Finding the Exotic in the Familiar

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When people think of London they may think of the Queen, Big Ben, double decker buses, the tube and tea. And of course the accents. But rarely do people consider London an exotic location for study abroad. After I decided to study abroad junior fall, I narrowed my choices to London and Florence. I knew I wanted to choose London, but felt pressured to choose Florence, as London wasn’t truly “abroad.” Ultimately, I listened to my instincts and enrolled in King’s College London.

My study abroad experience in London completely changed my global perspective and increased my confidence. I had the world at my fingertips. I grew up in a very small town, but by the time I left London, I felt completely comfortable living in the center of a global metropolis. Aside from the stereotypical tourist traps, London is a place of remarkable diversity. It has rich history and culture, and the Brits’ have a flare for understatement and wit.

London skyline and view of The Shard building

I had many adventures and made some of the very best friends while there. I waited at a red carpet premiere to meet Tom Cruise, where I was nearly trampled by other enthusiastic fans.

My friends and I took an overnight, 10-hour bus ride to Edinburgh, and I questioned my life choices when we stopped at a rest stop at 4 a.m. and I had no idea whether I was in England or Scotland.

Mountains and skyI scaled a mountain in England’s Lake District because our guide decided that the side of the mountain was more appropriate than a well-worn path. There were more sheep than people in Lake District, but we could see the stars, and I thought to myself, “how am I so lucky to be in northern England as part of this crazy adventure.”

My flat had a fifth member—a mouse—who probably ate better than I did. I lived off of rice and yogurt because I had no idea how to cook, much to the amusement of my flat mates.

I got lost in Berlin because I took a train one hour in the wrong direction and then my phone died.

I got lost in Hampstead Heath, the well-to-do area that is home to London’s celebrities, in the dark with a dead phone. I danced like crazy alongside British students at clubs, went to markets and festivals, absorbed history and art, and studied in the British Library within view of the Magna Carta.

I had classes in St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, the National Gallery and the British Museum. I witnessed one of the most controversial American presidential elections of all time from non-American soil and saw the reactions of people of many different nationalities.

Most importantly, I stepped outside of both the United States and my comfort zone and truly took advantage of all my opportunities.

I never dreamed that three short months could completely alter my life, but they did. I am now comfortable navigating a big city, and I understand the United States better than I ever have before. I left a piece of my heart in London, but I know I’ll return. As Londoners would say, “cheerio, mate.” 

 

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Charlotte Kaufmann

Charlotte Kaufmann ’18 is a history major at Davidson College.

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