Minding the Gap (between America and Britain)

Ariana Lisefski
January 30, 2013

Today marked a small victory towards blending into the London population—if only just a bit. After three weeks here (boy, does it feel like longer), I am still reminded of the fact that I’m American on a near-daily basis. Sure, I can navigate the buses and Tube (quietly), weave assertively through pedestrians on sidewalks, and fish out the appropriate coinage to pay for my fish and chips, but any time I go out with a group of other Americans, it’s no use; we stick out like a sore thumb. Easily and always the loudest in every restaurant or pub.

But today in the post office, a man took me for an Australian! I don’t know how he possibly mistook my accent, and of course he still knew I wasn’t from around here, but it leant me a small measure of satisfaction that my Americanism wasn’t completely obvious. The fact of the matter is that London is so incredibly diverse that people will hardly blink an eye at how you look or talk, no matter where you hail from. I really have started to feel like I live here.

On the other hand, I can also be a shameless tourist, no problem. A free Friday found me and my friends hopping all over the city to get some major sights under our belts: climbing on the lions in Trafalgar Square, drooling over food in the food halls of Harrods, and pretending to be Harry Potter at Platform 9 ¾ in King’s Cross Station. I’ve taken a boat and walked through a snowy Greenwich Village, watching people having snowball fights on the lawns of the Royal Naval College buildings and getting a piping hot dessert crepe from a stall in the market. I’ve traveled to Bourton-on-the-Water, a village in the Cotswolds with picturesque shops and teahouses lining the river where people are feeding ducks, and then on to Oxford to walk through the streets and stately buildings of one of the oldest university towns.

And I continue to set my sights further: this weekend is an overnight trip to Bath, with visits to Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral. I’ll spend another weekend in Paris, and my Easter break seeing Amsterdam, Brussels, and Bruges. After that, who knows what! There can never be a dull moment here, and I don’t want there to be. I love every second of it.

Even during the week in classes, we get to get out and connect what we’re learning to the city itself. Any given day might have us meeting at the Museum of London or the National Portrait Gallery for a class. My film censorship class went to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) offices in Soho this week, which I absolutely loved. It’s one thing to feel you fit in while walking down the sidewalk in London, but it’s having a wider knowledge of the history and workings of this city that really makes me start to feel like a Londoner.

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Ariana Lisefski

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Ariana is a junior at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, majoring in Creative Writing and minoring in Gender and Women&#39;s Studies. On campus, she is busy with bellydance and yoga, and as an executive member of the student health club. She has ridden elephants in Thailand and gone whitewater rafting in New Zealand, but her time studying abroad in London will be her first experience of Europe, which she hopes to make the very most of. Writing is how she makes sense of the world, and she hopes to share this blog with you while she explores jolly old England!</span></p>

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