Hello again! Checking back in from London! After a few weeks in the city now, this place is finally starting to feel like a home away from home, and while I can’t imagine leaving, I am almost excited to return to the U.S and be able to reflect on this experience with such warm memories and fondness. Before any of that happens though, I still have much to do here, but here’s a few takeaways I’ve learned so far!
Countless Londoners have described London as a place to reinvent yourself and be whoever you want. It’s almost as if the city’s identity is all about figuring out your identity, and you have the freedom to do so. Because of this, I have grown very comfortable living in this new place as a foreigner. I’ve noticed that the city welcomes and celebrates its diversity of people, which makes it feel like a home for everyone. I think this revelation really hit me when I ventured out to my independent neighborhood study for one of my classes. My neighborhood to explore was Soho, so I took myself for a day out.
Soho is an intersection of tourism and locality, because of its placement between the notorious Oxford Street and West End but also an area where residents create a life. I saw this firsthand as I spent my day in the oldest pastry shop in London, Maison Bertaux, listening to an author and editor discuss their next book. Finishing my strawberry cheesecake and tea, I went next door to Algerian Coffee, which houses coffee beans and grounds from all over the world to buy. I got my one pound cappuccino and continued on my day thinking about how I managed to get around and enjoy a great day in London without any set plan, and that’s when I finally felt like I had made this place a home. The city is extremely, what I’ve been referring to as, “wanderable.” Because of the lack of grid system and streets that bend and turn, it is extremely easy to discover completely new areas, like I did that day.
Before this moment, there were a few points of culture shock, or what our program managers have called the “adjustment period,” the point where it’s not feeling like vacation anymore but we’re trying to adjust to being residents here. London is not so different from the U.S, but some differences I have noticed is obviously the traffic. That is one difference I don’t think I’ll ever get used to. With the curvy roads and driving on the left side of the road, I find myself not even knowing which way to look when crossing the street (yes I look both ways, but it’s hard to tell which way traffic should theoretically be come from). Their street marks on the road are also very hard to read, so driving here at any point is definitely out of the question.
I look back at one of the first weekend’s here, the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, the moment I realized I was actually abroad and this was actually happening, and I am amazed at how far I’ve come and how much growth I’ve endured since then. I’m so thankful for this experience and being able to call London a home away from home, and can’t wait to continue getting acquainted with the city.