WINTER QUARTER: A new perspective
During the break, I tried to find someone to sublet my apartment to in Davis, but my housemates made it a challenge for me. It was impossible for me to continue living there with them. The day I came back to Davis, I had to move out of my apartment and into a new one. I was lucky enough to find a host family through people my mom knew: Michael and his 18-year-old daughter Shayna (who soon became to me more like a little sister than a housemate) welcomed me to their home. It took almost a month to get rid of all the issues that came with ending a lease in a bad relationship with the other housemates, but by the end of January, I was free. I saw a therapist – one of the free services here – and she helped me deal with the stress coming from it, but my family was the biggest support.
I started spending more and more time with my friends. I had made most of them during the fall quarter at events of the Jewish community. Being Jewish was never a strong part of my identity before coming to Davis, but as I kept gravitating around it I started meeting more and more people with whom I had a common story and developing a sense of belonging that had little to do with religion. Now, I am sure that some of these people will be in my life way beyond my study abroad days: they lit up the gloomy winter afternoons and are within my closest friends’ circle.
I also started working in a cognitive neuroscience lab as a research assistant – something that is very rare for my peers in London. Aside from being a career booster, it allowed me to acquire hands-on experience in the field I was learning about in books. The courses I was taking made me even more passionate about it. I finally felt like I was in the right place.
SPRING QUARTER: Blossoms
I spent my spring break road-tripping with my dad on the roads of Arizona and Utah, a time that I will hardly ever forget. I came back to Davis still tired (a week of holiday in six months is definitely not enough!), but excited about the upcoming quarter. I had enrolled in six courses, two of which (tennis and “Flower Power”) I decided to drop after a couple of weeks. The remaining four were very dense in content, challenging and interesting. Working at the lab had become more demanding, and it was hard to go in while it was sunny and warm outside – finally the Californian weather that I was expecting had come. I started spending my free time lying down in the quad and enjoying the sunlight (almost a stranger to my Londoner peers!). Living was easy biking everywhere in light clothes. I was rarely at home, almost on campus for the whole day and spending the night at my friends’ place. I spent half of the weekends out of town – except from picnic day, the one big event UC Davis is known for. Still, I managed to find a summer internship through a programme for Bay Area students and made the most meaningful connections in terms of my academic goals. Somehow, all my teachers knew each other and had overlapping research fields – and even life stories! They were always available when it came to telling me about their work and helping me find my way. It was one of the happiest times of my life. It was hard to believe how unhappy I was at the beginning now that I was enjoying it that much.
“America” – I have been told by a French woman who lived in the US for the last 10 years – “you cry when you get there, and you cry when you leave”.
And now, I can say she was right.