Boarding my plane to London, I imagined myself stepping onto British soil and immediately channeling my inner Bridget Jones. I pictured myself living in a pastel colored building à la Notting Hill, walking the old cobblestone streets, forcing myself to like tea and maybe even find my own Mr. Darcy.
But upon arrival to my flat, I realized that my rosy-eyed view of life abroad was already crumbling down.
My university was located in Mile End which is infamously nick-named “Murder Mile” as a result of it being home to Jack the Ripper. My flat consisted of private bedrooms, a kitchen that was always overflowing with dirty dishes and a communal bathroom that was never stocked with toilet paper.
Luckily, I found plenty to explore outside of my small flat. One of my favorite days abroad was a solo trip I took into the heart of London during my last week.
I was in search of Temple Church which is the burial place for the knight, William Marshall, whom I had read about extensively in a history class I was taking. One of my favorite things about being abroad was being able to visit magnificent churches and cathedrals. As a history buff, I also reveled in visiting the sites of major historical characters and events I had learned so much about.
I got off the tube at Temple station and made my way into the chilly December streets of London. I made my way to the church but when I came up to the big doors, I heard that the choir was practicing inside for a Christmas concert. Not wanting to disturb them, I left only having received a glimpse of the outside of the beautiful building.
Snow began to fall as I made my way away from the church, unsure of my next destination, but I didn’t mind. I took in the scene of Londoners just going about their day completely unaware that I was a temporary visitor who was soon to leave the city I had fallen in love with.
I came across a market where I purchased a hot plate of pad Thai. I sat by myself eating my meal, surrounded by other Londoners on their lunch break and found myself feeling like I was right where I was supposed to be. I didn’t even mind returning to my somewhat dingy flat.
Studying abroad can often come with perceived pressures to explore and do as much as possible. As much as this is true, I grew exhausted with the idea that every activity I undertook during my time in England had to be picture perfect. In fact, most of my adventures involved missteps like getting on the wrong train or arriving to a museum right as it closed. But these memories make for the greatest stories to share and also reflect reality.
Even if I didn’t actually start drinking tea, or experienced a meet-cute in Hyde Park or live in the most glamorous part of town, I found that my misadventures led to some of my most memorable moments and allowed me to experience London in a way that is only my own.