England has changed me over the past three and a half months, in expected and unexpected ways. As I had hoped prior to my departure, I have immersed myself in this new culture and learned boundless amounts of new information that otherwise would still be unknown to me. History, geography, politics, and language are just some of the subjects for which new information and perspectives flood into my mind daily. Also, as I hoped, I have become more confident in myself and my abilities. Navigating new cities, remaining successful in a completely different academic setting, and managing money through the exchange rates are all tasks which were (and in some ways still are) major hurdles that are making me stronger and more independent.
Unexpected moments of this past semester include encountering the ‘British reserve’ and adjusting to it. When your enthusiasm for conversation or just a simple, friendly “hello, how are you?” is met with a seemingly frosty reply… It is hard to not feel offended. Watching Brits converse with each other though helped show me that truly, there is no reason to be offended. From what I have gathered many Brits will not be enthused over those everyday interactions with strangers. Once you get to know someone though, warmness is openly given.
Many unexpected moments came from travelling to new places. Once the term ended on the 12th of December, I visited London with a friend for a few days and then Bergen, which is the second biggest city in Norway.
My time in London during December was the first time of my study abroad that I really got to spend quality time exploring the famous city. Seeing all the tourist-y stuff was great. Platform 9 ¾ , the London Eye, Big Ben, the Globe Theatre, Westminster Abbey: they were sometimes the first images what came to mind, when I thought of this country, this summer before I came here. It was rewarding seeing them in person and to learn all the history and little secrets of these larger-than-life landmarks with such high status (pictures of some of these can be seen below). However, surprisingly, my most favorite part of London was not necessarily seeing all of these landmarks—it was all of the free museums! The Tate Modern and the Imperial War Museum were my absolute favorites. Seeing originals of Dali’s work in the Tate and spending hours in the World War I exhibit in the Imperial War Museum enriched my soul, understanding, and appreciation for these more complex concepts.
Norway (which you can see photos of at the end of this post) brought surprises as well! Every single person that I spoke to while in Norway spoke English. This fact really made me contemplate how prominent the English language is and that I am lucky and somewhat unlucky to have been born into a country where English is the main language. I feel lucky because of there is a higher chance of someone understanding me, but I feel like I am missing out because it is not imperative for me to know and be fluent in multiple tongues. Hearing all of the Norwegian people switch with ease from one language to another inspired me to return to my studying of German! Previously in high school and at Temple I took a total of five German classes, but I would still not consider myself near fluent at all. Through work of my own I hope to soon reach a level of fluency where I can converse with ease to native Germans.
Just this past week, my mom and one of my sisters came to visit me! We spent three days together in Norwich at my flat at the UEA and then three days at a hotel in London. Having them here was amazing, partly because it was a bit of medicine for the inevitable homesickness, but also because it became a way to reflect on how I have changed since being here. Neither of them has ever been to England or Europe before so all the questions, surprises, and concerns they had…I remember having some of the exact same ones!
-The fear that the car was going to crash since we were on the “wrong” side of the road
-Not knowing what to say when people ask, ‘You alright?’ as a greeting
-Figuring out the coins…
-Where is the £1 note?
-What is that in Fahrenheit?
By showing them around, I also proved to myself that I really have learned so much. I knew the buses, the trains and the surrounding areas. I felt like a junior tour guide! It was great getting to see my study abroad home through their eyes. It was like seeing it again for the first time. And, it also created a visible juxtaposition between my acquired comfort and their freshness…experiencing all these new things for the first time.
Looking ahead to the next six months, I am excited to see what new adventures (expected and unexpected) England and possibly other countries I may visit in Europe have in store for me. I am more prepared, excited, and a little nervous for my Spring semester classes (American Masculinities, Witchcraft, Magic and Belief in Early Modern Europe, and Modern Philosophy). I will hopefully continue to grow via my intellectual endeavors and learn about things I never even knew to exist before. Six months is a long time and I intend to fill every day with new experiences and lessons that I can carry with me for the rest of my life.
“Big Ben” or also known as the great bell within Elizabeth Tower!
On my way to Hogwarts 😀
The London Eye
Spending a few days in Bergen, Norway was quite strange, but also so enlightening. Just even using the foreign currency was fun! There were holes in the coins and the bills seemed massive! A 100 Krone note equals only about 13USD.
1 Norwegian Krone which equals about 13 cents
In between some of the wooden buildings of the Hanseatic wharf
On the fløibanen funicular up to the top of Mount Fløyen
The view from the top of Mount Fløyen
Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!