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Rain-soaked streets and chocolate croissants: The things we miss

| Thursday, February 6, 2020

When I first arrived in South Bend as a freshman almost three years ago, it couldn’t have felt less like home to me. Growing up in sunny Phoenix with three younger siblings, two dogs and a constant cacophony of noise, I felt disoriented amid the permacloud of South Bend and increased independence and solitude that college inevitably brings. 

But after several months, I felt more and more at home in college. Sunday morning bagels with my family were replaced by waffles in the dining hall, hiking supplanted by runs around the lakes and movie nights with my family became movie nights with my college friends. After two years, I felt confident Notre Dame was where I was meant to be.

So when I left Phoenix after a summer at home in August to study abroad in London for a semester, I was thrilled — but nervous. What if city life proved to be overwhelming? Did I really want to essentially start college all over again? Am I really okay with missing football season, despite all the time I spent convincing myself it wasn’t a big deal?

But I shouldn’t have worried. Football season was well worth missing to explore Europe and learn about new cultures. Studying abroad was the experience of a lifetime, and as stereotypical as it sounds (roast me, Keenan Revue) I do feel changed now — and not just because before I went to London, I actually had money in my savings account.

Over the course of my fall semester, I traveled to several new countries, made new friends and learned some extremely important lessons about booking travel accommodations. London became as beloved and familiar to me as South Bend and Phoenix had become. But now that I am back on campus — as good as it is to see all my friends — I feel an odd sense of sadness, because it feels like I left a part of myself behind in London, just like I felt freshman year when all I wanted was to go home to Phoenix. 

The things I miss aren’t exactly what I expected, though. Rather than longing to travel to new places on the weekends, I miss the feeling of powerful solitude of riding the Tube alone, of eating chocolate croissants from Pret between classes and laughing with my flatmates in our narrow kitchen and table with not enough seats, now that I’m not in London anymore.

When I’m away from home, I miss Arizona sunsets, my favorite Mexican restaurant, watching “The Bachelor” with my friends from high school and playing with my dogs. When I’m not in South Bend, I miss Sunday morning brunch in North Dining Hall with my friends, being able to go to the Grotto to find quiet after a chaotic day and eating fruit snacks and drinking hot apple cider at 2 a.m. in The Observer office.

It’s the little things we miss most — not the big or most monumental ones. 

I think that’s just part of growing up — experiencing new places, choosing a new home and finding new tiny, daily joys to love about each one. Someday, I hope I can return to London. Whether it’s next year or decades from now, as I step onto its rain-soaked streets, I will feel at home again.

You can contact Claire at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Claire Rafford

Claire is a senior from Tempe, Arizona majoring in English and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy and Business-Economics. She peaked when her team won the Battle of the Books state championship in 2011.

Contact Claire