In August 2012, I arrived in Humboldt County. To embark on a journey that I thought would lead to the discovery of a wildly different culture to my own, to the discovery of new perspectives, new ideas, new relationships, to the discovery of both amazing and disgusting food. But I discovered more than I bargained for because I was not expecting to discover myself.
My time at Humboldt State University seemed to be nothing but challenge after challenge. Some would have put it down to homesickness, others might have seen that I wasn’t content working toward a degree I was no longer happy studying. Don’t get me wrong, I was still determined to pursue photography, I simply didn’t have the strength to pursue my studies of it. I knew my time in America was limited and I made choices, I prioritised. I threw myself into my social life and travelling America. I did so because I didn’t want to spend so much of my time trying to complete assignments that had no bearing on my discovery of the culture I had long been fascinated by. Nor did I want to capture – and therefore interrupt my experience of – my friendships, adventures and discoveries. I wanted to experience the culture – and in my mind that was very much the opposite of what taking photographs would allow me to do. It would only ever be a superficial documentation if I did not have any deeper level of understanding and would serve as a reminder of the experience I had missed out on.
Despite failing half of my classes, I don’t have any regrets. I gained strengths socially and emotionally through friendships that will hopefully last a lifetime. My confidence has been at an all time high since my exchange because the people I met on exchange believed in me. My personal identity was strengthened by peers who accepted me wholly – with all of my faults. Funnily enough, putting my insecurities on show allowed me to accept those parts of myself because others had accepted them without question.