Ari Saati, Editor-in-Chief
Placing yourself abroad has a lot of connotations; expecting a horizon opening experience, a new understanding of the world, exposing yourself to new and infinitely interesting people. A lot of these expectations are met, but my greatest takeaway from a semester in central London was the shattering of a lot of my romanticized, preconceived notions of the city.
It’s easy to craft an idealized concept of a place that’s constantly perpetuated in literature, movies and music, so when americano drinking, record store browsing gets replaced with sweaty public transportation and a terrible conversion rate, a real sobering experience rears its head. And instead of being unsettling and profoundly disappointing, it’s refreshing and liberating.
In the months leading up to my semester in London, I had been apprehensive but wildly excited. After I had settled into my flat, found a grocery store, a route to class, I had become fixated with the differences; cheers not thanks, lager not beer, tube not subway. Before long it became unbearable, a mixture of crushed expectations and a mild case of culture shock left me virtually paralyzed.
Paralyzed until the comradery of the abroad experience was overwhelming. The friends you live with, have class with, eat lunch with, go to shows with, are all identical in their assimilation to a new a culture. The people I found myself becoming friends with, and the extent to that friendship, was intoxicating, something that can only be compared to the first week of your freshman year of college, doused in Stella Artois, and expanded over a three month period.
While I’m willing to wager I won’t cross paths again with most of the people I knew abroad, that’s the beauty of the singular experience. It exists in limbo in your mind, and while you’re experiencing it, much of it is surreal. Being able to be apart of something that permitted me to meet people from all over the world, go to class at my leisure, live in one of the most exciting metropolitan cities in the world, see great music, eat great food, and drink most nights, is genuinely mind boggling.
For much of the Americans who were studying abroad like me, it was their first time living in a densely populated city like London, igniting a love for everything metropolitan. My three months in London was juxtaposed to a summer living in Manhattan, which presented a really unique experience. Everyone I had met in London wanted to be in New York, and everyone in New York longed to be in Europe.
It placed a lot of things in perspective, much of which, returned to the notion of how people my age romanticize places they’ve never been to. Being able to confront that, learn more about myself and explore an entirely foreign city made for some of the most fond memories I’ll have of college.