Hi everyone! Welcome to the last entry of my blog about my year abroad!! I can’t believe I started writing this nine month ago! In my first blog post I had never been to Baltimore or to UMBC and I could only guess what they would be like. I hadn’t met any of my new friends and I wasn’t sure what to expect from my new university, academically or socially.
Now I am back in the UK! It was very strange when I first arrived but I’ve really started to feel at home again. It is very nice to be back although UMBC does still feel very close and familiar – if I woke up in my room in the Terrace Apartments tomorrow I’m sure it wouldn’t take me very long to get used to things again.
After I finished UMBC, I went to stay with my roommate Sarah for a few days in Frederick. I didn’t really do much while I was there; we were both tired after a stressful finals week so we both just relaxed. Fortunately, it was very sunny while I was staying with her so I was able to spend a lot of time outside. We also went to visit her friend Claire who has an amazing pool, which was the perfect way to spend a hot afternoon. I also spent a lot of time with Sarah’s adorable cat! The week after we had finished UMBC, Sarah drove me back to campus and I met up with my other friend called Sarah. She lives in Highland so I got to see a new part of Maryland when I went to visit her. We spent a day in DC, visiting the Spy Museum, which I had never been to before but would definitely recommend! It was such a cool museum! You got to select a cover identity when you first went in and had to remember details about him or her throughout your trip (I was Maria Rivera, a seventeen year old student from Mexico who was visiting a cowboy-themed fair in Iowa to find a photo that contained a microdot of secret information…as you can probably tell, I did alright on the tests). The museum also had a huge number of artefacts on display that had actually been used by spies who, it turns out, are a very imaginative bunch of people! We also went to the Museum of National History which, again, I would definitely recommend. Its such an interesting museum that covers so many different periods of American history. I got to see the First Ladies exhibit which I’d never seen before, which really shows how important the role is. I also got the chance to go back to UMBC one last time. It was pouring with rain and very humid (this was the start of the floods which, very sadly, devastated Ellicott City again). I got to see Tess again before I left though, and to do my usual walk around the circle that encompasses the campus one last time. On Saturday the 2nd of June, Sarah drove me to the airport and I flew up to New York. I also was able to leave my big suitcase with her which was very helpful as it would have been too big to take on my trip to Canada, and it was picked up a few days ago by a company called UniBaggage which, I would suggest looking at if you want to get any luggage home, especially if you’ve been abroad. It only took a few days for my suitcase to get here, it’s all in great condition and it wasn’t too expensive to ship it. Anyway, it was very sad to leave Maryland, I’d had such a great time in that amazing state, and a part of me didn’t want to leave. But I got to New York in forty minutes and met up with my new trip the next morning.
The trip was amazing!! I met so many great people and got to see a lot of really fantastic places. Our first stop after we left New York early in the morning was Boston, we had a whole day there the following day. Unfortunately it rained the entire time but we still managed to see some of the sights, walk part of the Freedom Trail and have lunch at Fanueil Hall. The next day we headed north and crossed the border into Canada. It felt very strange to be leaving America but I was excited to see Canada. Quebec City was the first stop and it was absolutely beautiful. Maryland may have been founded by the British but this was the first time in ten months I felt like I was back in Europe. It was exactly like being in France, and historical France at that. Every building in the main part of the city looked like something out of a European fairy-tale, with cobblestone streets and the St Lawrence River only adding to this. We had a ghost tour that night which was so interesting, I’d had no idea how dark Quebec’s history was or how many ghosts roamed the streets. It was definitely one of the most interesting places I’ve visited and I really enjoyed it. Montreal was the next place on the trip, and the one I’d been looking forward to the most. This was the place where my grandparents had met at university and where my mother had been born, and is a place they all love, so it means a lot to my family. I toured McGill and saw the historic part of the city and also had the chance to eat dinner in the complete dark at a restaurant called O Noir which was such a cool experience. We couldn’t see anything, not even our hands in front of us, but still had to find our food, which we had ordered in advance. The food was really nice and the whole experience was definitely one I want to do again. Montreal was very cosmopolitan, a real mix between old and new and I got to see some gorgeous views of the city from the top of Mount Royal, the mountain which Montreal is named for.
After Montreal, we headed to Toronto after a quick stop in Ottawa. The capital of Canada was gorgeous, a small city but one with plenty of history. The Parliament buildings reminded me of London but they were surrounded by enough nature for them to be completely Canadian. There were some markets nearby filled with souvenirs and different types of food. This is definitely one of the cities I’d like to go back to and spend more time in. Toronto was a nice place as well, though it was decidedly more modern than the other places I’d visited. I had plenty of time to sightsee and I even went to a baseball game where I got to see the Baltimore Orioles for the first time (shows what a big sports fan I am!) I even wore all the black and orange clothes I had, but as I hadn’t known the Oriels would be playing I looked better suited for a nightclub that a sports game. Unfortunately, Baltimore lost but the tour group leader was from DC and he was supporting them too and he high fived me whenever they scored so I knew when they were doing well. I had no idea what was happening (sports goes right over my head) so this was useful! On the last day of the trip, I said goodbye to the people who were continuing on back into America and went to an urban beach which reminded me a bit of the Caribbean with its white sand and pink umbrellas. That evening, I headed to the airport. After buying some last minute souvenirs, I was ready to go. It felt very strange to be getting on the plane that would be taking me back to the UK, but I was glad to be going home. My flight was only six hours and I was able to sleep for a decent amount of it which always helps! I looked out the window as the plane flew down towards London and was surprised to see that it wasn’t raining. Unfortunately my mum wasn’t able to meet me at the airport so I had to get a bus to my grandparents’ house in south London. After so much travel in two foreign countries (one of which didn’t only have English as its native language) I’d been feeling comfortable about this part of my trip; I was back in my home country, in a place I knew well, traveling on a route I’d done before. What could go wrong?
(This is not a sensible question. Don’t ever ask it!)
The bus I was meant to get didn’t show up, basically. Nor did the one after it. I finally got on the X26 an hour after I’d expected, and I hadn’t been able to contact my grandparents as my American phone didn’t work in the UK and I hadn’t had wifi outside the bus station. When I finally arrived, my gran said that two other X26s had arrived, but neither had been at Heathrow. It was very strange. I had a lovely day after that though, I got to see both grandmas and one grandpa all one the same day which was very nice after not seeing them in nearly a year. The next day I headed home, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to get back to Devon. My mum ran up to meet me at the station and I got to see my brothers and sister that day as well, my dad came home at the end of the week, so the whole family was soon back together.
A few weeks after I got home, I went to Wales. I had a fantastic time! It was so, so nice to see all my friends again, and I settled back into Swansea immediately, I’d forgotten how much I loved it. I missed the beach so much!! Fortunately the weather was incredible and I spent a huge amount of time outside in the sun. It didn’t rain once! And it was so nice to be able to walk everywhere again! I’m really looking forward to getting back there in October and starting my fourth year, espeiclly as I know what I would like to do for my dissertation now. Having an extra year in my degree has definitely given me more time to think about this more, and while I was in Baltimore, I came up with an idea that I’d never even considered before. But before then I’m heading to London to volunteer at some history museums which should be very exciting and a completely new experience.
I’m already planning my next trip. I would love to go to the west of America, especially Los Angeles and New Mexico, but of course I’m planning to go back to Maryland and see all my wonderful friends from UMBC. This year has definitely made me realise how much I love travelling and how much I want to see other parts of the world. I’m now considering teaching English as a possible career and at the moment, I’d like to do that in either Spain, Mexico or Cuba, so there’s a chance I’ll be heading back to the Americas before long! Before I sign off (get those tissues ready!) I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone at the university who made me feel so welcome and helped me have one of the best years of my life! I loved my time at UMBC and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
So, that’s it. My year abroad is done! In a way I still can’t believe it, having panned it and thought about it for so many years! Massive thanks to everyone who read my blog and, I hope you enjoyed it, and as ever, if you have any questions about UMBC, years abroad or life in general, let me know!