Studying abroad was never something I had an interest in. I liked staying close to home and to what I knew I was comfortable with. That all changed once I realized how much the world had to offer that wasn’t in my little corner. What I didn’t know was how much studying abroad would change my life. After much debating, I chose York, England, as my place of study. I wanted a place that spoke English as its first language, so I was deciding between England or Australia. With choosing England, I knew I would be able to travel to any country within the European Union without too many problems. York also had more options for me that were more geared towards my interests. The school I chose was called York St. John University and they offered the exact classes I needed, as well as a dance program so I could continue dance training during my studies. Once I got to England, I met so many kind and wonderful people that I never thought I would be friends with. People from all different walks of life came from all over, sharing a common goal: to open their minds to new experiences. Many of the friends I made I still keep in contact with.
A big reason I chose York St. John University is because they were revered for having an excellent dance club. I was able to participate in eight different numbers, as well as my own solo. Some of the styles I did were jazz, contemporary, street and, my personal favorite, commercial. On top of that, I auditioned for the competition team and made it to the hip-hop squad. We were able to place second out of all other colleges in the U.K. It was life changing to be part of that experience. Dancing abroad was one of the biggest highlights of my trip because I learned so many news things that I am able to bring back with me. Starting up dance again at Keene State has been somewhat of a restart for me because I can add all of the technique and styles I learned abroad.
Since I went during the spring semester, students in England get an entire month off for spring break. Lucky for me, it was over April and the weather had warmed up. Within those months I traveled to seven other countries: Glasgow in Scotland, Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Barcelona in Spain, Munich in Germany, Dublin in Ireland, Prague in the Czech Republic and Rome in Italy. Bouncing across Europe was the experience of a lifetime. I learned so much about myself and life that I never would have been able to see if I hadn’t gone on this journey. The different cultures and ideologies that each country possesses was so fascinating to see and understand. I am so lucky to have been able to be in the presence of such history and art.
After being abroad for over four months, I came back for the summer and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. There was a ton of public transportation in Europe and even if that wasn’t an option, you could walk anywhere you needed to go. Driving is on the left side of the road and I just had gotten used to it, so I had a reverse culture shock seeing everyone drive on the right side. The hardest part for me was not being able to legally drink anymore. Going from buying my own alcohol and knowing how to drink responsibly to being treated like a criminal for even being near the alcohol aisle was a huge adjustment. In Europe, you could openly drink in the street and no one would even bat an eye. There is a huge misunderstanding in America about drinking and the negative stigma that it has. Being back in Keene, it feels strange to not be within a huge city and an abundance of culture. As much as I love being here, it’s no York and definitely is no match when it comes to things to do. But being with my friends and family has been a nice break from it all. I had missed them a ton and I’m glad I get to be with all of them again.
Zachary Robinson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org