Its human nature to miss something that has been a staple of your life for so long - and studying in London, or any other UK city, will certainly make you reminisce about home - even if you're really enjoying your time in the UK...
Here's an account of my time in London and the 3 things I didn't realise I would miss...
1, The season of Fall
This one really took me by surprise. I expected to miss the typical American things like peanut butter, mac and cheese, etc. But I figured that everyone would celebrate fall in the same way.
Yet, October came and nothing changed; there were no pumpkin scents in the air or racing to Starbucks for the holiday flavored lattes in red cups.
We always send students a graph to show how your year in the UK goes, starting out with the “honeymoon phase” where everything is perfect, then dropping into homesickness during the holidays, and finally reaching a place where the UK really feels like home.
The lack of recognition for the season of fall definitely initiated my homesick phase, but luckily there were a few pumpkin treats to be found at the American Store at the Holland Park tube stop, and Harvey Nichols department store.
Though I missed home, sharing with my new English friends the many ways we use pumpkin in the US, rather than as just a root vegetable, was so fun, and initiated interesting discussions about other cultural differences surrounding the holidays.
London completely redeemed itself for the Christmas season. There wasn’t a block without a Christmas tree and a Christmas market overflowing with mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, crepes and a million other treats!
While the transportation system in London is incomparable, there were certainly times that I very much missed my car. Though I knew my days would involve a lot of walking, I hadn’t thought about the other ways that would impact my day-to-day life.
Here is an example from the blog I kept during my studies: “Getting groceries is a 20 minute walk either way, usually in the cold or rain or both, and you have to carry everything you buy. A simple "to-do" list consisting of picking up some books at the book store, getting Nespresso refills, and picking up some groceries could take a half the day.
Always add on top of that that it is raining, snowing, freezing, blowing wind like crazy, or all of the above. And you're walking in it.”
Don’t get too worried though; I’ve since learned that I experienced the worst winter London had in 70 years, apparently it’s been lovely since I left! J
The funny thing?
I now find myself driving everywhere and wishing I could walk—I’d never been so fit in my life!
3, Free time
I knew my studies would keep me busy, but I didn’t know how busy. I was told to expect my studies to be like my full-time job, but the first semester I spent at least 80 hours per week trying to get through all of my reading. At the end of it I felt that I had spent the semester in my room, not in London.
With 5 days between the end of classes and my flight home for Christmas, I walked every street of London my feet could carry me to, attended every Christmas market and carnival, and ate every British dessert I could find.
I learned from my British classmates that I needed to study more strategically; they taught me how to be as prepared as possible, but perhaps not read every single word, and it was the best advice I got.
The next semester I made it a priority to get out at least once during the day and engage with my surroundings, with the people, the buildings, the shops, the museums of this astounding place where I was suddenly living.
The year goes by so quickly and there’s more to soak up than one could ever do in such a short amount of time.
Your studies are very important, but this is also the chance of a lifetime to live in and experience another culture; be cognizant of how special this is, and be sure not to miss it!
Photo Credit: Ali's Blog