I have sat down to write this last blog post three times. Each time I walked away after deleting all of what I wrote or writing nothing at all. I can’t quite put my finger on why it’s been so hard to write and reflect on being in London. Maybe pressing submit on this blog means it’s really all over, all memories. Maybe it’s that I feel like I’m doing a disservice to everything I saw, all the people I met, and all of the experience I had by trying to sum it up in a single blog post. Whatever the reason (and it is certainly a point of reflection for me), the time has come to do my best to wrap up my summer spent studying in London.
Living in London empowered me in a way that I didn’t expect. It’s not just the thousands of years of history waiting to be uncovered engrained into the city’s streets and buildings. Nor does the spontaneity and diversity of interaction that happens when nearly 9 million people from around the world converge on one spot fully encapsulate it. The innumerable institutions of art, music, education, and cuisine certainly contribute. As do the vast park lands offering spots to people watch, escape from the chaos of the city, and read to the melodies of bird songs. As someone interested in cities – how they function, live, develop, and provide infinitely many unique spaces for growth – all of these play a role. But I felt most empowered because when I woke up in the morning, I knew that I could make of the day whatever I wanted to. And I did. And I am proud of myself for that.
I took my experience seriously but never tried to take myself to seriously. I left room for chance interactions, meet-ups with friends, and reading at the British Library (the world’s largest! and if you get a reading room pass you can order practically any book and they deliver it to you – mind. blown). Sometimes I went out in my pj’s because all I wanted was to walk a block down to my local kebab shop, gave the owner a knowing look, and got my go-to order in minutes. It’s a lamb shawarma with tzatziki, chili-garlic sauce, cucumber, and lettuce if you were wondering. Other times I laced up my nicest shoes, tucked a freshly ironed button down into my dress pants, and donned a trench coat for afternoon tea. I felt like a person of the city. I felt in my element. Walking around, I paid attention to the sociology and geography of the spaces around me. I embodied the mentality of the flaneur and utilized what I learned in my urbanism class to contextualize the world around me. I learned something new every time I walked out of the door to my basement apartment.
I am a nerd at heart. Scratch that. I am just a nerd. I delighted in attempting to identify the multitude of architectural expressions throughout the city. I felt critical of some and in awe of others. I spent time admiring classic, renaissance, abstract, modern, aboriginal, post-modern, baroque, queer, and black art in various galleries around the city. I went to rap concerts and classical concerts and romantic concerts and jazz concerts. I watched the Book of Mormon and Les Mis which doubled the number of plays I’ve seen in my lifetime from two to four. I ate Nigerian, Lao, Vietnamese, Japanese, French, British, Lebanese, Turkish, Greek, Indian, Pakistani, Bengali, Chinese, Korean, Jamaican, and German food. My taste buds delighted in the variety of the cuisines I got to try. I hammered through a handful of novels and a few non-fiction books to boot. I did way more lit review than I needed to for my term paper. No regrets though, I learned so much and my thought process became way more refined as well. When I walked through the city I delighted at the mid-block crossings and the pedestrian tables. I loved that all my nerd itches could be scratched each and every day.
I made great friends. Some of them are quiet and preferred a casual conversation over a cup of coffee. Others wanted to spill ALL the tea. I learned about international politics and perspectives from my friends in class. The group I befriended at orientation had two moods: all out RAGER or mid-day nap. A few loved new food experiences and wanted to go to jazz shows or art museums. Because of my friends I went to places I never would have picked on my own. I loved the time that I spent with each and every one of them. We had dinner parties all together. We went out to happy hours and enjoyed… half-price water? One time, we shared pizza that tasted like cardboard but none of that mattered because we were all near tears from laughing so much. I went sightseeing with them and we delighted in the wonderment of seeing Big Ben (the Elizabeth tower if you are picky like that) and St. Paul’s cathedral. If my experiences painted the lines of my time in London, the people that I met colored in the picture.
I will miss London the city. I will miss what London represents. I will miss the friends that I left in London. But I will do my best to capture the spirit of empowerment I felt and never let go of it. I will keep being friends with the friends I made. I will keep making the most of every day. Because if I’m not doing that, then London just becomes memories in a scrap book. I refuse to let that happen.
More Blogs From This Author
<p>Hello! My name is Anand Ambrosi, and I am very excited to be studying abroad in London for the summer of 2022. I study civil engineering at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC and I am fascinated by the many ways that cities impact the lives of those that live within them. In my free time I enjoy reading books, hanging out at coffee shops and public parks, and learning about geography (specifically urban geography). I look forward to sharing my experiences throughout my summer in London as I explore as much I can of what this great city has to offer.</p>