When the twinkling blue seas below my airplane window gave way to patchwork quilts of fields and farms; when the border control agent’s stern face slipped into a smile when I (excitedly) revealed this was my first time in the U.K.; when I walked out of customs only to find a coffee shop and realize that Britons do drink other beverages besides tea: then, I felt I never wanted to leave this country called England.
That feeling persisted throughout my first couple months as a visiting student at Oxford University. I couldn’t get enough of the narrow and winding streets, the Hogwarts-esque libraries, the dreaming spires of churches and chapels. The thought of returning home haunted me. Who wants to think about Oregon rain when you have Oxford rain?
I was too busy—with academics, cycling to and from the city, and constant amazement at my surroundings—to ever truly be homesick. When the end of term finally arrived, I bid emotional and exhausted farewells to my housemates, unable to grasp the fact that we were done. We couldn’t be done—not yet. I’d only just arrived!
I had believed my return to George Fox would be blanketed by clouds of melancholy and longing. Why is the library so small? I imagined musing, with perhaps a single tear rolling its way down my cheek. Why is no one wearing tweed?
Clouds actually did blanket the sky that first Monday of the spring semester—but they consisted of moisture in the air, not of my roiling emotions. I walked across the quad, my eyes drinking in sights and faces both strange and utterly familiar. No pangs of longing pierced me. No sighs escaped me. Instead, I walked, and watched, and gave the occasional hug and 30-second spiel about my “trip.”
I was back, and I was happy.
Happy? No! shouted a voice from the back of my mind. You can’t be happy! Where are those dreaming spires? Where are the accents? Where is the intellectual stimulation? This is not where you belong!
I ended up sharing this voice’s remarks with a friend from Oxford over Skype.
“It’s weird,” I told her, “but I’m actually feeling pretty content about being back. I feel a little guilty about how content I am.”
“Don’t say that!” came her quick reply. “You shouldn’t ever feel guilty about being content!”
That conversation has stuck with me as I’ve pondered and processed this past year. Sure, I miss Oxford. But I have also come to realize that there exists a beauty in transition—of turning the final page of a story well told. Oxford was a story that was told beautifully. Now, it’s time for the next chapter.
Don’t be ashamed of going home. Don’t be ashamed of being happy there.