If you lose the moment, you might lose a lot, so why not, why not …
A popular topic of discussion among us international students (and one that was discussed quite a bit on our trip to Cumbria) is why are we here? Everybody has a slightly different answer, but most people seem to have an answer. When ever I am asked, I struggle to find any one overriding reason.
The most common reason people give is it is about testing themselves out. They will move to the otherside of the world for 6 (or 12 months) test out can they live without the comforts of home, can they organise their own finances and hope to clarify who they are by the end of their adventure. This is one of the “selling points” that is used by Study Abroad departments at universities all over the world as well. However, although it is true that I am excited by the challenge of looking after myself, leaving the comforts of home behind and the like…couldn’t I have just moved out of home but stayed in Melbourne?
Another common point is that they came because they wanted to travel. In some people this is so extreme that part of me wonders why they didn’t just take 6 months off university and travel without being tied down to study, classes and one city. Of course the travel is something that appealed to me. I had travelled through most of Australia, large parts of Asia as well as been to America while I hadn’t touched Europe and the UK. I wanted to see as much as I could and I will see it…but again, couldn’t I have just taken the time off to travel?
There are also people here who decided to study abroad as a way of assisting them with family issues back home. Now my family is screwed up …but in the last few years I have come to realise that EVERY family is screwed up to some degree (So don’t be offended people who are part of my family 😉 haha). Even those families that appear to be the “true family as defined in the 1950s” with 2.4 children, always smiling, a father making bad jokes, a mother who can cook and respectful children probably have an alcoholic father, a mother who is suicidal and both the children are sneaking out at night and taking every drug in sight lurking in the shadows. So with that level of realism shading my views I have come to terms with a lot of my family issues a while ago, will going away for 6 months affect those relationships at all?…I don’t think so, but if they do… couldn’t I have achieved the same results from just talking to them from home?
Another percieved reason for people to make this leap is to deal with issues with their friends. People talk about hanging out with people “back home” that they feel aren’t helping them but hindering them OR some people are using it as a way to add new friends to their ‘network.’ Now for me, I love the friends I have back in Australia. They are an eclectic bunch as anyone who went to my 21st could testify to, but I like that. I have managed to end up with quite a few very close friends and even if I don’t see them as regularly as I wish I could when in Melbourne, I am very happy with that side of my life. However, it has been great to meet new people (from both the UK and around the world including Australia) while over here…but couldn’t I have continued to be satisfied with the friends I had already met before I started this journey?
There is one other, less common, reason for people to have come to study on exchange at University of Leeds and that is that some people have wanted to figure out what the UK or their home country means to them. Do they think that living where they come from for the rest of their life is what they want to do? Now I have a somewhat unique position on this in that I LOVE MELBOURNE, I love Australia too, but Melbourne suits me to a tee. However, I also have a paternal link to the UK so maybe I wanted to see it for myself. To see how strong that link was. Interestingly, the two weeks I spent with family in London probably told me more about how I feel about my family connection to Sri Lanka than the UK. However, although I have realised that ‘possibly’ there are other places I could live for the short term, I still feel very strongly that at least for the next 50 years Melbourne will be home! But couldn’t I have answered these questions by again just travelling for a few weeks/months?
I suppose the search for one simple answer is probably going to be a search in vain. Maybe for me it is a mixture of some of the reasons I have discussed or even some I haven’t discussed. Maybe those people who give a quick and simple answer to “why are you studying abroad in Leeds?” just haven’t realised that their rationale is actually a lot more complicated…
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