I’ve been in London for more than two weeks now, and time is flying by. The days have blended together in one constant stream of sightseeing, classes and social activities, mixed with short, intermittent, nap-length nights’ sleeps. Despite the chaos of every day, I’ve established a solid daily routine, and it’s easy to believe I’ve been doing this my whole life. That’s the crazy thing about studying abroad. It’s not just about visiting a place; it’s about learning to adapt to the culture and imagining yourself actually living there. I can definitely see myself living in London, but that feeling didn’t come without having a bout of culture shock. Confusingly, it was a lack of drastic change from the States that caused me to experience the shock. Last year when I studied in Austria, I had had to prepare myself for a whole new experience: The food was completely different from what I was used to, there was a strange balance between urbanism and quaint historical tradition and there was a language barrier to overcome. This year, I over-prepared. The differences between London and the States are definitely abundant, but they’re also more subtle, and I sometimes still have to remind myself I’m in a foreign country.
As per requirement, one of my first stops upon arriving in London was wondering up and down the South Bank, which is located near Westminster Abbey and Parliament and is home to the London Eye, the Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I loved seeing such iconic structures, but the walkways were too crowded with loud, meandering tourists for me to enjoy the atmosphere. My favorite part was visiting the Tower of London, which is a palace, castle and fortress built during the 1000s. The tower features living quarters, a torture chamber, crown jewels, an artillery museum and plenty of winding, narrow corridors.
London’s many cultures shine through most drastically in the ample markets throughout the city’s boroughs. Within the past two weeks, I have visited the trendy, Middle-Eastern and Asian Brick Lane, the world-famous antique markets of Portobello Road, the edgy markets of Camden Town and the food vendors of Borough Market. The goods are cheap, the stalls are vast, and they’re the perfect locations to find unique souvenirs and accessories. Although my usual clothing choices lean toward the girly side, my favorite market is definitely in the Hot-Topicesque style of Camden, especially Camden Lock Market, which features rows and rows of stalls housed in old horse stables. I haven’t had a chance to do any serious shopping there yet, but I just know there are a handful of goodies just begging to be found.
Portobello Road Market
Camden Lock Market
As part of my Resident Assistant duties, I am in charge of chaperoning certain excursions organized by my study abroad program. Last weekend I was lucky enough to be appointed the chaperone for a day trip to Oxford University and Blenheim Palace. Oxford was even more impressive than I had imagined, and it was surreal to actually be walking among its famous architecture. As soon as I got a free moment, I split from the rest of the group and randomly strolled through the streets. Most of the courtyards were closed because exams were in progress, but I still got to take a peek inside at the vibrant green grass and ivy-covered walls. I can’t imagine going to school among all that greatness.
The next stop was Blenheim Palace, which was the birthplace of Winston Churchill and the palace in the tasteless show “The Royals.” The interior was full of opulence, but it was the sprawling gardens and green rolling hills that surrounded the massive structure that impressed me the most.
The next few weeks will be crazy hectic for me because my mom and sister are visiting, so I have to balance my time between visiting them, going to class, doing homework and performing RA tasks. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.