When everyone asked what I was most excited for about studying abroad, I always talked about how I couldn’t wait to travel the rest of Europe, see the sights, and make it to places I had only dreamt of. And it’s come true; I’ve only made it to Amsterdam, Edinburgh, and Venice so far, but each of those trips has almost (or actually) brought me to tears at some points.
But I can’t be traveling every day, and I don’t think I would necessarily want to leave London every weekend like some do. There’s the time for spontaneous trips on Ryan Air, but there’s also something to be said for staying right here in the city, and getting to know the incredible people who have chosen to spend a few days, months, or years calling London home.
I knew going in London was metropolitan, and an international capital, but I don’t think I quite understood how real that was or how much that can be felt at LSE until now. In a class discussion, my jaw literally dropped when I learned that politicians can’t spend money on ads in the UK, and my British coworkers’ eyes almost came out of their heads when they realized that I can walk into a store and buy a handgun in the States. On the athletics (that’s track and field for you Americans) team alone, I have made friends with a jumper from London, a thrower from Germany, and a sprinter from Italy, and every lap around the track means another exchange of culture, or bonding over how much we both love Tom Cruise.
So it’s not even about how many nationalities are represented as much as the diversity of experiences, memories, and stories that people share. One of my closest friends served in the military in Norway, another spent months backpacking alone through Southeast Asia, while yet another never ceases to amaze me with her knowledge about every fact inside her head as she drags me to me to the next play in the West End to increase my sparse high culture exposure. We spend the days in cafes, sometimes studying, sometimes wasting hours spitting out ideas and academic rants over endless pots of tea, and spend the nights doing the same except over drinks at the pub.
I’ve never really known what to call home, and after living in seven states, heading off to college, and now living abroad, it’s always a difficult question to answer. So to me, home is a feeling. Of waking up early every Thursday morning to go to yoga, and watching John Oliver together every Thursday night; of spending an entire morning in the kitchen dancing to the Beatles while we make breakfast; of wandering through food markets (e.g. Borough, Broadway) sampling and ogling and making wonderful life choices like eating ice cream for breakfast.
My favorite moments so far haven’t been on any bucket list or in any guide book; they’ve been spontaneous moments that I never could’ve imagined, like the baristas at our favorite cafes recognizing us, going on a 6+ mile morning run that ended up taking us to Buckingham palace, and stumbling into a cafe with a rooftop terrace that served the best English breakfast I’ve had so far.
I had dreamt about traveling the world, but I didn’t know how much fun it would be to stay right here in London, traveling the city with your new best friends. And so it turns out, it’s not just about the places you’ll go, but more about the people you’ll meet.