By Giada Lascialfari
Just a few days before leaving, I began preparing my journey playlist. I named it “The road goes ever on” and I tried to fill it with all the reasons why I was coming to England, starting with the English indie-folk music I love so much. At the same time, I packed my brand-new journal that I hoped would summarize my whole experience. Also, I tried (and failed) to leave some space for some English novels which had shaped my idea of England. I hoped that this new period would change my life, that I would quickly fill the journal.
As the plane landed, I saw the countryside below and I honestly felt that I was already falling in love with this strange country. I was certain that the love I felt for this country would only grow once I arrived and that I would never want to return home.. The first shock came as I reached my house. When my housemates opened the door and started introducing themselves, explaining everything about the house, I realised that my language was not even good enough to talk about the vacuum cleaner. I couldn’t understand half of what they said to me, so I mostly just smiled and said “ok” to avoid the embarrassment of not understanding.
After the first week I started to realize that maybe I didn’t understand because I was constantly thinking “what do they think of me?”, “I should know this”, “I should understand this”, “I look like an idiot”. So I started to lower the pressure on myself and after days of “what?”, “sorry”, “I don’t understand” and “I don’t know how to say that”, I gradually passed to “how do you say…?”, “can you repeat?”, “do you know what I mean?”, and started to relax just following the rhythm of this language.
For the first two weeks, I was quite lonely, apart from my half-conversations with my housemates. That period passed like a strange dream. I walked endlessly through Framwellgate Moor, struggled with English street crossings, passed hours in the supermarket trying to bear the presence of all that unhealthy food, and, obviously, I was stunned by Durham Cathedral. But, after exploring the city alone, I began to miss my busy life- doing things and meeting people. Actually, I was blaming myself for not meeting enough people and not travelling enough.
Joining my college, I was thrown into a pleasure island of people from around the world, free food and parties every day. I excitedly joined in with events, but I could never satisfy my thirst for new experiences. That was what I was here for, wasn’t it? To fill the pages of my new journal. At the same time, I was constantly tired and began to feel the need to be alone, overwhelmed by all the events. But I push myself on with a constant fear of missing out on the next experience, the next friend.
As lessons began, this mix of different feelings dissipated and I found a routine. So here I am. The beginning is over. I still try to find a balance between all the events going on, the lectures, the day trips and the unbelievably tiring work of creating a social life from nothing. I now realize that putting constant pressure on myself will never add anything to my experience. Obviously, the indie-folk music in my playlist remains a particular passion of mine. I write in my journal when I can and, unfortunately, I’m not living in an English Victorian novel. But maybe it is when you lower your expectations that you really start to live.