It’s kind of funny how a place can grow on you. Arriving here felt strange- so similar to the world I was used to but little differences that reminded me that I am not home anymore. However, in just two weeks this is my new home. This dorm is mine, this kitchen is where all my meals come from, this is my campus, my street, my city. I find myself inviting family to visit my new school and city as if I’ve been here forever.
The streets surrounding the school are run down as this up-and-coming area continues to grow. The shops I avoided because of their outer shell I’ve learned actually have bright interiors and the best food around. The once foreign tube can now be navigated without even a thought. At first everyone I passed struck me as a stranger that must be avoided but now I recognize my neighbors and the friendly people on the street. The chaos of this place with is dampness, its cold, its unorganized city planning has become familiar.
Going on my “walk” didn’t just happen once but many times as I would find myself walking in the park, or down the streets in either direction just to familiarize myself with my surroundings. I began to notice patterns on my walk like how people react when there are a lot of people on a sidewalk you need to pass, when it is or is not acceptable to j-walk, and how to interact with wait staff at a café. Seeing this with my own eyes and hearing it with my own ears taught me more than any orientation could. I was a silent observer taking in my surroundings as an educational film. But this was only one perspective on one neighborhood. There are so many boroughs in London that I have yet to explore. There are so many towns in England and other countries in the UK, let alone Europe. I have barely scratched the surface on this exploration of cultures different than my own.
Taking a walk will teach me a lot when I go to new places but taking many walks in the same place will teach me even more. It was in my drama class last week that we touched on the importance of repetition through a man that wrote a book by going to an art gallery every day for a month and wrote his reactions to the same painting. The art was like an onion that every day he was uncovering a new layer. His reactions got deeper as he began to notice new details of the painting- new meanings to what the artist could be thinking or why things were made a certain way. Now every time I walk down my street I am going to be noticing new things, new details and people who are in turn going to teach me something new.
Similarly, my travelogue was the perfect teacher to help navigate through the odd questions I had about terminology or holidays. The travelogue is about a woman that relocates to a small English village for three years with her family. Her daily life and her struggles were relatable as she navigated the different areas of like such as the supermarket, the differences in phrases, or how the school system worked. There were many insights she offered that have already shaped me and how I want my journey here in the UK to be like. One that struck me was towards the end of the book when she was preparing to come home, “I love my country as much as most people. But at some point, along the way, I stopped comparing the US to England”. (Wiltrout, pg. 306) I’m finding that my aim for this journey is not to become British and not to be a tourist but rather to create an identity that embraces the best of each culture. They both offer so many benefits that my original goal of coming back from this trip a better person now means a new person.
This picture best represents my journey to date. It is a traditional English breakfast (which I of course had with a cup of tea) in a café very close to where I live. It was probably one of the most delicious meals I have ever had and I will definitely order it more often. I was nervous about how their bacon or sausage would be different or if I would even like having beans for breakfast but I ate everything and I couldn’t be happier. I think this represents how I am looking all over for new things to try which are absolutely everywhere in the city.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Kindle for Mac.
Wiltrout, Nicole. Dispatches from England: An American Family Spends 3 Years in England. Anglotopia, LLC, 2016. Kindle for Mac.