January 31, 2014
the first week
as of today i have been living in london for a week and, amongst the many things i have discovered, the british not refrigerating their eggs in the supermarkets is one of them.
people always speak of culture shock and, as always, it's one thing to hear about it and another to feel it. i was never intimidated by the thought to jumping into a new culture: for i was going to country that also spoke english and being a child from two cultures - this wasn't a new concept. but it's a lot to take in at once, especially for someone who over thinks everything in life (surprise, me).
nothing felt real during the first few days. everything was disorienting (due to a weird cocktail of sleep deprivation, weariness, and anxiety) because you're no longer in new york city (a place you know like the back of your hand) but in a strange new city with new rules and new roads, because you want to have an amazing time but you don't know where to start, because every moment not spend doing something exciting feels like time wasted, because you realize that you will not get to travel everywhere you want to go in the mere four months you have and there is so much you are dying to see, because you are away from home and even though it's what you've wanted for forever it's still isn't easy to uproot yourself. all of the sudden, you're a freshman moving to a new city for the first time all over again, overwhelmed by all the possible things to do to a point of confusion and frustration.
you put pressure on yourself to live your life! but that's really not how life works. it also doesn't help going through all the travel blogs people post on facebook because you subconsciously start comparing your experience with other people's in a quiet race of who is the winner of a nonexistent competition. you start to feel like your experience isn't anything special at all at all, that we're just partaking in some pre-made template of a coming-of-age story. the american finally opens their eyes to the world! or something of those sorts that you see over and over again. but who am i to say, isn't that what i'm doing right now? but as victoria, who usually says the right things and is also in paris for the entire year, told me: yeah, we're studying abroad. we're not special. but at the same time entire experience, and the lessons you learn and the memories you make, are very very personal and individual.
after some time the initial anxieties and feelings of displacement fade away and you realize slowly and then all at once, that you're no longer sitting in a cafe in new york, but you're across the atlantic in london trying to differentiate between the million different coins the british have without trying to look too much of a nub. that everything you were worried about before really didn't matter in the long run and that you just had to stop and catch your breath. maybe it was when ashley and i booked our £66 round trip to paris in may i suddenly felt like it was happening. it's this weird jittery feeling in my stomach that i'm finally getting to do what i've always wanted to do: i'm living in london for the love of god and i couldn't be more happy about it. even though it's been sort of drizzly every day (thank you weather, for making it the wettest january london has had in a while) i sort of like that we came in the winter. the weather outside isn't exactly promoting exploring at this moment, i like the idea that london is only going to get better as time goes on.
i don't like that they don't refrigerate their eggs because even though i can't think of why you should refrigerate them it doesn't seem right to NOT refrigerate them because god. i don't like that the pound to dollar conversion is awful because it makes london so expensive compared to the US even though the prices "look" the same. i also don't like how crossing the street is an entire task on its own, including me having to look in all 20 directions for oncoming cars. i, however, love the little blinking "zebras" that give pedestrians right of way. i like bloomsbury (in the borough of camden), the neighborhood i live in, because it's frankly adorable. i love the short houses and charming architecture with their cute ass windows. i love pubs (like the one laina, ashley, kaya, and i went to the first night and tried to order something without looking like middle schoolers). i love that we can drink here and simply walk into any place that serves alcohol and order a pint. just like that. the cider is delicious and the freedom of having a pint whenever i please is a very exciting feeling. i like mecklenburgh square because it's tucked away in a nice and quiet corner in bustling london. i love that i live in the same neighborhood of famous writers and other academia and that i walk past the british museum every day. i love it when in class, we can talk about something - point out the window and there it is. i love the history of this place and that you can still see bits of the roman wall around london. i fucking love their accents and also their chocolate. and i love that their winter is my version of a chilly fall day.
for those who don't know, i'm currently studying at NYU-London which has it's own perks and downfalls. (one perk being that all the classes i am taking are completely on track with the classes i need to take and a downfall being not able to fully assimilate with british students in a british university) a part of me wanted to be ripped off the face of the earth and thrown into everything unknown but likewise it is very comforting to have friends from home. in the end, is more than one way to study abroad - so i'm not too worried about it all.
the first week of classes went well: i'm taking a cinema class, two psych courses, and an architecture/history course which entails us exploring london for three hours every thursday. classes only meet one day a week, in three hour blocks, and they've given us fridays off so i really can't complain at all. i've learned quite a lot of about the history and culture of the UK and can now locate my flat from a map. it's starting to feel more like home and i feel prepared to start wandering around and finding all the little surprises london has. i'm not going to lie, sometimes i'll randomly start to miss new york city: the noise, the subway, the lights, and the sheer chaos of it all. i'll see something or do something foolish and think to myself that in new york i would have never made that mistake - but honey, this isn't new york anymore. but, honestly, i wouldn't want to be anywhere else but where i am right now: by the window in my bloomsbury flat looking out at the sun (finally peeking out behind the gray clouds that have plagued the entire afternoon) dance off the freshly rained puddles inlaid in the cobblestone streets.
(not that many photos yet, but don't worry more will come! first photo is ashley in our flat and the next few are snaps taken from the bus tour during the first three days. and also just an fyi: this is my first time in london and even though i went to paris/barcelona/madrid in 2012 this is my first ~real~ time in europe.)