A fellow traveler once told me that the best way to truly know a city was to literally lose yourself in it. And so it was that, several days after my arrival in London where I would be spending my Fall 2013 semester, my friend and I decided to explore our new home and discover what it held.
We spent several hours moseying around the city, discovering various parks and pubs and other places we would eventually come to love. For a while we had no idea where we were in relation to our flat or any other part of the city, and we didn’t even care. Our being lost made our finds all the more special. I still can recall with poignant clarity the moment I turned a corner and there before me lay the distinctive architecture of a landmark at which I had so often gazed longingly in pictures: Parliament.
At that surreal moment, it finally hit me. I was in London. London, England, the London I’ve seen in Sherlock and Love Actually and countless other movies and photographs.. I got to call London for the next four months.
During my time abroad, I experienced all sides of that incredible city, from random Scottish dances in Hyde Park to the impressive changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace to celebrating American football on Regent’s Street to wild nights out and pub crawls with my girl friends. I discovered a mouth-watering meal called kebabs and tasted beers and ciders I had never heard of. I walked the twinkling streets of a Christmas-themed city at 1am, returning from a weekend trip. And of course, I participated in the necessary tourist to-dos like visiting Platform 9 ¾, phone booth photos, fish ‘n’ chips, and Tower Bridge.
The tube map now holds a special place in my heart and I can’t help but feel emotional when One Republic refers to Picadilly in “Good Life.” I never imagined I would crave white cheddar cheese so much, but these past two months since I’ve returned have seemed so empty without it.
But what I loved most about my time abroad was that London opened my eyes to the world around me. Traveling, whether to and from the city or within it, is so accessible, all forms of public transportation facilitating trips around the world. There is so much out there, so much to see and learn, and I will never be able to do it all. But my time in London convinced me that I will see as much of the world as I possibly can.