I first fell in love with London as a tourist in 2017, wandering down cobblestone streets, enjoying afternoon tea every single day and even happening upon both Prince Harry and Harry Styles, striking poses on the red carpet of a movie premiere in Leicester Square.
That was a dream of a trip, but this semester, though cut short, was even better than a dream: it's been real life. It has been full to the brim of routines and rainy days, mixed in with the international travel and pub nights.
The ease of integration into the community is my number one reason why I enjoyed studying in London. I tried to live like the locals lived last semester in Austria, but it's pretty tricky when you can barely make small talk in German. Although the British accents threw me for a loop for the first few weeks, I feel like I actually experienced quite a few elements of life as a Londoner. It was easy to be part of music ensembles on campus and to take fitness classes at the on-campus gym, as well. Zumba lifted the mood on many a dreary day!
I was fortunate to secure an internship at Animal Defenders International, a nonprofit I've admired for years, and working in the office with full-time lobbyists was empowering and enlightening. As a bonus, their British sense of humor never got old. When I would emerge from the Westminster tube station, I would be awestruck and grinning every time. There I was, amidst all these historic buildings, walking alongside parliamentarians, past Brexit protesters and environmental activists. The city was humming with life all around me, and I was part of that communal energy.
Free museums and parks are scattered all over the city. If you get off at any tube stop, it's likely there will be a museum within walking distance and a stunner of a park. The Tube is glorious because it connects you to parks in central London like my favorite, flowery St. James's Park, and to parks in fancy suburbs like Hampstead. I spent a recent day at Hampstead Heath, which is more of a forest than a park, and there were dogs galore. What more could you ask for?
I counted my blessings every single day to be living in the vegan food capital of the world. Trust me, it's a bonus even if you're an omnivore. I tried foods I'd never heard of before, like ackee, which is a fruit that bears a striking resemblance, in taste, texture and appearance, to eggs. London is fond of their sausage rolls, and there are delicious vegan versions on basically every street in the city. British baristas sometimes scoffed when I would timidly ask, "Do you have non-dairy milk?", and proceed to list off the five or six varieties of plant-based milk they served. America needs to catch up!
Finally, the diversity of languages and ethnicities and perspectives never ceases to amaze. Anyone can find "their people" here, because communities have formed to accommodate every identity and passion imaginable. I am counting my blessings that I settled in, found my people and stayed a while. I'll be back, London, soon as I can.
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<p>I'm a big fan of tea (matcha, rooibos, black...I love them all) so I'm looking forward to drinking my weight in tea while in London! I'll also be on the lookout for the best vegan spots in London; I've heard there are quite a few to choose from!</p>