the dose, and I won't go lower until I'm back, as both the doctor and myself were not comfortable with lowering the dose while I'm abroad. 

So now I'm in England, far away from the people I love. Far away from my boyfriend, who has been my rock in this whole process. I can't count all the times he dropped everything to come to my house, feed me chocolate and drag me out of bed. But here I am, all by myself. I don't know if it was a smart move to do this so quickly after everything, before even being off my meds completely. But it is a challenge. It hasn't been easy, especially in the beginning when I didn't have much going on, but it is an challenge I need to experience. Now I have to do it myself. No one is going to drag me out of bed, or buy me chocolate. And that's tough. Another complication I hadn't thought about was the fact that, for the first time since I started my meds, I was in possession of all my meds. Previously I always gave Fabian half of the pills just so I couldn't get any crazy impulsive ideas, as they have sedatives in them. But now I was in England with 90 pills, all by myself. Lonely and vulnerable.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Just another challenge. The fact that I trusted myself enough to take this step, already says a lot about how far I've come. But it doesn't help that I still had some things I needed to finish. The problem was that the semester back home didn't finish until the end of January. So I still had a paper to write for a Celtic course I took. Plus I still needed to submit my final version of my second thesis. And while I really enjoyed writing it, the final steps were really difficult. Especially as there was a lot of pressure surrounding both papers. I need to get a good grade (for one of them) because I need to hand it in with my MA application, which is super selective. So, if it's not good enough that might mean I will not be selected for the master I want to do. Needless to say, with everything else, this made the process difficult and stressful. Luckily for me, I received a 9.3 for my celtic paper (thanks to my gigantic obsession with A Court of Thorns and Roses and Sarah J Maas her usage of celtic myths and legends in her novels). This eliminated the pressure I put on myself and made it possible for me to finish my second thesis with pleasure.

March: In the middle
Looking back on what I wrote, about two months ago (aka the text above) is scary but also nostalgic (already). The Alyssa that went to England and had zero clue of what to expect and how she was going to deal with living all by herself in a country she didn't know, without her support system. I've now somewhat become my own support system. Obviously Fabian is still my rock, but he's not here to help me with the little things. He can't hug me or drag me out of bed. And I thought this was a recipe for disaster, because I hadn't been able to drag myself out of bed when I was in NL and in the middle whatever it was I was going through: so I how was I supposed to be able to do it now in England? It doesn't matter how, all that matters is that I did it.

The experience so far, in terms of personal development, is exactly what I hoped it would be. It has made me independent. That's not to say that I'm not still somewhat introverted sometimes. It just means I'm not terrified anymore. I've stepped out of my comfort-zone, by myself. And I'm doing it. I'm not as homesick as I thought I would be. So, I guess what I'm saying is that I'm happy. Happy with my choices and very happy with my progress. I didn't think I might be able to pull through, but I have! 

April: Break
Going back home was an interesting experience. Not only in the sense that I had four weeks off, but my friends and family didn't. Cycling was an issue, I once accidentally cycled on the wrong side of the road. Luckily I realised what I was doing before I had an accident or whatever, but still. That was an interesting development, as I'd cycled that road so many times before I left. Yet my 2,5 months abroad had altered how I viewed the road and on which side I should be.

I've also noticed that people expect me to have a lot of awesome stories about my life here. Like, I'm supposed to have a lot of adventures. But that's not what it's like for me. I'm here for classes, and experiencing the university. But I'm not here to travel, or to party. Sure, I've been to a few places, I went to Hull and London (and plan on going back again in May) and I plan on going to the coast some time soon, but it's not like I've been travelling all over England since I got here. Mostly because I want to do that with Fabian, and he's not here. But also because I came here to experience the English life. I didn't come here for adventures, I came to be a student. So that's what I'm doing. Including just spending a lot of time with myself and reading books.

After Easter, classes started again and it felt like they never stopped to begin with. Even though my science-fiction course is a tat awkward to be honest, as our teacher hasn't really contacted us over the strike, while my other teachers were very apologetic and helpful. They e-mailed us with a lot of information when they could. So with that particular course, it feels like we never really started, which is problematic for me.  The weather is really good right now (19th of April). It's interesting how everyone (especially students) starts to show a lot of skin as soon as the sun is out. They are in short dresses and hot-pants. Even though it's not that hot. It's like they are trying to get as much sun as possible because they are not used to it at all.

May: Hindsight
Here we are. I've been back in the Netherlands since Sunday night. The last month was hard. In all honesty, I didn't want to leave. It felt like I'd only just moved there! Couldn't believe 5 months had passed. It was tough as well due to the major deadlines I was facing, most of which were 100% of my final grade. Especially because that meant I wasn't quite sure what the teacher were expecting (as I'm used to UU standards). But I made it through! Finished my deadlines, and now all I can do is wait for the results (fingers crossed). 

The last few days were very nice. My parents were in England and we did a bit of sightseeing, which was the best. We went to Burghley House (were parts of The Da Vinci Code and Pride and Prejudice were filmed), we went to the beach, though it was really foggy so we didn't see much for most of the day, and saw real life seals! We didn't get close because we didn't want to disturbed them, but my mom did get a few good pictures!

Saying goodbye to my housemates was hard. I keep expecting to run into them, in the kitchen or something, not fully realising that I won't see them every day. Still. But they're not here and it's odd. But then I felt the same way when I left! It's just different this time, because I knew when I moved to England that it was going to be temporary, and I would see everyone again. But this move isn't temporary and that's difficult.

I am so happy with and proud of myself, even if that sounds a bit self-absorbed. In the beginning I couldn't deal with it, as I expected, because I've never been completely on my own. And throwing myself into this situation was tough, especially with my birthday in Feb. Gradually, I started to learn to be on my own. In the beginning, and this is going to sound so childish, I was a bit hesitant and scared to go out the door by myself. I'd call Fabian a lot. But at the end of it, I went to London to see Wicked by myself. That is not to say that I'm no longer shy, because that will never change. But I've grown, I'm a lot stronger than I was before, which is exactly what I hoped would happen. It's been an amazing experience, even if it wasn't quite what I expected (due to the strike and all that). I'd definitely recommend going on an exchange, as well as UEA and Norwich in general. I'm really going to miss that cute quiet town, filled with literature, tea and pubs. 

I'm excited about my next steps. I can't wait to graduate (even though I'm a bit anxious as well, so fast!) and to start my master degree in September! Excited to get off my meds as well. But for now, I'm just happy to relax and spend time with Fabian (which is why I'm only posting this now).

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