By Emma Skinner

To the friends I made while studying abroad: 

Never has saying goodbye been so difficult. When I first walked into Cambridge, I was greeted by friendly faces and beautiful landscapes. When I left, I was met with long hugs and wet eyes. Being with you, I felt I could be the fullest version of myself. I grew as a person, a traveler, a local, and a friend. I have grown into myself and my full capabilities, gaining such faithful friends in the process. How rare is it to feel truly at home? With you there, that was possible. The setting can only do so much, it is the people that are there with you that make an experience so awe-inspiring.  

I’d first like to tell you a bit about who I was before. As a person, I’m quite closed off (you could say it’s the Aquarius in me, but take it as you will). I knew I wanted to study abroad because of my love for travel but I was somewhat hesitant to do it the summer after my second year in college. Ultimately, for no particular reason, I made the leap and applied to the Pembroke-King’s Program at Cambridge University because the school had been a dream of mine to attend. This short chain of events, from my decision to attend to receiving a place at the school, led me into the best summer of my life. 

Seeing as I am more closed off, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at Cambridge. Going to UCLA for college, I was still close to home and even had friends attending who I knew quite well. Never in my life had I been thrown into the opportunity where I knew no one at all. Arriving at Cambridge, I had no idea what was to come. Part of me assumed the worst, that I would get my work done and soon arrive home. Never in my wildest dreams did I know what was to come.

My love for you all came from nowhere. Seeing a group from completely different backgrounds bond so quickly… it was like a movie. You see those groups of friends on the screen and often laugh thinking their relationship seems fake or ingenuine. I won’t laugh at those scenes anymore, but rather be filled with joy knowing exactly how they feel. Because you gave me that experience, one I never knew possible. 

We stayed up way too long, watching too often a sunrise, because even the thought of parting for a short while to sleep seemed gray. We became too addicted to caffeine in order to lengthen our hours together. We laughed and danced and travelled and in the end, we shed a tear. I know we joked often of the saying “how lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard” but I know we didn’t want to think of the future. Living in the moment with you–being my whole, complete self–I have never felt more lucky to be alive.  

Parting ways was difficult, but I know our reunions will be numerous and our future time together full of infinite possibility. I’d rather not focus on the time apart missing you, but excited for the moments we come together again. Thank you, my loves, for making my heart endlessly full. The moments of pure bliss were incredible, and I am so entirely grateful for you all in my life. 

I didn’t think studying abroad would have the impact it did. How lucky am I? How lucky are we?

Emma Skinner studied in Cambridge, UK in 2018: