“When we discover that things in our destination culture are profoundly different from things at home, our natural tendency is not to move toward them but to flee away from them.” (Slimbach, 159) When I first arrived in London, my first instinct was to ask people the questions that I did not have the answers to. I was a stranger in a strange land; I knew where I needed to go, but I did not know how to get there. The only thing that I thought to do was to ask the locals and hope that someone would be friendly enough to point me in the correct direction. The thing that I was most surprised about when entering into the country was the fact that people were a lot friendlier than they were at home. It may have been the fact that I had a lot of bags with me and people took pity on me or they were genuinely nice, I like to think that it was the latter.
The easy part of the entire endeavor was getting to my hotel, once I got into the country, the hardest part for me was saying goodbye to the people that meant the most to me. When people asked me before if I was ready to leave I was always ready with the answer yes, but when the final day came, I wasn’t ready to leave my loved ones. Goodbyes have never been easy for me so saying goodbye to my mom, brother and girlfriend were extremely difficult because I have never taken on something like this before. I was definitely not anticipating it to be as hard as it was to hug them and say the words goodbye.
When I got to London, I was first introduced to the members of the Arcadia community that would also be going to Queen Mary University of London and I became friends as quickly as I could with them so that I would know some people while here in the city. That was short lived however because as we settled into our rooms everyone started making new friends and building a new community including myself. I soon became very close with my flat mates, as we would be spending quite a lot of time together, cooking our meals and stressing about school as any other student would. We played some games to try to get to know each other and I never felt like an outcast. Once I got to know everyone, I was welcomed in with open arms and I was told that I fulfilled the wish lists of the boys in my flat because they were looking for a fourth guy since they were so out numbered by the women. I think a lot of the reason why I was so welcomed was because I’m not a very shy person so I didn’t let those awkward situations happen as well as the fact that I keep my door open so anyone can pop their head in if they want to speak to me or see what I’m doing.
It was easy for me to become a part of the community that I will be living in for the next couple of months because I am an outgoing person and am willing to make friends. I have two other flat mates that are from the United States and one of them seemed to have a harder time getting to know the rest of the flat because she was on the shyer side of the spectrum. While I was sitting in the kitchen playing Ping-Pong with some of the guys from the flat, my flat mate came in the room and filled her water bottle and proceeded to walk out of the room without saying a word to anyone. This changed when the girls arrived and one of them invited her to play cards against humanity with us. She is still a little standoffish, but she has begun to interact with each member of the flat more and more each day.
Besides the challenge of getting to know people while here in London, the biggest challenge that I am going to face while here is figuring out what to do with my time. There is a lot of room for independent learning while here since classes only commence once a week. The challenge that I am going to face is when to get my work done and when to hang around as well as keeping up with the readings for each class. It is going to be a slight challenge figuring out how to balance everything, but I know that if I have any problems or questions that I can rely on the community that I have immersed myself in. By having the week to get acclimated, I have learned that I quite enjoy being self-sufficient and not having to rely on anyone or anything to tell me what to do and when to do it.
With the amount of free time that I have had since getting here, I think that has allowed me to make friends with my flat mates. Since there are eleven of us, including myself, it has been pretty easy to get to know them. They have invited me to go out to on a couple of occasions, which has allowed for a bond to be built on each of those occasions.
This picture perfectly shows my journey to date because it highlights
some of the most important landmarks in London as well as a journey that I took with my flat mates last weekend in order to get to know them better. This was an experience to see new things for all of us and it also shows the newness of my life in London. This is a magnificent place with so many things that have yet to have been discovered.