An American Fish in British Waters

As an American General Course student, I would say that the beginning of my study abroad experience at LSE can only be described as what it must feel like to wake up in a different dimension or wake up from a coma.

In this uniquely bizarre and wonderful alternate universe that the locals call London, many things feel familiar—but nothing feels exactly right. The Kit Kats taste like chocolate—but they are so much milkier than my taste buds are used to. When I crossed the UK border last week, I came in knowing that I would have to be careful of drivers zooming by on the left side of the road. What I didn’t know was that I also had to watch out for the slew of bicyclists and motorcyclists that whiz by around them as if they’re auditioning for Mission Impossible 6. Or, to be more topical, the next Bond film.

To top off my disorientation, I’ve noticed something odd about the birds in this city. Obviously, many cosmopolitan cities around the world are home to pigeons. However, I will make the claim that London houses the world’s most fearless pigeons. These so-called birds couldn’t care less for their own personal safety or survival from what I’ve seen. I walked around a pigeon last Tuesday because it was in my way on the sidewalk.

Most sane pigeons that I know would fly away before humans swarmed onto city streets in the early morning.

For the most part, these differences are largely insignificant. I finished my KitKat (it still satisfied my chocolate craving). I’ve crossed the street many times and have only almost been hit once (those are good odds, if you ask me). And although I could be wrong, I don’t think I ever saw that pigeon again.

This is the best way that I can describe what being in London is like as an American. We are cut from the same cloth, but the texture and the smell of our quilts are noticeably different; we are more similar than we are different, but our differences are still noticeable. If London was a cloth, it would be made of tweed and smell like tea and cigarettes. If my semi-hometown of Washington D.C. was a cloth, it would also be made of tweed, but smell like French fries and lemonade.

Er, I’m sorry, chips and lemon squash. I have to remember my audience.

Overall, I’m excited to see what my year in the UK and at LSE will have to offer. I plan to absorb as much information as I can in my lectures and classes, but I’m also eager to be a student of the city of London. Considering that I thought that that ground floor and the first floor meant the same thing about a week ago, time will only tell what wealth of knowledge I’ll have by June.

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