Deciding to study abroad in the US was both one of the easiest and hardest decisions I've ever had to make.
From August 2014 to May the following year, I experienced the most eye-opening, valuable and life-changing experiences.
I became a student in Los Angeles, and that identity will always remain a part of me.
What could've gone so wrong during my time abroad went ever so right.
All the articles I'd read and all the preparation I'd done to brace myself for homesickness simply didn't need to be put into effect.
I was surrounded by the most loving people on the friendliest campus, with the most beautiful climate.
Call it "luck," or call it whatever.
I experienced only a couple of real feelings of homesickness throughout the entire academic year.
The sheer experience of this "miracle" of a study abroad year is probably why I'm feeling so dissatisfied upon my return to UK university life.
These are the things I thought would happen, but didn't:
1. My friends would simply stick with the same friendship group they'd found during their first year of university.
Why would they seek out any new buddies?
2. I would have all these crazy and interesting stories to share, and everyone would be interested.
Would conversation ever fall silent again?
3. I'd miss my US friends, but I would easily move on.
It's time to revel in the memories and put them in the past.
4. My confidence would be bursting through the roof.
Who says I can't do everything?
5. The long-distance relationship would never work.
But, there would be plenty more fish in the sea.
6. I'd enjoy returning to the UK nightlife scene.
Yes! No more 21 plus clubs.
I am an adult again.
7. I'd enjoy "fitting in" again.
There would be no more head-turning and, "OMG! You're from England?"
8. Settling in would be a piece of cake.
If I could move to another country, how hard could moving back to the homeland really be?
But, these are the things that actually happened:
1. My friends made other friends.
Obviously, this shouldn't have come as a surprise.
I wasn't walking back to my first-year group of friends. Things had changed.
My course members had grown to know each other more, and I felt like an intruder in a room I shouldn't have entered.
2. No one really cared.
Sure, lots of people asked me how America was.
They were somewhat "jealous," and sure, they listened when I tried to explain all the cultural differences I had experienced during my time away.
But really, they couldn't relate.
They couldn't carry on the conversation with their study abroad experiences, so conversations became one-sided.
3. I missed my US friends more than anything.
On a small campus, I'd spent more quality time with the friends I'd made during my study abroad year than many of my oldest and dearest friends back in the UK.
In the US, I had the most wonderful roommate. But now, I was alone in my room.
Sure, we can communicate via social media, but nothing hurts more than having to leave behind the most genuine friendships I've made in my life.
4. Confidence is like the smell of perfume.
It truly fades.
From stepping off the plane and returning home in May to starting back at university, my confidence levels have dropped.
There's no denying I'm a stronger, more self-assured individual than before I departed for America, but I didn't expect the "I can do anything" feeling to drop so substantially in such a short time.
5. He's turning out to be "the one."
Who would've thought my study abroad year would lead me to meet the love of my life?
Although my original mindset on LDRs was pretty pessimistic, I am now considering planning my future around a Californian sweetheart.
Now, that really is a long distance.
6. The novelty wears off.
After a year of house parties and sparse drinking, my enthusiastic attitude toward "going out" simply wasn't there anymore.
Sure, I still love to have a drink and dance with my friends, but now, I revel in the hangover-free mornings and lazy evenings.
7. I was back to one in a swarm of many.
Those who know me will understand I don't cherish moments in the spotlight.
However, being back in the UK led me to experience feelings of inconspicuousness.
8. I felt more like a lump of lard.
I could never have prepared myself for the emotional roller coaster I am currently riding as a study abroad returnee.
However, the UK is my home.
It's where my closest friends and family will always be.
When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.
With an amazing study abroad experience to fuel my spirit, I expect to only climb further away from these unavoidable feelings of reverse culture shock.