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?
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.