Unpacking Diamond James
My name is Diamond James and I am studying abroad in Manchester, England.
Until January 21st, 2016 I had never traveled outside of the United States. I had really no clue what to expect as I embarked on this journey. So many people have said that this experience will change my life forever, and while I agreed, I wasn’t really sure how this change would come to be. When I left Charlotte I checked two suitcases and carried on my smaller luggage with a few outfits just in case my suitcases didn’t make the trip across the pond. The only thing I was sure of is that I will not be the same Diamond that left my family in The Charlotte Douglas Airport on that day.
I have never known when it would happen; I just knew it would.
Little did I know, my transition would begin the moment I received my short term visa and went to retrieve my luggage. Why? Because my luggage never made it to baggage claim. I waited and watched the same suitcases circle around until there was nothing left. For people who really know me I am, unfortunately, an emotional person. My response to a lot of things is to cry. I did my best to remain calm as I realized that I would have no choice but to begin this journey with next to none of my belongings from home. Rather than breaking down in tears at an international airport, I filed a lost luggage report and tried to have a light-hearted conversation with a friendly British airport employee. This helped to put me at ease. My internal thoughts? Good job, Diamond!
The following day I moved into my dorm. Campus was extremely quiet since students were in the midst of studying for their fall semester finals. As I set up my new space, I realized this is real – I am actually here and actually doing this. I have never been this far away from my family. I am the first in my family to go college, as well as the first to journey beyond the United States. Yet, in that moment, I couldn’t be proud of these accomplishments and see the momentous occasion in a positive light. The only thing on my mind was how I am for the first time incapable of taking a 2-hour drive back to my home on the weekends. I am stuck here. I think in that moment reality sunk in.
This time, I cried.
Thankfully, my new university had so many events going on for international students, that I didn’t have much time to stay immersed in my thoughts. I have met some amazing students from the United States, Canada, Australia and various parts of Asia and Germany. It has been so refreshing to be in an environment where we are all open and eager to meet new people and establish relationships. Coming from a country where race relations are prevalent and there’s seemingly more division than unity, it was refreshing to have people of all races -- though predominantly white -- come together and see that we are all in this together. This experience made being stuck here not seem so bad after all…for a moment.
However, that was not the end of my emotional roller coaster.
There have been so many times in the past two weeks where I have wanted to get on the next plane to go back home. Home is where I’m comfortable. Home is where I really know people and people know me. Right now I am surrounded by a bunch of faces––some that seem welcoming and others not so much––with a sense of not belonging. I’m just another person in Manchester. When I’m not walking with someone I’ve already met, I walk with my headphones in. I portray a “poker face”, detached from my surroundings. I thought I would be able to come here and immediately immerse myself in this experience. I imagined that I would easily build new relationships and get involved with little thought of what’s going on at home. However, I find that I am often distracted by life in the U.S., which makes me feel like I’m cheating myself out of getting the full experience.
I think about all of this as I write for the world to read. I wonder, what if my misplaced cognizance is a part of my experience too? Perhaps I am here to learn how not to worry about my former life, but to enjoy the moment without worry of how things will be when I return. Maybe this lesson is more relevant to something bigger I cannot yet see.
In this moment of reflecting, I have come to find a semblance of internal peace.