As I sit in my flat looking out my bedroom window it is amazing to believe that I have been in London for 5 full days! These past 5 days have been absolutely exhausting but the most amazing days ever. Saying goodbye to my mom and sister in my driveway and then my dad later at the entrance to the security line was extremely difficult. It felt really weird that I wouldn’t see them for a long time but surprisingly I did not shed one tear. I was oddly happy to leave and start this new adventure.
When I first arrived to London Heathrow it was a stereotypical day, gray and rainy but then came to quickly understand that the weather here changes on the drop of a dime and you can experience almost every season within a span of 12 hours. Waiting for me were the IFSA-Butler staff to bring me and 200 other study abroad students to where we were staying for the first few days of our stay. On our way to the hotel we were given a small tour of a few parts of the outer zones of London. Once we got to the St. Giles hotel, located in Central London, I quickly started to associate where I was staying to a similar New York City block making me feel a little more comfortable walking through the streets. This whole past week I spent so much time with a very wide variety of people who were studying at all different kinds of schools across London and Wales. We explored the city during the day in between all of our orientation meetings and then often continued to check out the local nightlife and hangout at various pubs spilling with people.
I was able to move into my flat this morning, witch is located in the City of London, the more financial and less touristy part of Zone 1 (Central London). I am sharing my flat with 4 other students studying abroad from the states that are also in my program, which is awesome because we have become quick friends but, at the same time, I almost wish I were living with some Brits! Together we have connected so well because of communitas. We all understand exactly what each other are going through making it easier to become friends. I do agree with Slimbach though when he mentions that it is a double-edged sword. My interpretation of this is that while communitas is great with making friends with other Americans, it is not really helping you to immerse yourself into the culture of your host country. For example, I have been here for 5 days now and have yet to meet someone who actually lives in London or the UK, besides the people who are running the program that I am in. I am absolutely hoping that when classes start and more students come to the City that this will change, but for the moment communitas has helped so much to create a commonality between all of us even though we are all so completely different.
One of the main challenges that I have come to realize that I will face the entire time that I am here is that as an American I stick out like a sore thumb. My different and very obnoxious Long Island accent stands out in the sea of British accents walking down the side walk. This is the only real challenge that I have faced this far on my journey into the British culture and is something that can be overcome simply. One thing that I have realized is that even though British people may think that I am obnoxious and ignorant, I can change that by simply giving them a smile.
Overall my first week in London has been amazing and I couldn’t have wished for it to go any other way. It still feels so strange that I am in another country and I will continue to be here for 3 more months! Even though I still feel like I am in the liminal stage, and will most likely continue to be in it for a long time, I feel that I have already started to adapt to the way of life here. I feel that as I continue to overall obstacles and milestones within my stay I start to gradually become more integrated into the culture of the UK.
The picture that I have posted along with this Travel Log is from me on the first day in London. The picture was taken in Covent Gardens, a market and shopping center among many theatres and delicious restaurants and pubs.
I hope everyone’s stay so far has been amazing!