In this city, in this city…

(Stick with me, y’all. It starts a little weird and gets into my emotions, but the explanation comes at the end. Thanks in advance for reading.)

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My friend Sarah & I saw this on our walk to the Tower of London. It’s something I thought described a bit of where I am in life & my study abroad experience.

Last week had been a tough one for me. It wasn’t because it was the second week of classes, it wasn’t the fact that I’m 4,154 miles from my hometown (and 4,046 miles from my school), it wasn’t anything you would guess. Honestly, I don’t know if I even know what it was. I don’t know if I’m just having a hard time adjusting to life here in the city (s/o to all you small town kiddos studying abroad…I feel you), or if I’m having issues in my program, or what it is. So far, it’s just seemed like it was one of those weeks where you get in a funk and you can’t really get out of it.

Thankfully, this week has started out on a great foot, and I’m sure I’ll be feeling better within the next few days. At the end of my program, I want to look back on this past week as an adjustment time, and have grown from it. So, the best way I know to explore my feelings is to write about them (as if we haven’t already figured that out).

As much as I have come to love it over the past few weeks, life in a big city is hard. It’s not at all like what I expected (other than being able to walk literally everywhere), and it’s definitely more overwhelming. Coming from a town of about 35,000 people, moving to this city of 8.67 million people pretty much on my own is without a doubt one of the toughest things I’ve ever done.

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The first week, we went to Buckingham Palace to visit. I feel like it suits me nicely.

At home, my bubble is incredibly small. My best friend since kindergarten lives three houses down from me. I can’t go to the grocery store on a “quick errand” because I’ll run into somebody that I know (whether that be someone I grew up with, their parents, teachers, friends of my family, or literally the guy who changes the oil in my car – that happened once), and I’ll be sucked into a twenty minute conversation with them.

Here in London, it’s an entirely different story. I am completely invisible. There is no one I am going to run into when I go to the grocery store, and my best friend isn’t a two minute walk away. I’ve made a few friends in my program, but I can’t seem to shake the feeling that we’re not as close as I want to be. I sometimes feel like I’m on the outside when it comes to them. But that’s a whole ‘nother conversation.

It’s probably really good for me to have stepped out of my comfort zone like this. The last time I did something like this, I went to college 132.5 miles away. It took some time to adjust, but this time last year, I was probably at the happiest I have ever been in my entire life. On Sunday, I wanted desperately to feel that happy again. But now I’ve realized that it’s not going to happen like that. I was so happy this time last year because I was completely in my comfort zone. I was at Wofford, surrounded by my best friends, taking amazing classes, and thriving in a place I felt loved and supported.

Now that I’m outside of that comfort zone, I’ve realized that there are positives and negatives to being uncomfortable. I am in a new city where I am pretty much invisible. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. I have the chance to be completely myself, and see who wants to be my friend (*cue “Take Me or Leave Me” from Rent to blast behind this paragraph). But at the same time, being invisible can be annoying. You don’t have anyone to support you on those bad days. (That’s when I begin to reach out to that comfort zone that’s 4,000 miles away and FaceTime the hooligans I like to call my friends.)

The other day, I was in a bookstore looking for a book that I need for class, when all of a sudden, this song got stuck in my head. When I was walking back to my bus stop, I decided to listen to it, hoping to get it out of my head. While that didn’t happen, I did pay attention to the lyrics and found this:

“I’ve got something to prove, nothing to lose/in this city, in this city.”

“I never wanna wait for this/harder than that I was made for this/I won’t fade into darkness/I’m not gonna say I’m sorry/gonna see the end of this story/I won’t fade into darkness.”

“Airplanes” by 5 Seconds of Summer

Those lyrics really struck me as something I needed to hear. I’ve been waiting my entire life to get the chance to come here and study in London. Why should I let some negative feelings and people I feel are excluding me ruin my chance to have the best experience I could possibly have? That’s ridiculous.

I need to do what my grandmother told me to do before I left: don’t just find opportunities, also make them for yourself. 

This is going to be the best semester yet. I can’t wait.

TLDR: London has been wonderful and I love it so much. There have been ups and downs, but that comes with every new experience in life. I want to embrace it and have the time of my life while I’m here.


lydia.

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5 thoughts on “In this city, in this city…

  1. There’s something to be said for recognizing that vulnerability, I think–and I love what your grandmother had to say about that! Brilliant advice. (I’d recommend planning day trips, if you can–that’s how I cemented my study abroad friendships.) I hope this week is absolutely lovely to you!

    • Thank you so much Connor! I really appreciate all of your support for me and my adventures. Honestly, this week has been a lot better than I expected it to be, but I’m still trying to get into a routine. It’s a lot tougher than I thought, but I can’t wait for things to get better. I’m going to Amsterdam this weekend, so I hope that is as amazing as I’ve been imagining!

  2. [J] I recognize the feeling, Lydia! Biggest leap I made was to take a job – a very demanding professional job – in another European country, different language (which at that time I had only a smattering of), different culture (which I hadn’t a clue about other than the beer!), different laws and social expectations, driving the other side of the road, and above all different technical standards for my profession. Don’t let yourself feel let down by others who don’t really engage with you. Reach deep into yourself to find the strength and hitherto unrecognized skills and resources. Do recognize and appreciate the quiet ones that turn out to be your friends (not obvious at first). Accept help from those you despite your protestations of self-sufficiency, continue to help, especially those who see your need and without saying just reach out to help. Step outside yourself and view what you are doing with amazement. Don’t succumb to the poor little helpless victim-of-circumstances and I’m not up to this line of thinking: kick it out the way and tell yourself you’re ready for what life throws at you, good, bad and indifferent. London’s an exciting place to be, a place of extremes. You need to be wary and learn to pick out the right way to go. USA and UK share English, but the differences are huge but often very subtle and it’s easy to not recognize things for what they are. [I guess this is the advice I’d wished I’d got when I moved abroad: it might then have worked out better for me and my family.] Best wishes! ;~)

  3. [J] By the way, the big red sign in your photo has an error [I know this, because most of my professional career was spent in highway design and maintenance]. It should read Changed Priorities Ahead. It means which approach to the junction/intersection has to give way or stop / yield has been altereed, and is a warning to those who think they know the area, but haven’t visited for a while.

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