First Impressions

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I expected something. Maybe not the gut-wrenching panic of being in such an unfamiliar place, but some twinge of recognition from my body and mind that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

As the coach pulled away from Heathrow airport and I watched as we sped down the expressway towards the London Center, I started to wonder if I had made a grave mistake. Reminders of my mother’s words, “you always have buyer’s remorse, no matter the choice you make,” floated through my mind. A snapchat I had received from a friend emblazoned with the words – “you’ll love it. It’s just like an American city” haunted my memory.

I didn’t feel any different as we took the highway towards London’s Zone 1 and my new city. Nothing. I watched people driving on the opposite side of the road, and it didn’t faze me. I didn’t even feel jetlagged. My friends around me, groggy and blurry-eyed struggled to stay awake on our trip to the center while I tried to decide if this place was too close to home. I memorized a path my friends and I took to an ATM and the streets reminded me of the energy of my own city. Even the convenience store advertising “share a Coke with your mates” amused me but still seemed more like an anomaly than the reality of where I would be living. The tube was just like any other subway I had taken. And I was flipping out. Had I journeyed to Europe and was planning on spending my hard earned money on a place that felt exactly like home?

Hanging out in an Edinburgh restaurant on the first day.

Hanging out in an Edinburgh restaurant on the first day.

It wasn’t even the unfamiliar sandwiches and crisps and sodas that finally made me settle down about whether or not this was a different enough place. It was the brutally long 3-minute struggle of checking out my £3.99 meal deal from a store in the middle of King’s Cross station. It was the confusion of why I had to buy a bag for 2 pence and how to deal with a chip-and-pin card while the cashier unabashedly judged me, checking my signature against my debit card. It was as simple as that to make me realize that I wasn’t home anymore. And I wasn’t going to be for a while.

I’d been reminding myself all morning that this was why I chose London (besides financial reasons). This was my adjustment to the world. This was my ease into culture shock. I had practically panicked myself into a tizzy when something as simple as going to college happened, and lord knows I didn’t want to be so strung out on excitement and adrenaline in a city that was so unfamiliar it was hard to adjust to. I was trying to dive headfirst into a culture that was not mine and it wasn’t working because I was not only trying too hard but also expecting too much. I keep having to remind myself that this is my first time abroad and I think I’m still fairly numb to the entire concept of being somewhere else in the world. It’s just another place to me, strangely enough. But I think my comfort level with being in London means I know I’m ready to adventure.

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