Studying Abroad as a Non-Traditional Student

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Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am a non-traditional student. I’m very lucky with a lot of privilege despite being non-traditional. I have a partner who works a full-time job and tries to make my college experience as “normal” as possible. What ever that means.

When I was a freshman I heard about Harlaxton College in the United Kingdom and I immediately thought, “I’m going to get there.” I didn’t know how because studying abroad was a totally foreign concept to me. Neither of my parents went to college and even EIU seemed liked a foreign concept at times. How was I going to pick up and go to a foreign country for five weeks.

Financially and academically I knew I had to wait a few years before I could make it happen. I had it all planned out the summer before my Senior year would be perfect.

And it would have been.

If someone didn’t have other plans.

She Said Yes!

So instead of an adventure in the UK I decided a whole different life adventure would work for the summer before Senior year.

So with my last summer ever as a student I had to make the hard decision if study abroad was for me. I had to weigh the pros and cons of a tuition that could have easily helped with a new car seeing as our had died. I could list hoards of things that my tuition could have been spent on.

My partner wouldn’t hear it. He saw the little Freshman sitting in the seat of ENG1002 who wanted to go to the UK no matter what.

So I packed my bags and one morning I woke up here:

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With an empty bed for the first time in years.

I’ve done a bit of traveling before in my life so I knew I had to put on my adventure pants and take advantage of everything I could possibly do.

And I did.

I hiked.

I saw.

I’d like to say I conquered.

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All the while I felt like something was missing. I am a very independent person and I strive for finding small coffee shops and book stores on my own. I love it. I had another student ask why I called my partner my partner and not a husband. First because I appreciate the small opportunity to be LGBT ally and normalize the word. Secondly because I really appreciate what the word partner means.

A partner means someone who can support you and let you grow to your full potential. It means sharing everything. Food. Experiences. Beds. Germs. Drinks. A partner is someone who’s added presence makes experiences whole.

I hid from the group for a while that I was married. I didn’t share stories about all our shenanigans. I tried to listen and share about myself. But after a few weeks everyone knew. I had a partner.

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Sure we’ve only been married a short while, but adventuring and exploring without him felt half-hearted. I missed the sharing. I missed the talking. I missed him.

Skyping is always a possibility but with time zones and full plans it’s hard to coordinate. Also computer snuggles are nothing like the real thing.

No one prepares you for what a few weeks away from a partner will feel like. It will feel like the most exciting adventure of independence ever mixed with hoards of loneliness.

Would have I not gone? Never.

I’m glad he listened to that little Freshman student who would have given anything to go.

Do I balance our budgets and wish we had a little more to put away for a working car?

Yes.

Do I have an experience of a lifetime that can never be taken away?

Yes.

-Tomato Travels (Sometimes alone)