Sunday, January 10, 2016

“In my mind I’m goin’a Carolina”

First written in December 2013

It's been a year & a half since returning back to the UK from Chapel Hill. I had always meant to do a ‘farewell’ post, but with the mania of final year of university, getting a job and spending months catching up on previously put off blog posts I sort of lost the desire to finish it off. And then Blogger/Google decided to completely change and deny me access to the blog for quite a while!

As I left Chapel Hill it seemed as if it was a chapter of my life that was ending and being fully closed behind me. I didn’t think I would return there, or even remain in close contact with the guys and girls I had become close. Thankfully, and I guess unsurprisingly, this didn’t happen at all. Whilst it’s natural that I fell out of contact with some people, simply due to the nature of human contact and the sheer distances and time differences between people, the beauty of modern forms of communication means that in a way I haven’t at the same time. Furthermore, the phenomenon of airplane travel means I have seen certain people way more than I ever expected!

I guess this is probably a good point to put down a bit about the ‘returning home’ experience. I was told both before going out to the USA and before returning home about the reverse culture shock I was likely to experience. And it be honest, it was bad. What made it worse was whilst I missed Chapel Hill and the way of life I had lived out there, at the same time I was thrilled to be home with my family and seeing my home mates again. But I was also very conscious of having to always be so excited to be home, when at times I truthfully wasn’t. I felt bored and out of place. Added to this was also the personal need to not be the ‘year abroad guy’ who only ever chatted about the time he had spent abroad. Yet for the past year that was all I had done, and all my stories and experiences etc revolved around that. I found myself purposely giving non-committal responses to questions about my time abroad, in a way (as I saw it) to not bore people. I really did find it hard to adjust back to home life.  Also, the jet lag back was an absolute bitch. Especially as for the first few weeks of being home I had nothing to do with myself! Starting a summer job helped return a routine, but it was hard. Top tip for anyone there: when you get back force yourself back into a routine!

I was lucky going back to Manchester, as I moved into a house with other Geographers who had gone abroad as well, and so there was the common ground on which to share stories and experiences. All of the ‘study abroad-ers’ tended to stick together, some more than others, due to being placed back a year as a consequence of going abroad and as such not knowing many (if any) of the year we were joining. Furthermore, quite bizarrely, we felt a little bit of animosity from the other students; a sort of ‘who the hell are you?’ attitude. Thankfully, this seemed to fade as we assimilated into the year and got to know some of our course mates.

The housemates. We regularly looked this damn good
Back with the lads
Many of us ‘study abroad-ers’ struggled in our return to Manchester. Not only were we returning to a city where we had previously known a lot of people but now very few, but also the way our course was run had changed too. I personally found it quite jarring, especially coupled with having to adjust back to actually having to seriously study after a year of scrapping by doing the bare minimum. It was here that the support network of each other became so important, and I found it amazing how quickly I bonded with people who before going abroad I had hardly known (and in some cases not at all) to become really firm friends with many.

Manchester Study Abroad-ers really struggling with being back...

I feel I maintained a greater connection to Chapel Hill than many other returners due to my dissertation topic being based upon my time at UNC (specifically focused on the rivalry with Duke if you are interested!). This meant I still talked to many people back in Chapel Hill to get further research and information. The dissertation was also a cheeky excuse to return back to Chapel Hill for the October reading week. In the name of extra research of course….

The disso. The pint was a regular appearance throughout!

Anyways, I have been very lucky in being able to maintain contact with a fair few people from Chapel Hill since being back in the UK. Almost immediately after arriving back home I had both Jess and Abe come to stay for a few days whilst on their European travels. Even more excitingly, Pat came and visited for a few days as well, and took great delight in ensuring all the old pubs of London were thoroughly visited! Pat also visited a year later whilst working on the John Mayer tour, which meant a cheeky free ticket to the gig!

Working hard. Clearly.
Casually drinking John Mayer's beer...

 In Manchester I also managed to see Lexi & Emma again for a few days whilst they were in town (Lexi having studied in Manchester the year before I was in CH), which was great fun and despite my work load being rather hectic at the time we still managed a cheeky night out together like old times. Fiona and John still pop into my life on a semi-regular basis, which is always great fun but never as often as I would like.

With the terrible two in Manchester
With the amazing-ness of modern technology it is pretty easy to remain in contact with some of the guys who live in various parts of the world, and a few months ago a number of us who were studying in CH together managed to get around a table in a busy London restaurant and have a catch up. It honestly was like nothing had changed (after the obligatory “what you been up to?”), with the same conversations and banter flying about. It was quite funny who had ended up in London and really nice to be able to see everyone again.

Another trip around the UK found Lindsay &I staying in Glasgow with John, including a visit to Linlithgow to see Fiona and Wevine (who had casually popped over the pond for a short time!). Linlithgow is a tiny little town between Glasgow & Edinburgh, with a massive lake, castle & strong accents – just what one would want from a small Scottish place! This was a fantastic few days, especially partying in Edinburgh with everyone. Although Fiona got boy-eyes and I got beer-eyed…

Yeah, I was beer-eyed for sure
Whilst I know it is unlikely that I will keep in close contact with everyone I met during my time in CH, I would like to think that I will stay in contact with everyone from CH. More likely I guess is remaining in contact with a few people regularly that I was close with from time to time. Which is fine: as long as everyone else still offers me a place to stay when I next go gallivanting around the world!

Still repping UNC in Manchester with UNC study abroad-ers