Lessons learned from across the pond
For some people, studying abroad in London probably wouldn’t seem like that big of a challenge. There’s no language barrier, it’s not a third-world country, it’s easy to access the Internet and get on Facebook. So while I may not be running into the daily obstacles that many of my peers have encountered, to say that this is a new experience for me is an understatement.
Having been born and raised in a small town in Maine and then coming to Colby, it’s not a stretch to say that I’ve been stuck in a “Maine bubble” my entire life and that my preparation for life after Colby was seriously lacking. Prior to this semester, my big-city experience consisted of day trips to Boston and a weekend in NYC, but after just three months here I already feel like a Londoner.
Reaching this point has been difficult, however. Though the Brits technically speak English, it’s an entirely different breed. While it may not be a “foreign language,” I have added a plethora of new words to my vocabulary nonetheless, including: queue, posh, cheers, snog, shag, lift, twat, wanker, mates, bloody and, my personal favorite, dodgy. And the first time someone asked me, “Are you okay?” I was confused—did I look like I wasn’t okay? Turns out it’s the British equivalent of “How are you?” This is if I can even understand what is being said at all--I embarrassingly find myself asking people to repeat themselves because the accents can be so heavy.
And while my living conditions can certainly be seen as enviable—living five minutes from the Natural History Museum has never been something to complain about—it has been a struggle regardless. I feel like I’ve reverted back to my Hillside triple freshman year as I, once again, find myself sharing a room with two girls and sleeping in bunk beds. And the flat certainly has its problems—for the first two months the hot water in the building was broken, forcing my flatmates and I to take ice cold showers every morning.
But even that came with its upsides. I fought through the cold showers by forcing myself to get up every morning and go for a run so the water would feel refreshing, not frigid. And who can pass up a run when you live two blocks away from Hyde Park? It may not be the Maine beaches that I’m used to, but running along the Serpentine in springtime is probably the next best thing—I even worked up enough courage to register for a 10k in February at Wimbledon and got a medal to prove it.
My biggest accomplishment this semester though has been conquering something I’ve been battling against my entire life. Anyone that knew me before I left for abroad can attest to the fact that I had eating habits comparable to those of a four-year-old. Since coming to London I have had Indian, Moroccan, Spanish, Turkish and Thai; I don’t know how I lived 20 years without chicken curry or hummus, where have I been?! And without Bobs or Foss I’ve had to cook my own meals every day—I haven’t tried anything too crazy here, but I have big plans to expand my cooking abilities this summer.
My experiences abroad extend further than just London as well. My travels have brought me around all of Europe: I have been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, downed one-euro shots in Bologna, eaten gelato in Florence, tanned on top of the Duomo in Milan and drank pints of Guinness in Dublin, and I will be going to Spain and Germany at the end of my program as well. But when I look back on the last three months and ask myself if coming abroad has changed me, my first instinct is still to say no. I still feel like the same person—I have an unexplainable love for Jersey Shore and 90’s pop music and I eat peanut butter sandwiches like it’s my job. But then specific memories flash through my mind--rollerblading in Hyde Park on a sunny day, cheering in the stands at a London Wasps rugby game, going clubbing at noon on a Sunday, straddling the Prime Meridian in Greenwich, crossing Abbey Road—and I realize that the trepidation I once had in regards to the future has been replaced by excitement for what life outside of Maine has to offer.