Rikki Li has been an official CAPA blogger for spring 2016, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. An English Writing and Psychology major at the University of Pittsburgh, she has been studying abroad in London this semester.
This is Rikki's last post as an official CAPA blogger in which she shares her final reflections on her time abroad. Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Rikki! We wish you all the best.
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Perhaps I’ve mentioned this before in passing, but I’ve been thinking a lot more about the ephemerality of memory these days. How some things are more precious because they don’t last, and how it’s both frightening and humbling that even the most remarkable of moments will eventually fade from our minds.
It’s barely been a week since I’ve left London, and the last four months already feel like a dream. Sometimes, as I hang between sleep and waking, I imagine that I can still hear the sound of the Tube rumbling past my window, only for the sound to disappear the moment I open my eyes.
At the same time, homecoming has been delightfully bittersweet, as most homecomings are. Instead of going straight back to the US, I took a detour to China in order to visit my extended family for the first time since I’ve started college. It’s almost surreal—waking up in my mother’s childhood home at 4am, not bothering to fight the lingering effects of jet lag, and reflecting upon all the homes I’ve somehow accrued in this tiny sliver of my life. Philadelphia. Pittsburgh. Shanghai. And now, London.
My study abroad experience may have gone by too fast, but my camera is full of pictures and my heart is full of new friends. These are the measurable things I can hold in my palm, in my chest, and when I inevitably look back at this semester with melancholic admission, I can at least draw comfort that I was able to take something out of this dream, amid all the lovely little feelings I’ve left behind:
1. The sunset on a clear day that dips the building tops in gold
2. Wandering down park paths to birdsong and the soft hum of traffic
3. Laundry drying by the skylight, smelling of detergent and wind and safety
4. The city in bright, subtle bloom
5. Finding unexpected color among metropolitan black and white
6. The busy, mutual thrumming of open air markets
7. Sinking your teeth into the first bite of a glistening pastry
8. Laying a cheek on damp, mossy stone over the River Thames
9. The desire to read outside, for the first time in a long while, with a cup of milky tea
10. Knowing that the city twinkles as you give yourself to sleep
I set out for London hoping to become a person who lives in every moment and celebrates it. While I cannot give a definitive answer as to whether or not this came true, I can tell you this: on my last day in London, I took one last walk through Kensington Gardens, pulling my luggage slowly behind me as I made my way to the Bayswater Tube Station. It was 2pm, and my flight from Heathrow wasn’t until 9pm that evening. Near the mouth of the park, I stopped by a bench and looked around—at the budding trees, the sparrows in the grass, the joggers with their swaying earphones. To my right, almost out of eyesight, there was a clock tower with a royal blue face and gold Roman numeral inscriptions. The phrase “TIME FLIES” was etched into the dark stone.
And yet, in that moment, time didn’t fly at all. I sat there for what seemed like an endless stretch of forever, with the sun on my face, the soreness gathering in my arms from pulling my suitcase, the dampness of the bench seeping into my thighs. There was nowhere else to be, nowhere else to go. I was just…there. Present. Being.
Thank you reader, for sticking with me for this long. I hope I turned out to be a thoughtful, weekly companion. See you on the next adventure.