A Psychology Student's Impressions of London: A Study Abroad Experience.
The USA Abroad! series is a look at the experiences of Americans who are having an international student experience in Europe.
1. Everyone said that people weren’t very nice, and it’s kind of true.
It is a well-known belief that Londoners aren't very nice. During my orientation, I was warned that people from London aren't very friendly, especially compared to Americans and people from the north of England. This stems from the fact that people don't chat on public transport or make small talk in elevators and things like that. London is such a huge city, much like New York, and people simply have places to be. They aren't mean, they just don't want to talk all of the time.
2. It’s a misconception that people don't like Americans.
Another common misconception is that British people don't like Americans. In my experience that is untrue; in fact, many people find our accent and American culture rather fascinating. I think the frustration comes from tourists as a whole crowding the Tube, causing traffic, and being wholly unaware of their surroundings.
I have only been made fun of once for my accent, by a group of tweenage boys mocking our accent on the Tube. To be fair, we were being quite loudly American, so I don't blame them. Most of the people I have met have asked me questions about American schools and unis, the food we eat, the Greek system, and the vast differences in the schools themselves.
3. It’s so much easier to travel.
A benefit of being in London is that it is a central location with many ways to get to mainland Europe. There are 4 main airports in London, and they all have hundreds of low-priced flights daily to places like Spain, Italy, France, etc. You can also take the train, with only a two-hour ride to Paris. It's crazy to have so many amazing countries so readily accessible.
4. Adjusting to living in another country and studying abroad is glorified.
Moving to another country is hard. Luckily enough, I speak the same language as the country where I am living. I can't imagine the struggle if everything were in another language. I love studying abroad. I'm having the best time, but oftentimes people forget to talk about the glorification of the whole thing.
Figuring out how much to pack is hard, carrying your things through the airport is hard, adjusting to a new living situation, making friends, and learning the transportation systems is hard! There are so many aspects of being abroad that can feel isolating or make you feel homesick some days, and that's totally normal! There are days when I see my friends all together at home and I feel sad and jealous. There are days when all I want to do is be at home in a place I am familiar with and feel comfortable. There are days when I don't want to explore the city, I just want to be in bed and relax.
Studying abroad is tiring, and it's normal to feel these things. The most important thing to remember for me is that it is only temporary! My life will still be there when I get back. (Also, I know my friends at home are jealous of me.) Studying abroad will help me grow in ways I won't even realize for many years. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that lots of people spend their whole lives dreaming of. It’s OK to have hard days and is normal to miss home, but make the most of your time — it goes by fast!
5. Because of public transportation, it’s an easy city to navigate.
Going to school in Southern California, it is almost imperative to have a car because places simply are not walkable and public transportation isn’t always the safest. One of my favorite things about London is how easy it is to go anywhere in the city, or even the country as a whole. Buses run on a very consistent schedule and go all over the greater city of London. The Tube is also amazing because it is fast and great for covering longer distances across the city. No place is more than 45 to 50 minutes away! And if public transport isn't for you, you can walk almost anywhere, and there's so much going on, you can walk 10 minutes and find a park, restaurant, grocery, or shop. Having a car here would almost be inconvenient.
6. It’s advanced technologically.
One of the biggest things I’ve noticed is the use of technology. Almost everything is contactless and doesn't accept cash. One of my favorite restaurants, Itsu, uses screens instead of people to take your order. You walk in, place your order on a large screen, and your order is ready in 5 minutes.
Similar to Itsu, but on a larger level, is Argos. Argos is like a Target or Walmart, except there are only about three employees. You walk in, and there are 10ish screens with the catalog on them. You go through the website, add items to your basket, pay on the screen, and in minutes, an employee comes from the abyss with your items.
On the same thought, so many shops have self-checkouts. Not just grocery stores but many large stores like H&M and Zara. You don't have to speak to an employee, and they even provide the tool to remove the security sensors. At Uniqlo, you just set your basket on the table; the scanner automatically knows what items you have and how many, and you're ready to go within seconds. While it is so convenient in many cases, it is interesting how many people could be doing those jobs.
7. Fashion is a thing.
There is so much fashion and style in London, and people really wear whatever they want. There are endless places for shopping and thrifting, a popular one being Brick Lane. However, from observation and what I’ve been told, it is almost inappropriate to go out of the house in loungewear or looking subpar. Back at home, it is fairly common to see people out in sweatpants or pajamas. Here, if you wear sweats they’re often paired with a matching sweatshirt and a nicer jacket, and pajamas in public are unheard of. It's best to just stick to jeans or an elevated loungewear style for errands or the shop.
8. There are so many great food markets!
Food markets are my favorite places!! Food markets and street markets are a massive part of the culture in London, some popular ones being Camden Market, Borough Market, and the Seven Dials food market. On most days, if you just walk 20 minutes from any given location, you are likely to pass by a food market with trucks and booths — it feels as if there's one on every corner. You can find foods and desserts from any culture or background you can imagine, and the markets can be a really good place to find comfort in food when you're homesick.
Soleil Perrin is from Seattle, Washington, and is a Psychology major with a minor in Health Sciences at Chapman University in California. Beyond school, she’s interested in marketing, fashion, sustainability, and baking.
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