Knots

by Helen ~ November 16th, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized.

[Note to those reading: I started these posts when I was in Bath and am finishing them during fall semester, hence the confusing dates on my posts.]

It has been a packed, rough-and-tumble sort of week for us at ASE in the very best sense of that phrase. Last weekend was our first (read: only) free weekend on the program! All of the UMW students decided to get together to watch the BBC Pride & Prejudice miniseries; considering there is about five hours of film there, I think we did very well to get through about half. When we woke up the next morning it was only Friday and it already felt like Sunday! We had two papers as well as an oral presentation due early in the next week, so much of our time was spent inside revising during the intermittent showers that fell for the remainder of the weekend. Even so, it felt like time well-spent. Early on in the week we tried out a (chain) pub just around the corner from us called The Huntsman. They had extremely beautiful (and, if you get in there before 5 PM, affordable) food and the company was good, as always: I am lucky to be here with such an extraordinary group of people.

It was this weekend when I really started to feel like Bath was home. I know where I want to eat lunch every day; I know where all of the fun shops and markets are; I’m familiar with the different street performers who come through the city center and fan out through the rest of town. Most importantly, I know when the pasties are half off at the local branch of Pasty Presto. The various bits of town that we stumbled across in our first few days in Bath have begun to knit together into a cohesive map that I can navigate without hesitation. It really is fun to feel like I am a part of what is going on around the city.

But of course, as I write this, we are more than half of the way through our stay. In less than three weeks I will be back in Virginia, getting a few weeks of work in before I return to Mary Washington for my final year as an undergraduate. I am having a hard time reconciling myself to the fact that this study abroad trip is going to end and I’m going to have to get on with the life I decided to absent myself from for six weeks of summer.

Like many of the other trips I’ve had to England, this has felt like a vacation. Well, it has felt like a vacation except for the approximately 15,000 words I will have written about Oscar Wilde and Jane Austen by the time we’re finished here. It’s weird to be from a country but to feel always like a visitor in it. There is always a deadline, always a time when I have to return to the country where I have actually made my home. That isn’t a bad thing: there are a lot of reasons I’m thankful to live in the US. I’m just finding it difficult to untangle my feelings about it. Part of the reason my parents consented to my studying abroad in England rather than Spain (where I could have practiced my Spanish) was that they had hoped it would serve as a kind of reconnaissance mission to see if I would ever like to go back and live in England. My father and his partner are definitely settled in America, but my mother is a little bit less so. I think they all wondered if having a daughter in England might not be a good way to anchor them more strongly to the country we all came from.

But, you know, I feel like a visitor to this country even now. Certainly, I feel like I know this place, but I am having these feelings of acculturation along with all of my American friends. We may know our way around Bath and have our own niche here, but we’re students and we’re here on loan. Even though I was born here and lived here and have strong family ties to this country, I don’t feel like an English person, not even when I’m talking to other English people in shops or to my grandparents on the phone. Americans think I’m pretty English, the English think I’m pretty American, and I’m having a hard time untangling what my own feelings are about where I want to be.

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