If there’s anything you should know about me, it’s that I like structure. Using my planner is one of my favorite parts of my day, I color-code my notes & my Google calendar, and I appreciate a well-organized schedule. While preparing for my trip abroad, I created Excel spreadsheets to track my application progress, my projected budget, and exactly how I was going to get from my beloved New Jersey, USA across the pond to the University of Sheffield. I planned everything down to the smallest detail…or so I thought.
As a native English speaker hailing from the US, the one thing I didn’t anticipate was the level of culture shock I experienced upon arrival in Sheffield. Sure, I planned to make adjustments when it came to learning the public transportation systems and the grading scales for classes, but it wasn’t the big things that proved to be difficult for me.
It was understanding that “You alright?” very rarely asks for a response, or that pedestrians here don’t necessarily have the right of way. It was realizing that I can’t say “soda” or “fountain beverage” here when asking for a “soft drink”, and that smiling at other people on trains comes across as creepy, not friendly. It was figuring out that none of the cafes in the area make “iced coffee” because it isn’t a normal coffee drink to order. These little things were the most difficult for me to acclimate to, and the immediate reaction of the planner-lover in me was to reject all of these new phrases and stick to what I know.
However, after starting classes at Sheffield & making friends both from the UK and around the world, I’ve realized how silly getting worked up about those things was. If I’ve learned anything during this first month here in Sheffield, it’s that just going with the flow isn’t only a good idea, but is an absolutely necessary mindset to have when acclimating to a new place.
I’ve stopped freaking out about having to repeat myself multiple times when trying to make a purchase, and I no longer turn down day trips simply because I hadn’t planned for it in my schedule. Rather than rejecting change of all shapes and sizes, I am learning to embrace it. Doing that alone has made me feel a little more at home here in Sheffield, and it’s made my time here thus far infinitely more enjoyable.
I still love planning and structure, but being abroad has made me love experiencing things as they come just as much, if not more. It isn’t necessary to plan every last detail to be prepared for what’s ahead, and that’s perfectly okay.