I am nearly half-way through my semester abroad in London, and I have been thinking about my experiences here so far. Studying abroad has been one of the most transformative experiences of my college career. It's hard to look at my time in London as black or white, but I have a list of some pros and cons of living in London.
Let's start with the downer points because, let's be honest, there aren't too many bad things about living in London.
1. I'm extremely dehydrated
Traveling every weekend and running around London has taken its toll on me physically. I've been sick two times within a month and a half of living abroad. I carry a reusable water bottle with me when I travel, but the thin air and long days dehydrate me quickly. Thankfully, I take tea so often in London that it helps boost my water intake. I recommend packing a reusable water bottle or coffee cup when you study abroad. It's cheaper than having to buy plastic bottles at an expensive airport store.
2. The five hours ahead of family
My family lives in north Florida, which is five hours behind my time. It's challenging to keep a fixed schedule with calling back home because my only option is midnight my time in our empty kitchen. I wish it was easier to stay in touch. Sometimes I hold back from messaging friends or family in the mornings because I know they're all still asleep. I recommend discussing long-distance communication with your family before leaving on a study abroad. It's best to set boundaries and schedule phone calls home in advance.
3. Coffee shops close early.
My coffee-soaked heart breaks every late afternoon when I am asked by a polite British barista to pack my things and leave the shop. Coffee shops often close around 6 p.m. or turn into casual wine bars by night. I've been challenged to find a spot that's open late enough for me to write on my laptop or study. I am used to American coffee shops remaining open late into the night for workaholics and caffeine addicts to fool around on their laptops and listen to indie music in peace. London doesn't have the same work culture, so locals see no desire to stay up late working at a coffee shop when they could be out at a pub with friends. I am still working to find my ideal coffee shop here.
4. It can be challenging to talk to locals.
Speaking of that polite British barista? British politeness often comes off as social disregard. I can be standing in a cramped lift or the Tube, but people will awkwardly glance away and remain silent. This behavior makes it hard to spark casual conversation, and therefore create friendships with locals. I've been trying to talk to people when appropriate, but I often spook them by saying hello. I might just have to go out to pubs more often if I'm ever going to find young Mamma Mias to be the Tanya and Rosie to my Donna.
5. I might have trouble returning home
The worst thing about my semester abroad experience is that I know I'll have to return home afterward. I have found more freedom living abroad. I don't know anyone here, so I am not pressured to fall into past blueprints of myself. I am open to exploring new cities and countries every weekend. I am taking classes that have grown my curiosity and gotten me on live BBC television. Life seems deep with opportunities abroad that would have made me feel fearful at home. I hope to bring my new sense of fearlessness back home at the end of this (if there must be an end).
Thank you for reading the low points of my semester in London. I hope you check back next week on Odyssey for my highlight list.