Author: Julia Riordan

Location: Cambridge, England

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

In light of the recently discovered virus, named Coronavirus, much of my travel has been restricted to the U.K.  We were additionally told that if the virus becomes progressively more prevalent in England, we risk being sent home. Obviously receiving this news was nerve-wracking and frustrating, yet, it has encouraged me to reflect positively on my time here.

a market I frequent in

I consistently find that when we are forced to enter a new chapter of our life, the process of leaving reminds us of our appreciation for the experience as a whole. Before arriving in Cambridge, the process of saying goodbye to friends, and reckoning with the idea that I would not be on Valpo’s campus for many months reminded me of my appreciation for my life as a Valpo student. In the midst of a busy semester, it is difficult to appreciate your experience as a student, and to reflect on the ways that your friends have positively impacted your life. Nonetheless, often times when we enter a new chapter of our lives, we are reminded of what our past experiences have done for us.

my favorite walkway in Cambridge

Similarly, after receiving countless updates about the severity of coronavirus, and its potential impact on my study abroad experience, I envisioned myself leaving behind the quaint, cobblestone streets of Cambridge, and returning to the States mid-winter. This prospect was scary and frustrating, but I felt an appreciation for Cambridge and this experience as a whole, that I had not foreseen. In fact, my semester abroad has been busy, and I have traveled throughout Europe in an attempt to see the world. But I have failed to take a moment to appreciate how at home I feel in Cambridge, and how much I have grown as a result of this experience.

the beautifully sunny and green colors of Cambridge

After weeks of living in Cambridge, I have certain cafes which I frequent nearly every day, favorite bakeries, and even certain walkways which I find so much beauty in. I have grown to love Cambridge even more than I believed possible, and the prospect of leaving so soon has encouraged me to reflect on my time here. The truth is, I have been so busy jetting around Europe, completing homework assignments and running to class, I have entirely neglected to reflect on my time here. I have finally settled in to my life here in Cambridge, and I believe I am a more independent, adventurous student as a result. Yet, this experience has been far more meaningful than I have realized. As a result of studying abroad, I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I feel much more relaxed here, and I have found time throughout my day to cook for myself, or enjoy a walk throughout town. In fact, I have discovered how to adopt a  more relaxed lifestyle since arriving in England, and I’m not sure I’m ready to give that up yet.

Chelsea Bun from my favorite cafe in Cambridge

It is not definite that we will be sent home before the end of our program. We are at the mercy of this virus, and are collectively hoping it does not continue to spread at such a fast rate. However, this experience has helped me to slow down, and reflect on my time as a study abroad student. In some ways, I am grateful to have been shown how much this experience has impacted me. I am grateful that I have realized my full appreciation for my study abroad program. In the meantime, I intend to further enjoy Cambridge, and enjoy every day that I get to study here.

A fun afternoon punting!