Trying to condense this whole experience that I’ve had in the London semester into 20 blog posts is – nearly impossible. I found myself often picking and choosing, not just for space, but for interest, what I was going to write about with each post because it really isn’t all that self-explanatory. How do you convey the feeling of living in a foreign nation, grabbing your experience by the horns, and holding on for dear life without describing every minute of every day? And even then I feel like taking a camera and recording literally every second of my life would not be enough to accurately depict what’s in my head when I’m walking down Edgeware Road, or taking one last look at Hyde Park, or getting Fish and Chips at a local pub that I didn’t know served Fish and Chips until the very last week I was here. (The Lirrick Pub has the best Fish and Chips I had all semester). How do I capture this experience in 20 blog posts? Much less one final one?
I don’t. All I can say is “Go do it yourself.” Go to the U.K. Live here for three months (or however long your busy life allows you too). And I mean live here. Don’t stay in a hotel, get an Air Bnb (or a Hostel if money is tight). Walk around and interact with the locals. A lot of them keep their headphones in, but some don’t. And most people will talk to you if you talk to them first. And everyone around you will shake their head and cough and sigh, but if you talk to them too they will forget that they ever looked down on you for talking to them. Listen to the funny accents. Go up North, don’t just stay in London. This funny little Island only gets better when you go North. It’s like being in Westeros (gee I wonder why), the further North you go, the cooler it gets; pun absolutely intended.
Don’t make puns.
Listen intently when the locals talk to you about how stupid Trump is. Agree with them vehemontly. And if you don’t agree with them and think Trump’s the greatest, do yourself a couple of favors and don’t leave the US because you’re gonna have a bad time, and click away from this blog. You’ve already given me your ad revenue anyway. On this note, read the newspapers and recognize that foreign governments have equally as stupid elected officials as the United States does, usually minus the blatant racism and regressive tax policy. (And don’t even get me started on the name of God in the mouth of politicians, where He has no place).
I’ve found myself saying “lory” and “carpark” and “bin” and “crisps;” I find myself ironically saying “breky” and wondering why anyone with a functioning frontal lobe would call Breakfast “breky.” I’ve found myself thinking less about how this place and these people compare to home and now find myself using analogies from home to explain how things work here. The difference demonstrated in that sentence is this: I think of these places as their own, comparable to my homeland, but they are their own with their own history and culture that could never be translated – even if we speak the same language.
If you’ve ever had a moment of clarity about the smallness of our place here (I hear often people have it while they’re on a plane, or astronauts have it when they are staring at Earth from Orbit) you’ll understand the feeling of being an American from a city maybe half of the population of Europe has heard of. About half of the time, if I say I’m from “Chicago,” people have never heard of it – or have, but have no idea why. I can’t blame them, aside from a few songs, Second City Improv, and the fact that Kim Jong Un’s favorite Basketball team is the Chicago Bulls, there really isn’t any reason for anyone outside of Chicago to know Chicago. And that’s the perspective you get abroad. It doesn’t matter that people have never heard of where your soul lives, because you probably haven’t heard of where theirs is. I say this recognizing that people from small town America, which is still roughly half of our population, and even more from smaller cities that no one has ever heard of, experience this problem more regularly than someone from Chicago would. But who said that studying abroad means I have to only understand “abroad” more?
And that’s really the point I’m trying to make here. Yes I understand the UK far better than I ever have. I understand Europe a bit more. I understand the complicated relationship the British Isles have with themselves, a little bit more at least. I understand that American news is just as significant here as most Americans believe it is there. I understand that the rural/urban divide probably isn’t going away any time soon, but the solution isn’t moderate or conservative legislation, it’s proper education. I understand that my language, English, is the best one to be able to speak in the world, but also the worst one to grow up speaking. And when did I come to understand this? I’m not sure. It happened sometime between August and now, and I don’t think this understanding will ever leave me.
I’m going to come back here. I’m not sure when, and I’m not sure how. But I will. You can keep up with how and when and why I’m doing that on my main blog, which I’ve linked to here. Warning before you click: I tend use foul language and openly talk about sometimes uncomfortable topics.