You learn a lot about yourself when you become physically estranged from your family for longer than you have ever attempted before. Even if – like me – you’ve already tasted forms of freedom, such as moving to another city for university, embarking on a travel month, or simply leaving home to live independently – it’s still a shock to the system when you’re having a bad day, and all you want is to look your dad in the eyes and hug the living daylights out of your mum… but knowing that you can’t. They’re thousands of miles away, too far for a weekend pit stop to fuel up on their unconditional love and acceptance, and too expensive a trip to make on a whim of homesickness.
We’re lucky that we live in a technological golden age. I’m indescribably grateful that I can call my family on the phone, but nothing beats seeing their faces on screen – showing me their world, sending me snippets of home. It’s certainly forced my dad to become much more technologically savvy; he can even use iMessage emojis! I’ve never been a prouder daughter.
I digress. What I want to say is this: leaving home is a big step, but moving so far away is the biggest step of all. It’s then that you know you can’t always fall back on your family and friends; you’ll have to deal with the problems you face by yourself, especially because of the frustrating time-zone difference. Your loved ones will always be there for you, but you have to stand on your own two feet. If you weren’t independent before, you’ll definitely know independence like a well-worn glove by the time you leave the States.
You’ll learn about meeting new people, forming new friendships, embracing new cultures, and changing your own aspirations for the future. You’ll come back feeling so altered, maybe you won’t even recognise yourself.
I miss them more than words can say. I’ve learnt a lot of things since I arrived, but I know this above all else: that I adore my family. Maybe some of you will leave this experience with an even greater travel bug; maybe you will decide you never want to return to the UK; or maybe you’ll be like me – relishing the adventure, but also looking forward to sharing soil with my loved ones again, with the understanding that it is with them that I belong.
I look back at myself three months ago, fresh off the plane and looking for my next adventure, and I went on to experience so many new things. I’m proud of that version of myself for getting on the plane at Manchester Airport, after waving goodbye to my family, in floods of tears, but I would’ve never known how important they are to me as a person. I imagine the version of myself from three months ago would never have admitted I’m so dependent on my loved ones – perhaps I was too proud, too desperate to leave, to venture and explore – but the version of myself today recognises the incomparable joy my family brings me. In a world of money, ambition, greed, adventure and hedonism, I’ve learned that love really is what matters most.