Student Abroad Series: Week One in London- Adjustment

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Photo Credit: Sara Flores

As someone who has never had any time to travel abroad, I was quite surprised when the opportunity to study literature in London for three weeks with nine other UTSA students fell so easily into my lap. As far as foreign countries go, it seemed like the perfect mixture of brand new yet strangely familiar. London is an English-speaking city, but culturally, light years away from the life I lead in Texas. There exists here not only a diverse community of Londoners themselves, but people from all over the world that have chosen this city as their place of residence.

The mention of London often conjures images of Big Ben, red telephone booths or perhaps Buckingham Palace; however, I’ve always been interested in the casual, day-to-day things this city has to offer. While I value the cultural importance of sites that usually function as tourist attractions, my original goal was to make time to find deeper areas of the city to explore. As London is also a significant city for unique fashion, I came prepared to search for a new wardrobe. The impeccably built buildings serve as one kind of attraction, but the street life and high-end shopping centers give the city a lived-in feel. I still feel that I am a foreigner, of course, London doesn’t seem quite as daunting when everyone is trying to fight the heat to find a great sale at H&M or Topshop.

My favorite aspect of the city so far is the odd placement of most of the buildings and shops. While walking through an area center such as Covent Garden, one may find street markets amongst the high-end stores and even stumble upon a production of Julius Caesar being performed to a crowd of sitting onlookers. After a long day of walking and shopping, a friend and I managed to find an unassuming film museum hidden away between some restaurants. In the same vein, though a car is my go-to mode of transportation in San Antonio, I find myself constantly moved by the energy I feel from simply riding the subway or walking a few blocks to have dinner at a pub. The liveliness of the city is enough to keep me going.

Despite the fact that I’m thriving in this new environment and feeling more comfortable as each day passes, visiting a country that operates under no air conditioning during a widespread heat wave has definitely posed some problems. Texas is known for its heat, but we can usually find a way to beat it if we make it inside. London, however, is currently struggling with the warmth outside and in. Surprisingly, living in a college dorm with ten people sharing two toilets has been the least of my worries thus far. Dorm life is something I have managed to avoid my entire college existence until now. There is something charming about late-night hallway talks and relating to one another through our adjustment period.

Although I had originally planned to try becoming one with the locals here in London, I found myself extremely moved by sites such as the Tower of London and the Canterbury Cathedral. These places have given me a different perspective of London as not only a city with a contemporary flare, but one with a history that will never fade away.

Personally, I am loving my new title: “Sara Flores, Official Tourist.”