I’ve been in London for a total of 10 days now, and so far, I love it. Everything is so busy and exciting, which is far different from what I’m used to (I live in the middle of the woods in Connecticut). Everything is within walking distance, and, if not in walking distance, it’s probably only 10-20 minutes by tube (London’s underground subway system). On the second day here, I walked around to see all the typical “tourist-y” sights. I wanted to get that over with so that I could really try to fully immerse myself in the culture and function like a true Londoner. I was awestruck at the beauty of Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, The London Eye, etc. It was so much more amazing in person than I ever could have imagined it to be from pictures. To the left is the view from my dorm room on the 12th floor of the Marylebone Hall of Residence, where I’ll be living for the next 5 months.
In regards to physically separating from home, I found it a lot easier than I anticipated. Surprisingly, I did not cry when my mom left at the airport (I had been emotionally preparing myself to completely embarrass myself with the amount of tears streaming down my face). Luckily, I flew to London with my roommate from Quinnipiac, which helped me a lot to keep calm. After the complete stress of temporarily losing my passport on the plane (probably the hardest part for me about leaving!) I made it into the country very easily. So far, I’ve skyped my family once to update them on my new surroundings and everything I’ve been doing. I’ve been so busy doing a million different things that time hasn’t really allowed me to think about being homesick, which I think is a blessing.
The liminal phase – here I am. I definitely feel the concept of “betwixt and between” strongly now that I’m here. I’m not with my friends from home, but I’ve only lived in my dorm for a few days, and that is not enough time to really make friends. When we talked about communitas during the seminars, we said that these are the people that are going through the same transition as you. For me, these are the people that are also studying abroad here. Communitas have been vital to me since I’ve arrived. I’m living in a dorm with mostly all other study abroad students, so they’re really the only people I’ve encountered. Slimbach stated, “No matter how well prepared, broad minded, or full of good intentions we may be, entering a new culture knocks our cultural props our from under us” (Slimbach 152). Being around a lot of other study abroad students has allowed me to keep on my feet, for the most part. These are people that are experiencing the same differences in culture that I am, the same changes in time zone, the same new surroundings, etc. One of my major weaknesses is that I like comfort. I like being around people I know, in places I know, doing things I know. This made this transition a lot harder for me because everything about it is unknown – the people, the place, and the activities. It’s really comforting to know that you’re not the only one completing a transition like this, which is why I’m very glad to have had communitas with me. Something I’ve noticed with other students interacting with communitas is that it becomes a lot easier to be around strangers when you’re all doing the same thing. People are more apt to say, “Hi, how are you?” or “What floor are you on?” or “Where are you from?” when they know that the other person is going through the same experience that they are, as opposed to simply staying in a hotel on vacation, where you would never dream of speaking to a stranger in an elevator.
Challenges are a part of life, especially when going through a life transition or rite of passage. Nothing like this is going to run absolutely smoothly, but that’s part of the experience. Challenges are important because, “To be transformative, our path must necessarily take turns and present obstacles that are, at times, greater than our ability to navigate them” (Slimbach 155). The biggest challenge for me so far is acclimating to the different practices of the people here. For example, tube rides are silent. No one speaks. If you’re talking on the tube, everyone looks at you with a look of distaste similar to that which would be on your face if you were drinking expired milk. I’m the type of person who loves to talk, and I’m more used to the New York City subway, where sometimes it’s too loud to even hear the person next to you.
Luckily for me, I came to London with a couple friends from Quinnipiac. They are mostly who I’ve been doing things with here. All of my flatmates are American, so that doesn’t really help me make any “international” friends. We start classes on Monday, so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to make a bunch of new friends from different countries that way. I also hope that I’ll be able to befriend my friends’ flatmates, many of which are from different countries. It’s amazing how easy it is to become friends with someone when you already have a mutual friend!
This picture describes my journey to date because everything so far has been really tourist-y. It describes what I’ve done because we’ve gone to all the different sites typical of someone coming on vacation to London. It also describes how I’m feeling because I’m so excited to be here, and everything is so different and so new. I thought about London and going to all the tourist-y sites for months, and it’s unbelievable that I’ve actually done it! I’ve been in this amazing city for a little over a week, and I’m already in love. I can’t wait to continue my stay here and continue to discover more and more about this country and this culture and myself.