Friday, February 3, 2012

Adjusting to London: Part One

When I started thinking about how I was going to spend my time in London, and accomplish all of the things I wanted to do,  I saw a golden road paving my way to an excellent semester. I envisioned weekend trips around Europe with my soon to be life long friends, one amazing attraction after another, and a continuous stream of unforgettable moments. A four month long vacation, if you will.  I rejected the idea of "culture shock", and pretentiously assumed that since I spoke English, I would easily assimilate to the British culture. I just had to get used to cars driving on the left hand side of the road, right?

I quickly found out that my semester would be different than I had expected. In the beginning, I struggled. Literally. I had to fit my entire life into two suitcases and a backpack, and haul them across and ocean to my new home. Once I was unpacked in my new home, many other challenges arose. Despite the three maps that NYU graciously provided me with, it took me a good week to realize that I thought was north, was in fact south. The New Yorker in me cringed. After a bit, I started to get my bearings for the local area. We don't have a meal plan option here, so I ventured out to the nearby grocery store and drug store to buy food and necessities. I quickly realized that items are expensive, really expensive. The two issues that cause this are the exchange rate, and the simple fact that I had to fully supply myself again (shampoo, conditioner, milk, you name it). Eating out is much easier, but also much more expensive. Luckily, I opted out of a meal plan this past semester, and was sort of used to making meals on my own. Right now I'm still in the process of finding a cost effective way to eat!

I also found myself missing things. NYUL suggests we venture out and try new products, but at the end of the day, everything was new, and I tremendously wanted something that was familiar. I was extremely lucky though, and had already scheduled a trip to meet my Dad in Sweden early in the semester. He brought over some of my favorite things that didn't make it in the initial move. I also missed my friends. I am blessed to have wonderful roommates. However, I had an unrealistic expectation that I would make friends extremely quickly. I am so happy to be meeting such nice people, but it is still taking time!

Another aspect of life in London that shocked me a bit is the difference in culture. In the beginning, I didn't find Londoners to be particularly friendly, which unfortunately exacerbated feelings of confusion and isolation. During a class we discussed the idea that people in London are quite introverted, while people in New York are quite extroverted. I was forced out of how I was used to thinking about things. I had to understand that people were not being rude at all, they just tend to stay to themselves. This, I think, will be the most beneficial type of learning that I do here, the type that exposes me to other ways and shows me that they are not wrong because they are different. I think this idea is extremely powerful. Most negative things in the world have a strong basis rooted in the idea that "I am right, and you are wrong" instead of appreciating differences or working together to find common ground. I think the mastery of the skill will make me an excellent global citizen and human being. What are your thoughts?

I wanted to go into further detail about how I have overcome some of these challenges by finding unexpective but amazing channels in London, but the post was simply getting too long. I'm am going to save these items for Adjusting to London: Part Two.

I know this post was not as upbeat as my others, but I feel that it will be most beneficial to future study abroad students. I didn't know how many challenges there would be, and it took me by surprise. If I had been a bit more prepared emotionally for what was going to happen, I think that would have helped a lot. Hopefully, this will help a bit too.

Until next time,
Kelsey Elizabeth

Cheeky, adjective, it says offensively bold, but I understand it to be something that is quite funny, but it toeing the line.

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