Just a few months ago, I would spend all of my summer days in my small room in my small town in New Jersey. At this time I was battling severe depression and anxiety due to recent events such as losing friendships, having a toxic work environment, going through a breakup, and excessively studying for the upcoming LSAT. It was, generally speaking, one of the lowest points of my life.
This caused me to believe that there was nothing to look forward to in life, and as a result I engaged in unhealthy habits in an effort to suppress my depressing thoughts. Although I was soon due to study abroad in London for a semester, the thought of leaving the comfort of my small bed and dimly lit room in my small suburban town made me feel dreadful and anxious. Was I going to make friends? Was I going to have enough money? Would the classes be more difficult? Would I ever feel better about myself or my life?
I had no idea that soon after my seven-hour flight to London, my life would change drastically for the better.
In my student accommodation, I began to meet and befriend wonderful and interesting people from all over the world, particularly from the midwest where life is different from my east coast life. These friends and I went on many fun and adventurous trips, the most memorable one being visiting Buckingham Palace the day after Queen Elizabeth II passed away and attending her grand funeral in Hyde Park as well. After partaking in such historical events, we explored Greenwich and had Korean cuisine, dishes I never tried before. Such fun interactions and learning about the historic River Thames made me eager to go out and explore more.
A recent moment during studying abroad in which I noticed myself appreciating life occurred this weekend on my trip to Stonehenge, one of the many wonders of the world and a bucket list item of mine for over a decade. Built over 5,000 years ago, historians do not know how these pillars of rocks came about without modern technology. As I admired the scenery, I thought of how beautiful and capable humanity is. There’s so much to see in this world, and so much to experience. I smiled to myself knowing that I had so much more to experience in my lifetime, and how grateful and lucky I am to be able to do so.
Our bus then took us to Salisbury, where my friends and I saw the markets and engaged with residents while trying more foods we haven't before. One market we went into was in the town hall building, a gorgeous room with paintings of monarchs lining the wall. We found ourselves in awe over the book stand, where I took the opportunity to purchase multiple historic English books. I could not wait to read these on the ride back home!
Our trip guides then led us into Salisbury Cathedral, an 800-year-old masterpiece built in the shape of a cross. Although I am not a religious individual, I found comfort in the beauty and peaceful energy of this gorgeous and holy place. The large glass painted windows made me realize that since the beginning of time, humans have always craved the feelings of love and acceptance from others. We want to feel safe and happy as we live our days, especially in youth. I wish I realized sooner, even a few months ago, that I should be grateful for this opportunity to study in such a beautiful, global country like England and appreciate the lessons this experience is teaching me. Therefore I must spend my days exploring and enjoying the time left while it lasts, which has helped me so much in battling my depression.
I’m eternally grateful for the opportunities and lessons that studying abroad has granted me so far. The change of scenery and being in such a wonderful city really opened my eyes to how grand and beautiful the world is. Arcadia even helped me connect with a wonderful therapist that guides me through my emotions. I honestly have not felt this happy or hopeful in such a long period of time.
As human beings, we have so much capacity to change for the better. The depths of my depression made me believe that I would never laugh with a group of friends or find joy in sitting at a park ever again. Little did I know, there were so many wonderful experiences and people to encounter in the near future. We must try to remind ourselves during our darkest moments that we will not feel such heaviness in our bodies forever, and that the feeling is simply temporary.
I am a new person now with a new perspective on life. When I return to New Jersey, I will be sure to spend most of my days to the fullest and appreciate the little things, just as I learned to do in London. Granted, I know that there will be some gloomy days ahead because after all, that is a part of life. However, my experiences thus far have helped me realize that I will be alright at the end of the day. I just need to be grateful for what I have in the current moment and keep my head held high.
If you or a loved one struggle with mental health, please do not be ashamed to reach out for help and provide necessary resources. Your life matters.