Living abroad in another country can always be a difficult experience, even in the best of circumstances. Of course, those difficulties are going to be wildly different in nature depending on your background, where you’re coming from, where you live abroad, how familiar you are with the country you’re living in before you start living there, and many other factors. But living in a different country during the past year has presented many unforeseen challenges and problems. It’s been hard sometimes to be so far from home.
For the last four years, I’ve been an American who has spent most of that time living in London. I first did my Master’s at LSE, then went back to the US for around a year, and then came back to LSE and London to do my PhD. London is a great city and a great place to live, study, and work, but sometimes it can be hard to live here as someone who is not from the UK. Sometimes I feel like I don’t fit into British culture or I have a hard time understanding certain cultural or social quirks here. Although this might seem paradoxical, my method for helping me cope with that is to remind myself of the United States in order to help me feel more at home here in London and the UK.
That is sometimes difficult since I don’t have a lot of American friends here, but I do have one who actually went to the same university as me for during undergrad, so that is always nice and helpful. Instead, I try to bring American culture into my daily life here in the UK. Most days of the week, for example, I try to watch American sitcoms or television shows. On the weekends, I have American-style bagel sandwiches, which also reminds me of a longstanding family tradition from my childhood. I make a point to talk to my parents or sister or my grandmother at some point each week. It also helps my sister lives in the UK as well, so I have someone to talk to about the shared challenges and experiences we are having together.
The pandemic has exacerbated some of the isolation one inevitably feels when they live abroad, but it certainly hasn’t been all bad. In fact, the pandemic has had a clarifying effect in this respect – we’ve all been in the same boat over the past year, which has brought us together. It’s helped erase some of those more poignant differences and reminded us how similar we all truly are. We’re coming out of this pandemic stronger than ever.