It’s been over a year since my semester in London began, and I strangely miss that historical, literary, modern, complex, and beautiful city more than ever before. I’ve always been an Anglophile, and living amidst that culture for nearly four months just made me fall even more in love with it. As someone who thrives being in a city, learning to live in one of the world’s greatest was an invaluable experience for me.
Like all study abroad returnees, I spent last semester’s first few weeks in a daze of getting re-accustomed to “real school,” but ultimately enjoying the dive back into normal life. I loved the new thrill of being an upperclassman, seeing friends and professors for the first time in nine months, and doing intense internship work remotely.
Now, midway through first semester of my senior year, I’ve found myself experiencing an entirely different kind of grief over not being in London. There have been days when I find myself feeling miserable because I can’t just jump on a train and end up by the river, an outdoor market, or an independent bookshop. Here, I usually have to rely on others if I want to leave campus, even if it’s just for something as simple as going grocery shopping. It wasn’t until I moved into a Siena townhouse and had to shop for food regularly that I sorely missed just being able to walk to the corner shop for little necessities like bread and milk.
Convenience is obviously not the only thing making me more nostalgic than usual. As the weather here becomes cooler and greyer, I flash back to chilly days in London that just seemed to accentuate the city’s gorgeous architecture. I’m not a big fan of hotter weather, and the smells of wet leaves and city soot are some of my favorite things. Arriving to the UK’s pleasantly cool weather after a sticky New York summer was such a huge relief, and – spoiler alert – it’s not as cold and rainy there as people say. If you’re a fan of sweater weather, you can break out those cardigans far sooner there than here.
Ultimately, I think the independence London allowed me to explore and develop is what’s causing this ache. I never felt more like an adult than I did navigating a new city (normally I’m horribly directionally challenged) and making it home. I even had an internship in central London, working two full-time days and two half days a week. Plus, so much of what I love is so valued in London – books, theater, great public transportation. Plenty of American cities have those elements, of course, and I can’t faithfully say London has the best mesh, but my experiences obviously make me biased.
Perhaps it’s because so many friends are considering some kind of international work after graduation, but I’ve thought about applying to London jobs in addition to primarily Manhattan jobs. I don’t necessarily think offers would come to an American who just graduated, but that’s okay. I would gladly work for a few years here and make connections with companies that may have branches in London. Perhaps my brief UK work experience would even make the search easier than it normally would be.
Of course, I still have fears about what living abroad for real would be like, particularly if I go there without having any friends in the city. Being a shy introvert, I sometimes struggle with meeting new people and becoming friends with them – I would hate for loneliness to be what drives me out of one of my favorite cities. But the self that I developed in London is someone I want to be again, and, for now, I only know her to exist over there. If I know I can become my best self in London, then there’s honestly nothing that will faze me away from chasing down that life for good.
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