“It’s a little bit funny. This feeling inside.” I watched the movie Rocket Man with my friend Leila two weeks ago when I visited her in Hamburg Germany. It is funny. Until two days ago I really didn’t think I’d be feeling anything for London. I didn’t think I’d feel attached to it or the people I met here. I thought I wouldn’t miss it a much as some of my other study abroad friends say. I didn’t make many friends who are local. My flat mates were nice and taught me some things about Britain and I met some people who I really liked in Korean Culture Society (KSoc). For the most part, I made international friends who were also studying abroad here. They say that they had the best time of their lives here in London this semester. I don’t think I’m impacted as much as them. My transition from Japan to Florida was much greater. Here, I felt like I had a long Summer break. I went out a lot, messed up a lot, and slept a lot. I don’t know if I learned a lot here. Couldn’t wrap my head around how I’m living what dad keeps telling me is the “dream life” in London. Now, this feeling inside, that probably only came right around yesterday; its telling me I will miss this place. I will miss these people. I will look back on these days and think it was one of the best times of my life. I probably felt most like a college kid here. It was good. Sometimes I wondered if it was worth it studying abroad. I thought maybe I would’ve learned more academically if I stayed in Winter Park at Rollins. But now, honestly, what I learned most here, is about myself. I learned a lot about myself and also about diversity. What it means to be truly accepting of diversity and differences. I came thinking I would learn about British culture. I’m leaving having learned about the world. I’ve made friends with and became closer to those I’ve already known, who have extreme political views. Now I feel like I understand them better. I understand how I think better, and still accept those who are so different from me. On one side, Leila. On the other, Alex. Getting to know very liberal and conservative people but enjoying time with both. Understanding who I am and how I need to speak up even more. Understanding my own gender identity better, questioning it more. Understanding that I am competitive and have high pride. Understanding my weakness and flaws, that I need to improve self control and be less vulnerable to persuasion. Understanding that I don’t need to have makeup on everyday. Understanding that I easily get attached to people and often I am scared of that. Understanding that I can spend an awful lot of time alone in my flat and be okay, and also understanding that I love people. Getting to know Ronnie, Jay, Jinny, Vitoria, Apoorf, Emma, Sarah, Laura, Esther, Aron, Martin, Frederica, Katherine, Michael, Dylan, Dane, Hana, Mingda, Camilla, Pranoy, Ariana, Mina, Carla, CJ, Alex, Aaron, Thi, Dian, Kursley, james, Berchman, Michaela, Nikki, Nayima, Jhan, Brian, Ken, Ashwin, Joshna, Tahsa, Nia, Kejsi, Vidhi, and so many more.
Understanding that there are so many of those, underprivileged and on the streets, all over Europe. Understanding that I am privileged and that I must give back.
After all, I may have learned a lot. But the things I expected I will learn was so different from what I truly learned.
Now, here’s a checklist of things I expected to pickup in London from my first blog post:
“Culturally, I assume the U.K. to lay somewhere in between Japan and the U.S. I should be fine. If anything I should feel comfortable there. If I like it I might want to live there in the future.” -Yup. True. I was comfortable. Much more liberal and diverse than Winter Park though. I thought it was a little too cold to live here permanently but we’ll see. Always lots to do. Never a boring city.
“What if its not like what I imagined it to be though? What if I have to struggle again? Will I at least learn from the experience? What if I don’t struggle at all? Will I come back without having learned as much as I hoped?”-I struggled because I felt lonely at times and didn’t feel like I had close enough friends. Missed my boyfriend until and after we broke up. Emotionally struggled a bit, blaming myself for a lot of drunk mistakes. But, didn’t struggle in the cultural way I was expecting. I didn’t learn what I hoped to learn, but maybe learned more valuable things about myself and the world instead.
“I hope to make friends from all over the world with all sorts of backgrounds and learn from them.”-yes. Did that. check it off. Be happy. Great. YAS.
“I hope to meet new humor and learn to enjoy their humor, maybe be able to crack a few British jokes by the end of the semester.”-nope. Joined comedy club but didn’t go to any of their events. Didn’t happen.
“I want to take the tube and explore the city.”-YAS. It was great. I might prefer the bus tho. Better view and less ear stinging track noises.
“Maybe get into photography, learn to appreciate sight seeing more than I do now.”- Still don’t appreciate sightseeing as much as I want to but I did take bunch of photos. Travelling got me into Instagram.
“I want to learn how to dress well in rainy cold weather.”-not too sure. Warm thick boots do miracles though. And a scarf. Probably a hat would’ve been good. It didn’t rain much.
“I want to learn how to share a kitchen among seven people.”- You just get used to having a nasty kitchen and people yelling at each other or talking behind their backs quite often. The shower and toilet I felt was worse than the kitchen. Learned how not to shower everyday.
“I want to explore restaurants and bars in London and find good Asian food I miss.”- Yes. Awesome Asian restaurants. Somehow struggled to find miso and other Japanese ingredients until later in the semester. Love Chinatown though. Someday go back and go to Misato, Assa, and Eat Tokyo. Wanted to go but didn’t get the chance.
“I want to figure out what the appropriate amount of interaction with strangers is in Britain. Do you talk to strangers on the public transportation system? Do you talk to the lady behind you when you’re in line at Publix? To what extent are they “mind-your-own-business” oriented?”-strangers don’t talk to each other on public transport. Drunk people do talk to you though. Bars get filled pretty early in the evening everyday and apparently there are some weird people in London. Non-Londoners say London is full of weird people. The other day a guy was sunbathing on one of the beams of Tower Bridge so they had to shut down the tourist attraction.
Sam Selvon’s book, “The Lonely Londoners” makes a little more sense now. We’re all lonely in this crowded city, but somehow you get attached to the city itself, and you don’t want to leave.