As my time abroad is coming to a close – I’ll be home in just a few days – I have felt the increasing pressure to see and do everything. When I first came to the UK, I was not only excited about how many things (museums, shops, shows, holidays, festivals, etc.) there were to do, but also how much time I had to get to do them all. I did not have to rush through the city’s highlights; I could take my time to experience each and every one. That’s the benefit of living in one cool place for so long, right?
However, with the clock ticking, I was increasingly aware of how much I hadn’t seen. Yes, I when I look back at these past few months they have been extremely busy, but there is still so much that I would love to say I have experienced. This led to some important decisions. Would I have a few marathon days and try and pack in as much as possible? Or would I just give up now?
I found a happy space in the middle, though it is a little closer to giving up. I thought about all the iconic things in Austin I haven’t done after being a student for two years (for example, a visit to Barton Springs) when I have had so much more time to explore. I had to not only realize, but accept that no matter how much time I spend in a place, there was always going to be things I was going to miss out on. It would be better for me to take in the moment, cherish what it had to offer, and make a few distinct memories than it would be to stress out about all the items on my wish list that I hadn’t accomplished.
So, with that in mind, I carefully set aside some time to get to see attractions that my gut was drawing me to the most. I started with the town I live in – Lewes, East Sussex. Just an hour outside of London, Lewes is known for the distinct pride and sense of place its people embody. I have enjoyed the mix of a small town feel and sense of belonging while living in Lewes, especially when juxtaposed to long days in the city. Lewes has a Norman castle in the center – sometimes I see it when I walk by – but I knew I had to take a visit. It’s a smaller, less glamorous castle than what we normally think of when we picture European castles, but it’s a castle nonetheless. I got to learn all about the castle, from the time it was built shortly after the Norman invasion in 1066 to its uses in both World Wars.
I also stopped by the Anne of Cleves House, just a short walk away. Anne of Cleves was one of King Henry VIII’s many wives he was dissatisfied with; he gave her this house as part of her divorce settlement. She did not stay in the house that often, but it is set to look like how its 16th century inhabitants would have used it. This house would be easy to rush through, but I was glad I had so many hours to spend. I got to read all the information and really notice the details of this house. I got to take in the engravings of the wood, the size of the bread oven, the smell of the flowers outside. All of these things I would have missed if I was rushing, but have ended up being some of my most distinct memories from that day. Furthermore, they’re all details I would not be able to discern from online photos – making me feel like my experiences were truly unique.
I also used a similar technique for taking in the location when I went to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London one day after work. Here, I used the type of slow-looking talked about in art and art history courses, when you spend a lot of time focusing on one work, giving it lots of thought. This approach always helps me build a relationship with what I am seeing in front of me, since I have a tendency to get overwhelmed by how much there is to look at in every gallery. Nevertheless, by taking my time, I noticed more and learned more about specific items than I ever could have dreamed of.
I also had to accept my physical limitations. Going on physically-demanding excursions that lasted 15+ hours of the day takes a toll on the body, and I needed rest. A couple of days of that, and your body finally just starts to say no! I had wanted to go to Greenwich, but when I woke up with the symptoms of a bad ear infection, I took it as a sign to have a relaxing day in Brighton. I happened upon a coffee shop with a lovely seat perfect for people watching. I felt so calm and relaxed; I’m so glad I listened to what my body was telling me.
I encourage everyone studying abroad to do as much as they can, but do not be stressed out when you realize you are limited. Sometimes the limits of time and physicality lend themselves to some beautiful surprises – they certainly did for me.
This post was contributed by Emma Rappold, a 2018 Global Ambassador and a Radio-Television-Film major.
Don’t get left behind. Read more about Emma’s experience studying at the University of Sussex>>