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Saying Goodbye to Study Abroad

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Two more weeks until the end of term, until I leave Oxford, leave England. Two more weeks before I pack my bags, deciding what to keep and what to throw away, torn receipts and ticket stubs, food wrappers and essay notes, all junk, all memories I want to hold on to. My bags can fit only so many.

Studying abroad means you’ll always be homesick. It’s different from traveling – perpetually in motion, boarding trains and planes, sleeping in hotels, wandering around with guidebooks. Studying abroad is standing still, setting roots in foreign soil and growing under the sunshine, dancing under the moonlight.

I miss my US college the way I miss my home in Kathmandu. I’ve been living in the US for the last three years, and my college campus – the brick buildings, the green quads, the shops down the road – is familiar, comforting, welcoming. When I was packing my bags to come to England I was desolate. Stripping my dorm room of clothes and posters, fairy lights and butter yellow lamps, leaving it bare and antiseptic under florescent lights, felt wrong.

This is the curse of living abroad: you leave parts of you behind, scattered in foreign streets, foreign friends, foreign loves. Memories are reduced to blurry photographs and blurrier stories. Months and miles away, I will tell my friends stories of Oxford, of formal halls under ancient mural ceilings, of studying in fortress libraries, of English card games. Yet they haven’t heard the dinner time gongs, the click of a hundred knives on a hundred plates, the howling of the wind as it attacks stone walls.

Now I’m leaving England. I was to spend six months here, an eternity. My first few days here stretched out, seemingly unending. Now they race past. I’ve started visiting my favorite gardens, favorite libraries, silently saying goodbye. Next week I’ll start saying it to friends too. Two more weeks until I’m at the airport, arms stretched out, palms clasped, until it is time, to say goodbye.

Shristi Uprety is an anthropology and creative writing double major at Franklin & Marshall College and studied abroad with IFSA at St. Catherine’s College, University of Oxford in Oxford, England in spring 2016. She served as an International Correspondent as part of the IFSA Work-to-Study program.