Courtney Gonnering is a University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point student studying at Hope University in Liverpool, England for the Fall 2013 semester.
Here’s a quick lowdown on English life:
Everyone over the age of 40 will call you “love.” They don’t actually love you and it’s not meant to be weird.
Tea does not always mean the drink. Tea is also what they call dinner in England.
If you aren’t wearing more than a pound of make-up or a dress that would make your grandmother cringe while going out on Saturday night, you won’t fit in.
Always talk to the taxi driver. They know everything about the city and the best places to eat. They will also make fun of you for going to a dodgy tourist town two hours away to see Christmas lights.
After having spent a little over a month across the pond, I have learned many lessons, but definitely not lessons taught in a classroom.
I have learned trivial things, such as how to navigate public transportation, how to explain where Wisconsin is in America, and what the English think a rubber is—it’s an eraser, obviously.
I have learned more profound lessons as well, like that other countries view “Merica” quite a bit differently than those who emblaze upon their chest the good old red, white and blue. They critically analyse our health care, education and political systems.
When I stepped off the plane and made my way to Liverpool, I began to understand what it meant to be completely independent. It was liberating, yet scary.
I was used to friends or family to depend on. When I would travel with my family, I was always a passenger just along for the ride. Now I was driver and that meant figuring out what to do and when to do it.
There was also the challenge that all students face when breaking from the cozy Debot Fine Dining Hall. As a person who lived in the dorms with a meal plan for my first two years, I was thrown into the world of cooking and buying food for myself. Except here I was faced with the extra step of figuring out where to purchase food, as Walmart does not exist in England.
On the other hand, I learned about the importance of interdependence and relying on others. I quickly made friends that became my support system and I felt like a freshman all over again– lost and confused.
I had to swallow my pride and ask questions that seemed to have obvious answers, ask for directions, and occasionally admit that I had absolutely no idea what was going on.
Through these seemingly minor blunders I have gained confidence in talking to others and have become more informed about the world around me.
Through this experience I have become more open to change.
Spontaneous adventure is a crucial component to enjoying life. I wouldn’t have friends around the world, gone to Ireland travelling solo for a week, made that last second decision to see Christmas lights, or even gone to study abroad at all if I had been afraid of the things that could go wrong.
Cheers from Liverpool!