As a preface to this article, being abroad has been nothing short of incredible. Although I have only been in London for a few weeks, these past few weeks have been the best of my life. There are a million and one reasons to love London: people watching is significantly more entertaining when everyone has a British accent and is wearing something other than a sorority tank and Nike shorts; scales give measurements in kilograms instead of pounds; every fast food restaurant has two stories; and there are double decker C-2’s (which drive on the wrong side of the road which is absolutely terrifying). Despite these perks, living 4,000 miles away from Duke has forced me to realize that there are a lot of things that I miss about it and that I took for granted until now.
1. Food Points (To clarify: exclusively food points, not Marketplace or the food itself)
The only good thing about the pound (the British version of the dollar) is that the bills are more colorful and aesthetically pleasing than American bills. Living in London, or Western Europe in general is expensive. To put things in perspective: the price of a Big Mac in America is $4. The price of a Big Mac in London is almost $9 (which is fine because I don’t eat red meat so Big Mac’s gross me out anyway). Needless to say, there’s no dollar menu here. I miss walking out of the Lobby Shop with 10 shopping bags thinking “wow, that literally just cost nothing”. I miss being on a first name basis with the Jimmy Johns deliveryman because of how easy, cheap and quick it was to order in on food points. Perhaps I’ll rethink this when I come back to campus and discover the lack of food options due to construction, but for now, I miss food points.
2. Duke’s Campus
During orientation, a speaker referred to University College London’s “beautiful main quad”, which made me angry and defensive. Clearly, this speaker had never been to Duke, because the area he had said was a “beautiful main quad” was actually just a rectangular quad of pavement. Because it is a city school, the buildings are scattered throughout a general area of London. Although it has its perks, it lacks both the incredible views and the Harry Potter-esque buildings that we have at Duke (but platform 9 and ¾ is here, which somewhat makes up for its lack of Harry Potter architecture). I miss the drive as you pull up to the Chapel; I miss the glimpse you get of the Chapel when you look to the right while walking down the BC Plaza, and I miss the stunning view as you walk from Central Campus to West Campus via the Gardens (note: stunning and Central used in the same sentence). The number of people who Instagram the Duke Chapel on a daily basis is somewhat of a testament to its beauty, but I don’t think Duke students truly realize how lucky they are to go to such a beautiful school until they step foot on another school’s campus.
This category isn’t designated exclusively to Shooters, itself. Instead, it should be thought of as “a night at Shooters”, including but not limited to: the price of cab fare and cover, the general ambiance and, of course, the scent that remains on your clothing for 2 weeks following a Shooters outing. It costs around 20 pounds to get into most clubs in London, which doesn’t sound too bad until you realize that it’s pounds not dollars. Twenty pounds is almost forty dollars. (For those who are not in Pratt, that’s the equivalent of 8 nights at Shooters). Although I feel as if putting “Shooters” and “comfort” into the same sentence would be the epitome of an oxymoron, I truly do miss the comfort of Shooters. I miss the comfort of knowing that if you step one foot in any direction, you will undoubtedly recognize someone you know; that if you don’t recognize someone you know, you still feel safe because nearly everyone there is a Duke student (give or take a few creepy Durhamites). I miss knowing that if after five minutes you realize that you want to go home, it’s okay, because the only thing separating you from your bed is a meager $2 for a cab ($2 in a cab here would get you less than 1 foot from your start destination).
More often than not, my texts send in green, not blue. In other words, I frequently find myself in a location that lacks Wifi, which inhibits my ability to effectively communicate with people in America, to read the news, to watch Netflix and most importantly, to check social media. Americans are so accustomed to universal, free access to Wifi that it comes as a shock when they are put into a foreign setting where it most definitely isn’t free or universal. Nonetheless, the lack of constant Wifi has been a blessing in disguise, as I find myself more immersed in daily activities and in the present when there isn’t a phone in my hand to constantly distract me. It’s refreshing to be at a meal where nobody is on his or her phone, but it does become frustrating when watching the season premiere of Homeland requires hours of planning due to a lack of Wifi or when talking on the phone with someone in America becomes a treat due to inaccessibility.
This content of this article and the way that the title is phrased may have been slightly misleading. Although I do miss Duke’s campus, Europe in general is absolutely beautiful. Although I do miss food points, the food in Europe is not even comparable to the food on Duke’s campus. Although I do miss Shooters, the nightlife in Europe is unbeatable. And, although I do miss Wifi, it’s relatively refreshing being in a group setting, where people are actually speaking and not texting.
So, for the next three months, I plan to indulge in all that Europe has to offer. I'll try chicken parm in Italy without thinking about my Jimmy Johns Turkey Tom, and in Barcelona, I will be thankful that my clothing doesn’t smell like Shooters. I'll Instagram the Eiffel Tower in Paris, giving everyone's Insta feed a break from cliché Chapel pictures, and I'll leave my disconnected phone in my bag for a while (or until I get pick-pocketed) and actually talk to all of the interesting people that I meet. I'm going to have the experience of a lifetime over the next few months, but at the end of the semester, I'm sure I'll be eager to return home to Duke.