My arrival in London did not go as smoothly as planned. On an early Saturday morning, the car stowed with clothes, pots, pans and decorations, my dad and I were on our way from Amsterdam, my hometown, to Calais, where we would take the Chunnel for this road trip to finally end in my new apartment in Southwark. The rain and the mist did not make the journey very comfortable. When we past Duinkerken, France, however, we discovered the expedition was doomed: my father had forgotten his passport. Although we tried to defy British immigration with my father’s driver’s license, we found ourselves back in Amsterdam the same night.
My new flatmates were happy to see me (and the Dutch cheese that I brought) arrive the next day after a more pleasant journey. I spent the next few days getting to know them, the city, and British customs (for instance, the difference between ‘the sincere apology’ and ‘the annoyed sorry’ on the street). I still lived in a Dutch bubble though, my flatmates also both being from the Netherlands. I felt that I would only experience ‘the real London’ as soon as I would meet ‘real Londoners’ who could introduce me to – surely, I thought, this will happen as soon as would start at LSE.
I did not meet any ‘real Londoners’ during orientation and my first weeks of classes. My master’s programme, Political Sociology, did allow me to choose courses that promote critical thinking, like Race and Space and Gender and Societies. This was only reinforced by the non-Londoners whom I met: if we would be having a drink at the graduate students’ pub George IV, or eating our free Hare Krishna lunch, my classmates from Mexico, Norway, and Lebanon would be able to use the concepts from our courses to analyse the country and society where we have grown up.
The rough start that I experienced arriving in London and getting to know my new home, did, therefore, not apply to my first weeks at LSE. Yes, I struggled finding the perfect cycling route to school. No, I have not met any ‘real Londoners’ yet. But LSE’s diverse student population and its overwhelming amount of courses and events made me realize that LSE, as a university, mirrors the city it’s located in. It offers new perspectives, people, and plans for the future.
The ‘real Londoner’, as a fundamental category for London, does not exist here. Even if they did, I would not want to meet them; they are not necessary in order to discover this vibrant city and its dynamic university.