Cassie Jones, 19, Minnesota, USA

Cassie Jones copyComing to London from Minnesota was definitely an overwhelming experience. It might not have been for someone who lives in or around Minneapolis/ St. Paul, the two largest cities in the state, but I come from the smaller and more spread out town of Duluth, MN. In Duluth, we not only have the biggest lake on earth and loads of green space, but we also don’t deal with things like “rush hour” or crowds, so London was insanely overwhelming when I first arrived. In fact, for a long time I hated it!
I just didn’t feel like it was the right place for me and I didn’t fit in, so that was the biggest hurdle I had to overcome in these four months I’ve been here. It took a lot of time to let go and get used to my surroundings and find the beauty in things, but slowly things got better, and since I came to Paddington Arts to write for Youth Arts Online, everything has been great. The city grew on me and I have grown to appreciate all the history and diversity it offers. It still amazes me to hear four different languages at the same time on the tube, and to get off the tube and be in a place that looks and feels completely different from any other part of London while still being a part of the city. I will miss more those kinds of things more than ever when I go home.
I think this experience has taught me a lot about myself as well. Not only have I immersed myself in the culture and learned how to adapt to a new environment, but also I learned how to trust in myself and how to be confident and optimistic from this experience. My parents have played a big role in allowing this change to happen. They have been so respectful and trusting of my decisions and my boundaries and they have not held me back from doing anything. For example, two weeks after arriving in the UK, I was already off on my first trip all alone to Spain. After I told them I was going by myself, I was worried that they would be mad I was going alone, but they were so supportive and positive about it that I was amazed at their respect and their desire to let me be responsible and independent. This trust they allow me to have has forced me to trust my own decisions and be confident in what I do, and I am now so independent and feel more like an adult than ever. It’s been quite a transformation.
By the end of this trip I will have seen 29 cities in 14 different countries around Europe, learned the ins and outs of public transportation in London, travelled by myself, learned great packing skills, had an international internship, experienced my first (normal) spring ever, made plenty of mistakes, learned so much from those mistakes, and completely fallen in love with Europe for a second time. I know I will be back in the future, whenever that may be.
If there’s any advice that I could give to anyone who is considering or dreaming of doing something like this in the future, I would have to say just go for it and trust in yourself because taking risks and doing new things is the most rewarding thing you could do, and I know you will not regret it. You will grow just as much as I have and you will be thankful for every experience you have, even the negative moments, because they will make you a better person in the end.
I can’t say I won’t miss it, because I have fallen in love with traveling and seeing new things, but I am so excited to be going home and seeing family and friends and Minnesota once again. It’s been a long and overwhelming four months, but I will never forget it.

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