One Year Later.

Monday, September 14, 2015

A few days ago I was scrolling through my much-neglected iPhone calendar and noticed a little note for September 14: "1 year expat-iversary"

"What a difference a year makes"

....that old chestnut.

A year ago I got on a plane after a horrible bout of bad nerves the duration of the car ride to the airport. The following day I arrived into London, hopped on a train to Bristol and had a few days questioning what the actual hell I had decided to do with my life. I was thrilled and terrified and everything in between. I didn't know anyone other aside from being email pals with another Texan girl who promised to have tea with me during my first week (we got on alright). On top of all the little struggles and victories that go with moving overseas, I was also starting a new course in a new subject. Much to my amazement not only did I eventually manage to make several public-speaking presentations (my nemesis) I passed all of my term essays and managed to submit my master's dissertation a week early. Slowly, quickly, not at all, and all at once I melted into life in England, the country I dreamed about living in since I was 13.

So without further ado or me waffling on about how #enlightened reflecting on the past year as made me feel, here's the month-by-month highlight reel of my year as an expat.

Packed up all my room of 15 years since my parents were preparing to move house. All my belongings were sorted either into cardboard boxes to stay in the US or squeezed into a suitcase to come with me to the UK. On September 13th I flew out of Texas and landed in London the following day *dun dun dun* After a confusing/delirious couple of days in Bristol, I met Sara in real life at the Tea Birds. I started to get out to explore Bristol and attempted to settle in before starting my master's course.
Roamed around Bristol some more including the S.S. Great Britain and began figuring life out overseas. Little things like crossing the street without looking both ways a million times, racking up Boots points, and figuring out the easiest way to carry my groceries home starting happening. I trotted down the road to Bath for the first time and visited the Roman Baths. I celebrated Oktoberfest with a big group of friends at Bristol's Bavarian Beer House where I learned to not try and keep up drinking-wise with Germans. I went to London for the day to celebrate my one-month expat-iversary (which is especially weird to type out 11 months later). Had the most epic daycation to the Isle of Wight which is one of my favourite memories of the entire year.
This month kicked off with my sister getting engaged while I was climbing the rigging of the S.S. Great Britain. All the happy FaceTime tears. Finally saw Stonehenge for the first time, traveled to several other little English villages on a tour with MadMax. Crafted a marathon of day trips with Sara where we explored Glastonbury, Wells, Cheddar on a Friday and Cardiff/Caerphilly the next day. We romped around Caerphilly Castle which was my first and only visit to Wales so far! Apparently Sara and I couldn't bear to detach from each other during November because we also went to Leavesden to see Hogwarts all dressed up for Christmas and then made a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in my kitchen. 
Celebrated Clifton Suspension Bridge's 150th birthday, spent the day in Lacock (again), met up with an old friend and her family in London before flying out the next day to go home for Christmas! The first weekend I was home I fought off jet lag with one my best friend's wedding weekend which gave me all the warm fuzzy feelings just in time for Christmas. All the fun of two weddings and being home for 2.5 weeks led me to falling asleep around 10pm on New Year's Eve. Whoops!
My sister got married (best time ever), I flew back to England sick as a dog and was miserably jet lagged for weeks. I finished/submitted my term essays and treated myself with a weekend away in Brighton. Sara and I adventured to a part of Bristol neither of us had been to and managed to stumble upon a castle.

Not the most eventful month, but I guess it's the shortest one so I'll let it slide. Sara (who is making a lot of appearances in this list) and I went to Bath for a trip to the salon and to eat pancakes on Pancake Day before she had to reluctantly return stateside – which I've been grumpy about ever since. 
Went a wee bit down the river and explored the teeny Bradford on Avon for a few hours and had tea at one of the oldest tea rooms in England. My cousin hopped on the Eurostar from Paris and I showed her around London for the weekend! Spring slowly started to peek through.
Maybe one of my favourite months but also the least documented on the blog, since this is when my parents visited! My mom came all the way to Europe for the first time ever and a few days into her visit my dad surprised me outside Westminster Abbey and I cried Kim Kardashian ugly tears. I had the best time showing them around London and the South West and am dying for them to come back! We went to St. Paul's for Easter church and ate at some of the dreamiest places in London. I also hopped on board another MadMax tour and cruised around the picturesque Cotswolds.
Most of May was taken up by writing my spring essays and my dissertation proposal. The fun bit came after the deadline when I went up north for a few days. My home base was Edinburgh which I had been to about 10 years ago but I also got to cruise on Loch Ness and gaze at giant mountains in the Highlands. Scotland is incredible.
June went by in a BLINK. Two of my best friends came to Bristol and we had so much fun playing sleepover, drinking cider by the harbour, and me sniggering at watching them suffer a bit from Bristol hills. Brandon Hill is no joke. Being the mahoosive Potterheads we are, a trip to Leavesden for the brand new Hogwarts Express exhibition was a no-brainer. After Ali hopped back across the water to Ireland to meet up with her dad, Rach and I went on a 10 day whirlwind of mainland Europe. We started in Paris where we moseyed and cycled stayed hydrated via wine, took an overnight train to Verona which became a firm favourite place to visit, continued on to Salzburg where we sang an obnoxious amount of Sound of Music, and finally to Munich where we agreed pretzels should be a part of every meal.

Dissertation crunch time began and various life bits started to get difficult and stressful. I started my job which I'm so thankful for, I really got lucky with timing and a good group of fellow employees! I went to London for a quick 24-hour visit to see my cousin (different cousin than March...I have lots of cousins) and took advantage of all that the Bristol Harbourside Festival had to offer. Fireworks, food, and alcohol is hard to beat. The definite highlight of July was letting my Downton Abbey fangirl out and visiting Highclere Castle! One of the more exhausting day trips I've done but absolutely worth it. 
Ahhh August...the month where everything started falling into place. When I wasn't in the library writing, or transporting things between my old flat to my new one, I was enjoying the Bristol Balloon Fiesta and squeezing in a short visit to Oxford. September rolled around before I knew it, and here we are, full circle.


I know it's a cliche but I honestly can't believe how quickly a year has gone by and how much I've managed to squeeze into it. It wasn't always sunshine and rainbows like the photos above make it seem, but it's one of the best decisions I've made. I've become really unsure of what to do with all of my free time not spent at work without some deadline hanging over my head, but looking at all I've done in 12 months, I imagine I'll find a few things to do with my remaining time in England. Thanks so much for reading along and leaving such kind supportive comments through all the ups and the downs from the past year!


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