I write this comfortably ensconced in the university library. Apart from the stunning mountain view through the window to my right (it took a measure of self-control not to gasp aloud at the sight), I like this location because of its proximity to the English section on my left, from which I have unlimited access to Ian McEwan and Jane Austen should I wish it. And today, above all days, I do.
Why this sudden urge to feel closer to home? It may seem hard to believe but over the course of the first three hours of this morning, for the first time in the two and a half months I have spent here so far, I truly felt like a foreigner. In other words, since leaving my bedroom this morning, I haven’t spoken any English. For the first time. It’s a bit pathetic to be honest, but true; as I have mentioned before, my existence here is far too anglicized.
I felt rather lost, as if I was in a glass bowl, separate from much of what was going on around me. But in an odd way it kinda felt good. It is a new and acutely humbling experience, to be one step behind everyone else. I am gladdened by the patience and gentleness with which I am treated. I don’t really feel the same kind of compassion is shown to foreigners in England (I am probably guilty myself) which is what makes me appreciate it all the more.
Immersion, is what it’s called. It is something I was expecting, i.e. to feel bewildered and out-of-place most of the time, but haven’t experienced much of. It is something, I think, that falls rarely upon an English speaker, and of course I wouldn’t be happy feeling that way constantly. Yet, it’s a real challenge – precisely what I seek. Disorientating and oftentimes disheartening though it might be, it is a sign that you’re learning, therefore ultimately gratifying. Exchange students, my advice is to chase this lost feeling more often. One day you just might surprise yourself.