UK Travel Diary: Landmarks and Reflections

August 13, 2014

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” – Samuel Johnson

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Ever since I started college, I’ve dreamed about living and studying in the United Kingdom. I’m already uncertain as to where this dream came from, but I think it was from visiting a study abroad fair when I was a freshman – six years ago. I can up to now clearly remember walking curiously toward the outdoor fair on a quiet morning, I grabbed all the flyers, pamphlets, and prospectuses given away at each stall. But what caught my eye were the little booklets I kept from the British Council booth.

“Why You Should Study in the United Kingdom.” “Higher Education in the UK.” “Tips on Applying to UK Universities.” I read each one. During my free time in college, I attended countless study abroad fairs (both in campus and in hotels), dreamily browsed university websites. My desire to study in my most favorite European country grew stronger and stronger each day.

Daydreams and images of living and studying in my dream city fill my mind: walking in solitude along the streets of London clad in a comfy sweater and a nice pair of boots, riding the Tube with a bag of groceries in tow, browsing little indie bookshops and reading books in cozy cafés, hopping on a train and exploring a new city for a day, meeting new people and hearing their stories.

Two years ago, fresh from graduation, I rigorously applied to almost 20 universities in both England and Scotland. I sought help and advice from UKEAS, the official education advisory service of the United Kingdom in the Philippines.

After almost a year of filling up forms, writing essays, and submitting applications online, I was accepted into four out of sixteen universities. But when I showed my results to my parents, they told me I couldn’t allow me to go. I was utterly devastated, yet I was also surprised that I didn’t cry.

Tell me to give a few names of English and Scottish cities, and I can recite a handful by heart – Northumbria, Newcastle, Westminster, Cambridge, East Anglia, Oxford, Swansea, Bath. St. Andrews, Durham, Glasgow, Edinburgh. In my room is an entire bottom drawer and a makeshift shelf filled with prospectuses from universities in England and Scotland.

Acceptance letters, IELTS test results, and recommendation letters are still kept and folded neatly in a huge brown envelope. For some reason, I received several emails on housing and enrollment information from the University of Sussex a few weeks ago.

I have not felt any resentment or regret about not pushing through my study abroad plans. This experience gave me an important lesson in maturity and reality: Dreams don’t always come true. Not even the most carefully laid-out plans will always work out.

The night after my parents told me that my plans of studying in the London university I got accepted to, I resolved to move on quickly and started to apply for work. I emailed three companies my résumé and cover letter that evening. A few days later, I was offered an interview in a media company I’ve always looked up to. A little less than a week after, I started a new job in an exciting and challenging position, completely letting go of my UK dreams.

I’ve learned that God will have far better plans for you than the ones you have for yourself. Looking back, the lessons and experiences that I gained since I let go of one of my biggest dreams have been far greater than I could ever plan or expect. I’m now less anxious about my current circumstances and allow God’s plans to work in my life. As Augustus wisely notes in The Fault in Our Stars, “The world is not a wish-granting factory.”

In lieu of studying for a year in an English city, I was given an opportunity to travel in the UK for a week and a half with one of my best friends and several newfound friends. I’m already extremely grateful for this, and I couldn’t ask for anything more. Don’t get me wrong though; I still think it would be really wonderful if there comes a chance for me to study in the UK in the future. If ever I stumble upon a realistic and reasonable opportunity for me to take a short course or two in any English city, I’d gladly seize it!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

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  • mho0109

    Great pictures Des! The elementary students pictures are especially cute.

    And at least you got to travel to London and see it even if you didn’t get to study. :) work there na lang!

    • http://www.fearlessprincess/ Desiree Grace Tan

      Thank you for reading, Marianne! Yes, I’m already very thankful to get to travel even for just a short while. I’ve actually been searching for job opportunities in the UK, but I’m also currently focusing on building a career here, so we’ll see. :) I hope you’re doing well! Take care!

© 2014 Desiree Grace Tan. All Rights Reserved.

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