Getting into LSE and coming to live in London was always a dream come true for me, but I don’t think I realised just how fortunate I was until I got here. I’d never been to the UK before, so my imagination (and Wikipedia/Tripadvisor/ myriad other websites) was all I had to go on.
I remember arriving at Heathrow, almost bubbling over with excitement, but trying to appear cool. I’m prepared for the cold, I thought, as I donned my trenchcoat over the two sweaters, jacket and vest I was already wearing, not counting the gloves, scarf and sports shoes. So I waddle out of the arrivals terminal, looking and feeling rather like the Michelin Man, only to be greeted by bright sunshine and a rather enjoyable breeze! And so began my life in London: full of (mostly pleasant) surprises!
I’m from Kenya, which feels like another planet, another universe, maybe. Nairobi is quite a big city, yet everything there seems to be dwarfed by what I have met in London. Wide roads with huge footpaths, streetlights, maps, signposts, a public transport system that works super-efficiently. And more amazingly…when the light turns red here…cars actually stop!
There are so many wonderful things about life in London. Jogging in Hyde Park amongst squirrels and birds, in the gorgeous autumn weather, rushing past the fresh fruit vendor near Holborn Station along bustling Kingsway, strolling along Oxford street, a veritable cornucopia of shops and brands – each moment one to capture for the ages. Places I’d only ever read of are now walking distance from me!
Not a day has gone by when I’ve not learnt something new. For instance, I discovered that a 9.43 train departs at 9.43 and not 9.45 … and that people are not surprised by this! In Kenya, 9 am is always flexible, 10.30 will do just as well. Not so here! And of course, my first time on the tube comes to mind. It forced me to question a long-held assumption; that where there is crowd, there will be noise! Clearly, not on the tube – a compartment packed with people… and absolute silence! I once sneezed, and felt the collective gaze of the entire section trained on me. I could swear the glances screamed, “How dare you disrupt the sacred silence of this compartment?”
And then, of course, comes my current raison d’être – my Master’s degree at LSE. I remember walking through LSE for the first time. I was filled with a sense of insignificance, as I stood there, dwarfed by the gigantic buildings of brick and stone; a sense of insignificance not unlike what I felt as I walked past the hallway in the Old Building, adorned with the portraits of the legends who once trod this very path. I clutched my backpack and shuffled in my jeans as I gazed at Bertrand Russell and Amartya Sen, feeling humbled. Yet out of this insignificance, I felt a tiny upwelling of hope. Ambition. The desire to see my own name up there someday, knowing not how I will get there, but knowing only that I want to be there. All these profound thoughts, though were blown away when I caught a glimpse of my reading list, and I lowered my sights to a simpler goal: survive!
And now weeks have passed, and I’ve fallen in love with LSE, and the city, in a way I would never have believed possible when I first arrived. It hasn’t always been easy (book reviews, quant methods, reading lists and hostel food have ensured that!) but London, and LSE call to me in a way that make me smile when I wake up and smile as I go to bed.
If I had to sum up my feelings for LSE and London in one sentence I would say this: like nothing I ever imagined, but everything I ever dreamt of. I only hope that long may my reality continue to be the stuff dreams are made of.