The first week in London has been a major whirlwind for me. And it took me by storm. I actually went into London with open arms,trying to make myself feel at home. I didn’t want to believe that I physically separated from my native culture. However, I was so wrong. Very wrong. Extremely Wrong.
Upon arrival, I just had the mindset that I was here and there was nothing I can do about it. Central London honestly reminds me of Manhattan. The fast nature of the people, the fast cars and, the people in a hurry to go to work or whatever destination. There was the friendly reminders of home in the form of food, such as CHIPOTLE and McDonald’s. However, as days went on and we were still staying in the hotel before we moved into our dorms, I started to notice the cultural differences. For instance, the streets and the way London is set up. Back home, pedestrians are kings. That is not the case here. The drivers always have the right of way and if they have to run you over, they will because it is considered your fault. The food is not the same, at all. My favorite drink, Sprite, does not taste the same at all.
Right now, I’m mentally here. I’m learning to manage my money, which was kind of hard. 10 pounds is clearly not the same as 10 dollars. I remember having a conversation with my mom saying “Yeah I spent £10 on a meal right now.” She went off on me and told me never again because that was like the equivalent of $15. A few days after that we moved into our dorms, and living in a flat is kind of weird. Like me and my flatmates have no type of connections what-so-ever. They’re “freshers” which is basically another way to say freshman here. We all kind of stay in our rooms respectively unless it’s to use the bathroom or the kitchen.
To be honest, the first week was really hard in terms of building a communitas. In the workshops, we learned and discussed that a communitas was a group of people who are going through the same liminal experience as you. I came to London with a close friend and I wanted to branch out, but it was kind of difficult. In our program, a lot of the kids came from one school and they were just extremely cliquey. That is not who I am. So it was my friend and I by ourselves for a while. Recently, we met a set of people we really connected with and everything is going well. I just have to manage some of the big personalities. I can understand where Slimbach talks about communitas being a double edged sword. I love my group, but I can see the problem people in it. They have these personalities that give me second-hand embarrassment and I honestly have no time for that. Slimbach states, “Until we’re able to actually risk new ways of thinking and behaving, our general well-being and field learning are likely to be hindered.” (Slimbach 160) I agree with that quote in its entirety. My biggest weakness is getting out of my comfort zone. I like to stick to me and what I know. It is like whenever I try, my life goes “nope nope nope”. I’m still going to try though.
I think my strategy for the rest of this trip is a phrase I used to implement during orientation with the freshman over the summer. The phrase was “Let’s get weird”. I’m here at this new school with a new set of people. I need to make the most of it. Even though stepping out of my comfort zone is such a challenge, I’m going to overcome it and turn it into a strength for me.