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You’re checking out. Checking out of the place that has become your home for the past five months. You sigh. Sigh because as anxious and scared as you were when you came, you are even more anxious and scared to go back. 

How to say goodbye to England 101   Student writer Meghan Mellinger poses by a staple of English culture.
Student writer Meghan Mellinger poses by a picture-perfect phone booth in Cheltenham, England.

“Sentimental” should be your middle name. On your last day in England you will walk a little bit slower. Appreciate and relish everything for the last time. Walk slowly by that cute flat with the red front door. Stare out into that park where you spent time reading and thinking for prolonged periods of time. Glance fondly at the first red telephone booth you ever saw… and your last (for now).

Retrospection. Remember your first day five months ago. Tired. Jet lagged. You lugged two 70lb suitcases up three flights of stairs without the help of a strong English boy (preferably Prince William). You opened up the door to your room and saw a hideous mix of green and pink curtains and a duvet cover that looked like a hotel room. And you were the guest. A guest in a foreign country. You went to dinner. Fish ‘n chips. Appropriate beginning.

Sure, you had your moments of confusion. You had your moments when your life flashed before your eyes as you came within a foot of a fast moving small English car. You consumed scores of Cadbury chocolate McFlurries from McDonalds. You pretended to be an English sheep farmer and actually convinced your professor you knew what you were talking about.

You've slept a lot. You've been happy. You've been sad. You've been mad.  You've been disappointed. You've prayed a lot. You've walked a lot. You've spent time alone.

You have begun to appreciate the sun when it actually makes an appearance. You never knew before how rare a treat a blue sky and a yellow ball of fire were. 

You’ve seen English boys play football and eaten Yorkshire pudding in a pub. You've had a cup of English tea. With sugar. And milk.

You’ve been told repeatedly that it is a “biscuit” and not a cookie. You love cookies. 

You’ve slipped and said “pants” instead of trousers. Twice. 

The English have made fun of your accent. They've tried to imitate you. They've failed. You've tried out your English accent on them. One thought it sounded French. The others raised an eyebrow in agreement: “rubbish.”

You’ve done things you’ve never done before. You’ve traveled to eight countries (nine if you count the overnight train through Switzerland). You’ve had to use four different languages. You’ve taken 6 flights. 23 trains. You've walked around Dublin by yourself. You've taken three trains by yourself. You've learned to be content and actually enjoy being by yourself.

You've fallen in love with grocery shopping. And Tesco will always bring pleasant memories to your mind and a warm feeling to your heart. Ten chocolate button cookies. For 99p.  Chicken salad. 1 pound 40 pence. 

You've had your battle with change. You hate change. Coins. Who needs them? Eventually your drawer became so filled with 2pencers you caved in and took 40 of them into McDonalds. It bought you the best McFlurry you’ve ever had along with exasperated stares. But it was the best one you’ve ever had. They added chocolate sauce that time.

You got into the habit of adding random “u’s” to words and changing all the “z’s” to “s’s.”  “Color” started to look wrong. You learned there is British English… and then American English.

You endured classes where America was harpooned for its foreign policy and smiled when fellow students professed their lifelong dream of going there one day. You realize that some are almost as American as you: they listen to your music, they watch your television shows, they even eat at the same fast food joints. 

And then they asked you where you’re from. After replying “Pennsylvania” they immediately followed up with: “Isn’t that where Dracula is from?”  They explained that 100 miles is no big deal to Americans but 100 years is a long time. To them, it’s just the opposite.

You learned that the English really are shy and reserved.

You experienced England during the winter, spring, and summer. You love the rain and the sun because England looks beautiful either way. And then five months, four classes and three seasons later those suitcases emerge again. Clothes are moved from their place and folded. Souvenirs are taken down from the shelf and put into your black Samsonite. You take down your England flag and put it with the rest of your paraphernalia. You look at your walls. Bare. The curtains and duvet cover. Still as pink and green and crazy as ever. You’re checking out. Checking out of the place that has become your home for the past five months. You sigh. Sigh because as anxious and scared as you were when you came, you are even more anxious and scared to go back. You like England. Heck, you love England. You contemplate not showing up for the flight back to America. If only you had a few more days. A few more weeks. A few more months. Years. You could stay. But you know someday… someday you will return.  You go to dinner. Your last dinner. Fish ‘n chips. Appropriate ending.

Meghan Mellinger '08

 

 

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