LYON: Embracing adventure into unknown territory can pay off
Opinions Column: London by Knight
Just last week I left the United States for the first time in my life to study abroad in the United Kingdom at City, University of London. Leaving behind the comfort of home, friends and the part of the world that I know so well to travel alone to another country was surreal. I embraced this uncertainty, though, and walked away from my family at airport security with the strange, mixed feeling of both sadness and excitement buzzing from my head to my step. I knew I would miss my life so much, this was certain — I had spent the entire week prior to my Sept. 12 takeoff considering the more than three months I knew I would not be seeing my loved ones, Wawa or even New Jersey. But I also knew I was about to embark on something that was bound to be life. I walked away from what I knew for once in my life and I felt so ready for my journey.
I have to thank the British Airways-operated American Airlines flight for the selection of television and music (I personally enjoyed "Master Chef" and "Depression Cherry" by Beach House), complimentary wine (I am 21!) and surprisingly tasty pasta that all served to calm my nerves in small ways. But on my flight, what awaited me suddenly felt so real, and the beautiful unknown and the oncoming rush of independence soothed me more than anything else could have.
When I finally landed after my redeye flight, I was quickly acquainted with small challenges. I knew that I needed to lug my two regrettably heavy suitcases to my flat from Heathrow Airport, and I knew that required my first experience on the Underground straight to King's Cross station, along with a short trip on one of London's black cabs. But that was it. With determination, straightforward direction and the kindness of airport staff, I was successfully able to make this journey to my flat.
I am living in a flat with no meal plan, and though my parents are assisting me, I am mostly self-funded in London. Everyone says it (and it's true): London is not cheap. This has caused me to become more financially savvy. In my first week, I learned that perhaps enjoying 24-bottle cases of water is a little bit unnecessary when tap water in a glass does the trick just fine. I found there is no need for fancy water when you consider all of your other expenses.
I have also been learning just how different culture is in England in comparison to the United States. Just a few days ago I was at the Lord Mayor's mansion enjoying free wine at a university-sponsored gathering for international students like myself. I went to a local pub to see a football match, otherwise known as a soccer game. I know soccer is pretty much revered everywhere and certainly in England, but when I went and actually saw a room so full of excitement over an Arsenal win, I saw soccer treated with the same excitement and intensity from viewers as American football in the States!
I not only experienced a wide variety of differences in culture beyond alcohol and sport, I also spent time exploring on my own, getting lost quite a few times. I'm used to cities, with New York and Philadelphia always being so close and with going to school in New Brunswick, but there has been something amazing about getting lost and finding my way back in an entirely new city. I have begun to trust my sense of direction and expand my curiosity even more.
I've accidentally stumbled across places I wouldn't if I hadn't been curious. Very recently, one of my flatmates and I decided to go grocery shopping a little further from our neighborhood in London, and we actually ended up passing Camden Market on our way. We didn't know that at first, all we knew was it looked too interesting to ignore! To discover a place I've heard so many nice things about and see it for myself was such an invigorating experience, and one of my favorites so far.
I feel secure in my decision to study abroad, when just nine days ago I was so frightened and unsure. I watched the culmination of my preparation materialize in front of me as my plane touched down in London, every time I walk down the streets, and every time I learn something new (which happens several times a day) or expand my understanding of the world. I know I have much to learn as I spend the next few months inside and outside the classroom in this country, and I am eager.
Abigail Lyon is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in economics and theater arts. Her column, “London by Knight,” runs on alternate Thursdays.
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