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Reading My Home Away From Home
Base For My First World Adventure

Let me paint a picture for you; a Canadian university student goes to Reading University in the UK for the final year of her BFA.  Last September, I ventured out for what would be my longest stint away from home.  The flight was my first.  I’d never even been off the continent.  I’d heard varying accounts; sure the food was supposed to be shitty, as was the weather, but it was to be made up for through the shopping and the social scene.  I also had fears that my good nature and friendliness wouldn’t be as appreciated overseas. And there were the basic concerns of what the unknown was to bring.  But as I struggled into the underground with my two oversized suitcases (one for clothes, one for art supplies and school books), a man approached with helping hands.  I can basically say my six month adventure went in a similar fashion. 

My traveling experience, as previously mentioned, was minimal but I had always been a road trip girl.  I’d visited every small town and major city across central and eastern Canada as well as Eastern and Northern United States.  This adventure, however, was about to take me much further.  One of the most exciting elements of going to England was its proximity to the rest of Europe and the possibility of travel.  While there, I ventured to Venice, Barcelona, Madrid, Scotland, Amsterdam (twice), Brussels, and Paris.  It may not seem like much for the time I had, but after all, I was supposed to be studying.  This brings me to my main point; Reading gave me a home base in Europe that I relied heavily upon.  As an “inexperienced” traveler, the thought of touring for months with a bag on my back was intimidating, but having Reading gave me an alternative.

I was forty minutes away from central London, twenty from Heathrow airport. When you’re coming from North America, it is unreal how close you are to so many other countries.  Having Reading allowed me to come and go as I pleased.  I could make last minute decisions, such as Venice, and there was always someone who wanted to tag along.  It was my start and end point, and after an eventful mishap in Spain, it also became my refuge.  Having Reading gave me time to plan tours, take time in between trips, as well as giving me a little added comfort, it became a home away from home. 

If you are taking off traveling for the first time, consider these words. And if you are considering traveling in combination with working or studying, the benefits are endless.  And just an added plug for international exchange programs; if your school offers it, go for it!  You’ve got at least three years, so take off for one.  Plus, employers love it, it doesn’t cost much more than a regular year and the experience will be both incomparable and invaluable.   The opportunity plunges you into one culture while still allowing for you to travel out to others.  My time abroad was fantastic and as I look back at my time in Europe and in Reading, I can’t help but smile

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