I remember the first time I saw London surprisingly well.
It was from up in the air.
I was nine years old and on my way to visit my aunt in Australia. We had to transfer at Heathrow and I stared out of the window the whole way there. I won’t say I looked down on the city, saw the Thames and the Tower Bridge and thought “this is where I will live one day” –I was nine- but I was intrigued.
Some years later I finally got to visit the city itself. I instantly fell for London and its chaos and people and big red buses. For its friendly anonymity, its four-seasons-in-a-day weather. For all its neatly queuing Brits and apologies flying around. For its wide streets and tiny back alleys, its coffee shops that actually sell coffee.
In order to decide which postgraduate degree I wanted to enrol in I made an awful lot of pro/con lists. It only took me about 30 seconds on campus to disregard all of the lists and make up my mind: no matter what other programmes had to offer, no one could keep me away from this cute campus jammed in the middle of London.
Even though I’m only a short plane ride away from home, packing up my things and leaving Amsterdam for London last year is probably the most life-changing thing I have ever done. Getting used to studying again while settling into a new city and feeling the pressure to make friends has been quite overwhelming.
I remember trying to figure out the route to cycle from home to campus and making a wrong turn somewhere along the way every single day in my first week. Instead of 20 minutes, the commute generally took me about an hour. At the end of the week I somehow managed to end up on the wrong side of the Thames*. Exhausted from all the first impressions and social events I stepped off my bike and just stared at the river very angrily for a few minutes “I am never ever going to figure this city out.”
Three months later I am happy to report that I have figured it out –sort of. I no longer get lost between Liverpool Street and Houghton Street. Everywhere else is still an adventure, I like it.
* Cycling is in my DNA, navigating is clearly not