The Comfort and Frustration of the Familiar

Headshot of Ian Donahue.
Ian Donahue
February 21, 2023
The Palace of Westminster towers over the Thames River on a cloudy day.

If you read my last blog post (thanks!), then the list I gave on avoiding typical travel issues should have seemed comprehensive enough. Always have a detailed plan. Make sure to strike a balance between wandering and walking with a purpose, etc.

But there was something important I forgot to mention. Something that I forgot until it slammed me in the face: unpredictability. You cannot control everything about travel, and sometimes you have to sit and wait. And wait. And keep waiting. This is my weekend in London, both the great and the awful.

My decision to go to London was made before I even knew where I was studying abroad. Once my friends in Ithaca decided they were going to London, there was an unknown weekend set aside for me to visit. It almost did not feel like I was going to London, I was going to visit my friends. So where did things go wrong? As soon as I left for the airport. There is wisdom in leaving for the airport a few hours before your flight, my Mom hammered that point in my mind. But I learned Thursday there is a thing as too early. To spare the details of the worst Thursday of my life, my plane was delayed. I missed two trains and the third was also twenty minutes late. By the time I  collapsed in my friend Inbaa’s arms, I lost all sanity. So, the moral of this little story? Sometimes things will not go your way, and you have to keep going.

The trip itself was a wonderful time. Ithaca College has a program through the school to London, so I saw many more Ithacans on top of Inbaa. To me, London seemed a perfect mix between New York and Boston. With the image of home around me, seeing people from school tricked me into thinking I was in the unknown borough of NYC that had Big Ben in it.

One thing that London does better than New York in every way is the metro system. I have a love-hate relationship with the subway and for good reason. The London Underground has everything the subway does and something more: clean seats! The ease of knowing the native language took me out of the abroad feeling, except for the accent. And now exists the worst photo of me ever taken so it’s like I never left!

As I was walking the streets of London with Inbaa I had a realization: I had been here before. Not the same place, but the same feelings. Not everything abroad gives you something new. The expectation abroad is that every day you will face new locations, food, people, language, customs, and culture, thrown together with a new set of challenges and people to meet. Your entire life is thrown upside down and it is both daunting and exhilarating. But after some time of settling in and getting into the swing of things, things become a routine. Traveling to London made me understand that the charm of discovering a new place may not be permanent, but the feeling of stumbling across something familiar can also be extremely comforting. London may not have the architectural marvels of Rome’s churches but what it did have was my friends, and the sense that while I was far from home, it wasn’t as far away as I had thought.

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Headshot of Ian Donahue.

Ian Donahue

Hey! My name is Ian and I am a junior at Ithaca College, where I major in history meaning long papers are my specialty. I play on my school's club ultimate frisbee team and we even went to the national tournament! I am from New York City so navigating public transit is a refined skill of mine. I am beyond excited and grateful for the opportunity to study abroad in Rome, eat amazing food and see places I've dreamed of seeing my whole life.

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