One month into living in London and how is it, you ask? Well, in short, let's just say... TRANSITION IS REAL.
I've had some of the best days ever (from touring London with friends, experiencing the magic that is the London Eye, and finding great local spots to grab a cup of coffee or scone). I've also had some not-so-great moments (like getting my new bike stolen, almost getting clipped by two buses with said bike, and sudden bits of homesickness). I've had my fair share of grey days and sunny days; cool days and cooler days; healthy ones and sicks ones (currently getting over a cold actually...); and days where I'm out and about the town all day, and days where I'm cooped up in my flat reading for class or working on PhD apps (USC is due this weekend!).
What am I learning in the midst of it all?
Again and again, I'm learning to be humble.
In the midst of living in such an international city, where you can travel on the Tube or bus and hear multiple languages simultaneously (I think I counted 6 in a fifteen-minute bus ride once); visit a plethora of diverse cultures at a market in the span of minutes; and engage with colleagues from throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America, I've really learned the need to be humble. I've seen how my American point-of-view can be narrow-minded, I've been challenged to ask good questions and learn from others whose experiences are vastly different from me, and I've been pushed to ask for help when I need it. I've also come to realize the ways I feel entitled to certain things (e.g. my personal space, nice-smelling people, and big-portioned meals) and how I'm being invited to step out into a new culture, a new way of living -- to keep an open mind.
Secondly, I've been learning to take the first step.
Whether it's putting myself out there to make new friends and making plans to grab coffee or grab a meal, just getting my foot out of the door on those days when I want to be lazy and keep to myself, or seeking out ministry, internship, and volunteer opportunities, I've seen the need not to let my fears or emotions dictate how I approach situations. To put myself out there. And to meet new people, try new things, and be bold. Only then will I be able to get the full experience I'm seeking for this year abroad.
With that said, here's a list of three things I appreciate about London and British culture:
- Their love for pastries, tea, and beer - Even if most of the food in London seems undersized and overpriced for my American stomach, what I love about British culture is that I can always find a place for a good scone, hot tea, or beer, no matter what time of day!
- Friendly police officers - Getting my bike stolen was a miserable experience but I'm thankful that at least the police officers who handled the situation and with whom I spoke were kind, courteous, and understanding. And very, very diligent in following up and explaining the process thoroughly.
- That I get to experience life as an international student - Before this month, I knew a few international students at UCLA and sympathized for them what it must be like to study in a foreign city and be immersed in a foreign culture, speaking a foreign language. Living in a new city and continent has forced me to realize how comfortable LA was. Though I'm sure I am not living the complete international student experience since I'm fortunate to be in an English-speaking country, I more and more see why God calls us to "love the stranger."
That's all for now, folks. By my next update, I'll have explored Oxford and maybe some other parts of England. Looking forward to sharing about those places!