I have been in London for just over a month, and it has been the longest month of my life.
Nothing could have prepared me for the first week. Between the chaos of registering for classes, making sure I was following COVID-19 protocols, and unpacking, I found myself wondering if it would ever feel like home here.
Nothing seemed to be going right. My registration had not been approved by the first day of class. My student ID pickup had been delayed. I needed to find a grocery store. I didn’t even have a pillow! Every time I addressed a problem, two more popped up. If things continue like this, I thought, the six months ahead will be very long.
But under all the worries, I could not help but feel excited. In spite of it all, I had made it to London. To pass the time, I started taking walks around the neighborhood. Every day, I would go a bit farther. At first, I gawked like a typical tourist at the beautiful architecture and expansive parks. They were unlike anything I had seen before, streets lined with wonderful old buildings. Even a walk to the grocery store was a glorious sight.
On my walks, I was taken aback by the sheer number of different languages I heard around me. I had known that London was a global city before, but it took on a different meaning once I arrived. People from all over the world were walking the same streets as me. These walks were exciting, but they also made the city feel so unfamiliar. Nothing in Texas was quite like this, which both thrilled me and made me miss the familiarity of home.
Meanwhile, things started to slowly fall into place. My class schedule was finalized on the morning of the first day of classes, and I was able to pick up my student ID shortly after. The first week of classes came, with all the typical small worries. Was I in the right classroom? Where could I find this building? I’m proud to say that I did not get lost in the first week, and I managed to survive.
Then came figuring out the university system in the U.K. For most of my classes, I do not have weekly homework. Instead, most, if not all, of the final grade depends on a final exam or essay. I quickly realized that I would have to change my study habits to fit this structure. Like everything else so far, it would not be a straightforward task.
For the first few weeks, I felt as if I was juggling so many things at the same time while constantly being given new things to juggle: new classes, a new campus, a new city, a new country. So little was familiar.
But then something happened this past week. Walking back from class, my hands jammed in my pockets to protect me from the chill, I was thinking through what I needed to read before one of my other classes. I glanced at the grocery store as I passed it, remembering that I had to buy detergent at some point.
I kept walking and thinking, past the sushi place, past the pub on the corner.
Then I realized just how familiar these places had become. They were just places along my walk home, places in my little neighborhood. Without noticing, the neighborhood around me had become my neighborhood.
There are still so many unfamiliar things around me, but I’ve grown to love them. Looking back at only a month prior, it’s a bit funny how worried I was about feeling at home, now that it’s happened almost accidentally. Now, the six months do not seem so daunting, but encouraging.
I have all this time to get to know this city, with its beautiful buildings and parks. I am ready to face my classes head-on and learn as much as I can. The first month was the longest month of my life, but now the time has begun to fly.
This post was contributed by Luisa Matzner, a Global Ambassador for Spring 2022. Luisa is a second-year design major studying abroad in London, England.