It’s hard to leave Texas…not just because of the emotional ties to home but because the state is so big that it takes forever just to leave the physical borders. Deciding to study at The University of Sheffield was a difficult decision overall, because like many students, and certainly those who are considering studying abroad, anxiety was my unwanted baggage claim.
Yet I arrived in Sheffield, England in January and despite my Texas-sized anxieties, I feel incredibly grateful to be here. Coming here made me realize that going abroad with anxiety is not only doable but a global occurrence. In-fact, the differences I was afraid of ended up being the things I embraced.
Sheffield is a city nestled in the English countryside of South Yorkshire. When I arrived, the sun was out and the birds were chirping…an hour later it was raining…and an hour later it was snowing. While I was worried about the weather, which is completely opposite of my hot and dry home-state, I actually felt a sense of calm in the familiarity of unpredictable weather.
Also, the university is accomodating to those with anxiety because of the support systems available, the people and a little thing called pasties. While pasties aren’t my dad’s frito pie, the flavorful meat wrapped in rich pastry gives me the same, comforting feeling. Bangers and mash however is no slow cooked brisket.
A pasty from “Proper Pasty Company” in the Sheffield Student Union.
Another major worry I had before arrival was that I would forever feel like an outsider. I thought I would be the real life version of the Texan squirrel from Spongebob Squarepants – Sandy Cheeks. My accent would stand out as much as Sandy’s scuba diving suit and I would eventually be singing her famous ballad Texas Song that goes:
“I wanna wake up in Texas
I miss those wide open skies.
I miss my 20 acres, bar-b-ques,
And pecan pies, oh why?”
This is definitely not the case. The very fact that Sheffield is new makes the experience worthwhile. The city is quaint yet cultured. I lose myself in the green spaces throughout the city and love that I am in walking distance to art galleries, theatres and pubs. I feel comfortable here, even when I don’t understand what a “mardy bum” is and they don’t know what “queso” is.
Me enjoying the Winter Gardens in Sheffield.
Before arriving I was also worried that I wouldn’t make any friends, but as any cliche study abroad brochure will tell you, you will meet new people and surely make friends. Orientation allowed me to do so. Some people didn’t even know what Texas was! Ultimately, where you are from is only a small sliver of your identity and it’s amazing how many similarities you will find with people from different places.
A sad reality is that a common similarity between students I’ve met is that many of us struggle with anxiety. While it a serious mental battle, it’s inspirational that so many students can face those nagging fears and embrace the life changing experience of studying abroad. Like traffic on Interstate 35, my anxiety brought my energy and excitement to travel to a halt. Yet, everything I’ve enjoyed and learned so far in Sheffield was on the other side of fear – I just had to get there.