A Newfound Confidence

Today, I did something that I don’t think I would’ve dare done before this trip: I went and did the entire day by myself.

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To a lot of people, I feel like what I did today was not a big deal at all. Going about your day all by yourself is really nothing at all. But for me, who has never really been that confident about my sense of direction and is so very comfortable in her comfort zone, this was a big thing.

Since I don’t have classes on Fridays, but my closest friend in my program does, I decided when I woke up I was actually going to go somewhere. Although, I did wake up with a wicket cough so first I made my way to the grocery store for some cough drops and cold relief medicine (and snacks because you can never have too many snacks). On my walk there, I decided that when I got back, I would get dressed in a cute outfit, do my makeup, and go out for the day. And so out I went.

My first stop was Borough Market. It was mildly a sensory overload since there were vendors in every direction and a myriad of smells coming at me from all angles, but I quickly embraced my new, confident, “I am not a tourist” walk and weaved through the booths looking for lunch. There were so many wonderful booths and products for sale, and everyone was so nice! I eventually settled on a Cajun chicken sandwich from a game vendor and WOW OH WOW was it delicious. I’m from Georgia, and I have close family friends from New Orleans so I know Cajun flavor — and this was it. SO. GOOD. I kept wandering as I ate my sandwich and came across a wine booth, where I promptly bought some sangria. (It was noon.)

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After I finally escaped Borough Market (I say escaped because had I stayed any longer I would’ve bought myself more food and that was not what I needed), I walked along the Thames for a while. I stopped by a man with a typewriter and a sign that said “poet for hire” so naturally I bought a poem. When he asked me for a title, I couldn’t come up with anything, so he asked me where I was from and what I liked to do. I told him America, and I liked to read. He asked what kind of books I liked, and I replied, “true crime.”

That was the title of my poem.

I popped into the Tate Museum of Modern Art for a few minutes, but decided to come back when I had more time to dedicate to it. In search of a good bookstore, I got way too turned around trying to find the bus stop (all a part of the growing journey I’m on here, remember?), but eventually found it. Just as the bus I needed was leaving. So, I sat on the bus stop bench and pulled out my book to wait for the next bus – which was 15 minutes away (plus traffic).

Finally, I got to Waterstones – a five story mecca for book lovers. It was the Borough Market sensory overload all over again. But if there’s anything to learn about me, it’s that I love books.

Surprisingly, I managed to spend an hour and a half in Waterstones without actually purchasing anything. I don’t know if I was trying to save money, or I genuinely didn’t find anything that I had to have, but me coming out of a bookstore with no book isn’t something I find happens very often. img_0402

That Waterstones location was about half a mile from the British Museum, so I decided to pay my favorite place in London a visit. I walked around the gift shop a few times, went through Room 4 (the one with the Rosetta Stone and the Ancient Egyptian statues and Assyrian gates), got angry on Twitter about the Library of Alexandria (don’t even get me started), and got elbowed in the chest by a tourist because I was in the way of her picture. To say it was an eventful hour in the museum is an understatement LOL.

I took the bus back to my dorm, and I’m about to go for dinner with a friend. I can’t help but reflect on this day. It’s been something else. I knew that when I left for London, I would become a more independent and confident person, I just never expected it to be so soon. It surprised me that I was so motivated to go out and have an adventurous day by myself.

Today was one of my best days since I arrived here in London, and I am so proud of myself for navigating the city and making spur-of-the-moment decisions about where to adventure to next. I can’t wait to see where his newfound confidence takes me in life.


lydia.

 

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Shakespeare’s Globe & Miscellaneous Museums

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Yesterday, for my Shakespeare class, we went to see a show at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. While not the original theatre, as that one burned down in 1613 (during a production of Henry VIII), the Globe that is standing now is a reproduction – still open-air, and still producing The Bard’s classic works. Sometimes, they’re remixed and reimagined, sometimes they’re traditionally produced.

Yesterday, we saw a production of Cymbeline, reimagined and retitled, Imogen (after the daughter of the original title character). Before you keep reading, it’s really helpful to know the plot of this show, because I tried to summarize it, but found it quite difficult. CLICK HERE for the SparkNotes edition just to get a basic summary idea of what this show is about. It’s really good, you should also read it.

IT. WAS. SO. GOOD. It was retold as rival gangs (the British vs. the Romans) during what I assume was  a drug war. Cymbeline, the king of Britain, was the head of one gang, and Iachimo, a Roman, was the leader of the other. The costumes consisted entirely of athletic clothes (workout pants and leggings and Adidas hoodies and sneakers), and the girls all had funky hairstyles. The British wore all black costumes and the Romans wore all white. The only exceptions to this was Cloten had a red shirt (because he is brought on stage fighting with blood on his shirt), and when Imogen disguises herself as a man, she is in blue (which makes her stand out against the stark white of the Romans and the black clothes of the Britons). It was a really cool contrast and it made it easier to understand who was on which side. They also had a gender-bent character (Pisanio, and it worked, as she was portrayed as Imogen’s maidservant) and colorblind casting which I thought was amazing.

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Sarah, Madeline, & I had the peasant “seating” aka we were standing by (leaning up against) the stage for the whole show!

It was also impeccably choreographed. It didn’t have big musical numbers or anything like that (obviously), it was just that all the characters knew exactly where to be and where to interact with one another at exactly what moment. There were a couple times where they included modern music and had the scene choreographed to that, which was so, so cool. Especially the final fight scene. They had characters rigged up to fight in the air (off-set by other actors on ladders that essentially was a DIY rigging system ). Technically, I was so impressed.

They took a story that I don’t think many people had heard of before, and reimagined it in a way that would speak to modern audiences. It had all the elements of a Shakespeare show (I mean, it was his dialogue the whole time), but by making all the technical decisions they did, they kept the audience interested during the entire show. Which took a bit of work, since I was standing for the entire time we were there (remember, it’s a recreation of Shakespeare’s original Globe).

After the show was over, my friends Sarah, Madeline, and I decided to check out this museum that was right around the corner. The Clink Prison Museum.

Initially, I was really excited because I thought we would get to learn all about the history of London’s prison museum and how things had changed in the long history of England. Nope. The Clink was a historic prison that ran from the 12th century to 1780. There was a lot of focus on heretics and traitors, and overall it was really underwhelming to me. The only thing I enjoyed was at the end, we got to take a picture “behind bars” so my friends  and I decided we were going to do a Chicago-inspired, “Cell Block Tango” kinda thing…in which I turn out looking way more like I actually murdered someone than the “he had it coming” that the song is taking about.

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Overall, yesterday was a really eventful day. The Globe was all I expected and more (honestly I could go see Imogen again), but The Clink Prison Museum was really not that great. I also had a “pizza burger” from Honest Burger and I wish I had a picture of it but I ate it really fast..whoops lol.


lydia.

Twenty-One: London Style

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Just one of the three cases of cupcake options at Primrose Bakery in Covent Garden!

As a lot of y’all know, yesterday was my 21st birthday! It was not nearly as exciting or over-the-top here in London as I imagined. I guess it’s because it’s not as big a deal here, since the drinking age is 18.

I want to go ahead and say thank you to everyone who wished me a happy birthday yesterday, and made the day fantastic. Thanks especially to my friends who I got a chance to FaceTime with (y’all have no idea how much that made my day)…mom, dad, Jackson, Jordan, Meme, Cate, and Erin. It was so great to talk to the people who I miss so much.

My day started out like any other: I got up, got dressed, grabbed breakfast, went to class, and went through my new London routine. We talked about Twelfth Night in class, and it got really feminist and I just loved it. Then, Sarah and I went to Primrose Bakery to get some cupcakes, thanks mom!

Sarah had dinner with a lifelong friend, so I went back to my dorm to take a quick nap before I went to dinner. I got to FaceTime a bunch of the aforementioned people, and popped a bottle of champagne to enjoy with my cupcakes to celebrate my turning 21. It was nice to get to catch up with my hometown friends while celebrating.

I’m not going to play innocent here, the drinking age in most of Europe is 18, so going out to a bar and ordering myself a drink on my 21st birthday wasn’t my first time doing so. (I’m still excited for my “first legal drink” in the United States when I get home in December.)

I grabbed a drink with a few friends before they left, then waited for Sarah to meet me (she was going to meet all of us for drinks, but everyone else decided to cut the night short early I guess). It was a little weird just sitting there in the bar by myself, but I guess that’s what being 21 and adulthood are all about, right? Getting outside your comfort zone and being confident and going places by yourself?

What struck me the most was how different this birthday was from any other birthday I’ve had as an “adult”. When I turned 18, I took the SAT, went to rehearsal for the school musical until 7PM, went home and went to bed. When I turned 19, I was just a baby college freshman with only a few friends. We weren’t close enough for them to throw me a party or anything, so my mom and my brother came up and took me to get dinner. When I turned 20, I almost pulled an all-nighter the night before to study for my history midterm. I went to my classes, took a nap, spent a few hours in the library, and went to dinner with my friends. We celebrated with cake and a movie night the following weekend.

This year, I didn’t feel the same love surrounding me that I had the past three years – that probably has a lot to do with the fact that I’m in a foreign country pretty much by myself, and my favorite people are over 4,000 miles away. Getting to FaceTime with some of those people was helpful, but it was nothing like having my roommate/best friend wake me up at 5AM by jumping on my bed to my favorite Rhianna song.

dsc_0012I understand the validity of my feelings and that I’m allowed to miss people when they’re an ocean away, but I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea: I LOVE LONDON. I am loving my study abroad experience and everything it has brought into my life, but it’s tough. It is teaching me so much about myself. There are just a lot of emotions that you encounter when you study abroad that I don’t think anyone prepares you for — especially when you do a program where you don’t know anyone at all. 

I really did have an amazing birthday – champagne and cupcakes and getting to FaceTime some of my favorite people was really all I could’ve asked for (other than them all being here but for some reason, I don’t think that would’ve worked out so well). Going out when I didn’t really have a group of people to go with or solid plans made it feel a little more awkward than I intended.

I am so thankful for every single person who made me feel loved yesterday — y’all are the reason I’m having the time of my life over here in Londontown. Without your support, I don’t know where I would be.

Cheers to 21 years!


lydia.

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.

Socially Confident Pigeons (And Other Cultural Differences)

The biggest difference between London and my hometown (other than the small town vs. big city thing) is the amount of pigeons that are EVERYWHERE.

Not only are they everywhere, but they are really ready to approach you. I have never been anywhere where pigeons are as ready to come up to you and just stare at you like these have. It’s bizarre.

But it’s not the only “cultural difference” I’ve noticed over my six days here in London. The list is expansive, but here’s a quick overview:

  • When I was at the grocery store, the eggs weren’t in the refrigerated section. They were on a shelf next to dried fruits and nuts and I was very confused (and a little concerned).
  • Air conditioning is NOT A THING HERE. Where I come from, if you don’t have AC, you will suffocate in your home. Here, they’re just like “yeah open some windows, it’ll be fine.”
  • There are no “normal” flavors of potato chips (or “crisps”). The selection I have found at my local grocery store include (but is not limited to), the following: prawn cocktail, spicy pepper, cheese & onion, vinegar, ready salted, and classic.
  • Pub Culture is something of it’s own breed. You see people at 11AM having a drink at a pub and it’s no big deal. I guess it is always 5:00 somewhere!
  • Jaywalking is not a crime. You can cross at anytime, but the drivers here are very aggressive, so be careful!
  • They put mayo on salads as a dressing.
  • HISTORY IS EVERYWHERE. I am staying in a really new building, but the building that I will have all my classes in is really old. Everything where I come from is almost exclusively post-WWII.
  • I was told that fish & chips were a tourist thing. They’re not. Literally every pub serves them. Also, they’re really good.

There are so many other things that are different here, it’s not possible to list them all. While some people say that the UK is just like the United States, I’d argue there are plenty of differences here across the pond.

Bye for now!


lydia.