By now, the majority of you should know that I’ve finished my first year of university in England. I really finished at the start of June, but my birthday month has been so busy that I haven’t gotten the motivation or time to properly write down a blog post on how much first year in Brighton has gone. I’ve written about a few specific events and experiences but nothing in depth since I got here because, for the most part, I’ve been exploring the area. So, ten months on – here’s my thoughts on my move…
Academically, moving to England to study when I hadn’t properly been in school since June of 2012 was a huge change for me. While I’ve always had something to commit to and occupy my time, it was of a professional nature since I worked full time jobs from August of 2012 until just before moving away from Fayetteville. The adjustment from working full time to being a university student wasn’t as dramatic as I thought it would be, through there were definitely many times when I thought about where I’d be if I hadn’t left my job at the YMCA. But at the end of the day, I’m incredibly relieved that I made the jump from where I was comfortable (and potentially saw a future there) to moving 3,000 miles away from home.
For the most part, even if I found that some of my lecturers were incredibly boring or didn’t focus on the content as much as I had hoped they would, I enjoyed the academic part of my first ten months in England. While I spent a lot of time in the second half of the year struggling with my leg pains, and therefore missed a lot of my lectures because of it – I didn’t let it fully get to me. There were definitely times when I considered changing my course, or university, or leaving entirely – but the reason that I chose a university in England was not because I thought it was better than one in the states, it was because I knew that living in England would improve my mental health far more than I expected.
In a nutshell, a major reason why I chose to move 3,000 miles away from home was not because I knew that the English university system would be better than the States or that I would have new experiences while living in a different country. It’s simply because I knew that living in England alone would be a vast improvement for my mental health.
Most of you already know how important my friends in England are to me, but I have found that since moving to England, I have been able to put more minor things first when it comes to my mental health. Before I moved, I saw the way I was managing my mental health on a more black and white level – that I knew what helped it and what hurt it – and adjusted my life accordingly to make sure that I could push away the “dark sides” of my mental health to stay focused on my day job. While I was genuinely happy in those times when I could “ignore” it, I knew that trying to push aside something that has been a huge impact on my life was eventually going to end badly.
Before I moved, I wrote a similar blog post on why I chose Brighton – or even made the choice to leave the States at all – and to this day, the reason remains the same – growth.
In the past ten months, I have put a lot of pressure on myself to put my own health, both physical and mental, before anyone else in my life. I ended a relationship when I felt like I was beginning to feel less important and that my emotions weren’t being heard. I’ve removed friends from my life who have purposely laughed at the things that I enjoy doing for the simple fact that they didn’t think I should be liking the things that I do, and went out of their way to make me feel badly about it. I’ve stopped reaching out to people who consistently drain me or make everything about them, and instead, made the time for new friends who focus on my emotional well-being and make an effort to listen to the things that I talk about, even if it has little to no significance in their lives.
Since university finished a month ago, I’ve been lucky to travel to Manchester for a weekend to see Taylor Swift with a friend who I first met when I visited England in 2016, travel to a new town to practice photography with one of my best friends (said photos are actually intended to be a part of a promotional shoot for a small company), and spent a lot of time reflecting on how to continue to take care of my mental health for the future. The good news for me is that, by now, I know what is good for me versus what can negatively impact me, and on some level, I can find ways to manage it. Being surrounded by very few friends, but friends who genuinely do my soul good, has done wonders for my health.
And in the words of Taylor Swift – I’m doing better than I ever was.