My name is Angel Ann Semrick, and I come from the faraway land of Kentucky, USA. I grew up within the sweet corn and wheat fields of my hometown, and my idea of a large city is a place where there is more than three traffic lights. (As you can imagine, this makes London a very, very, very large city to me. A place that fits 14 million people during the workday needs So Many Traffic Lights.) I lovingly study Elementary Education and Special Education at Western Kentucky University, with the hope of becoming a Kindergarten teacher who fills children with knowledge and love. (And perhaps also becoming a children’s author – more on this later.)
Being that I am from such a tiny place a large ocean away from England, I knew little more than talks of tea and red telephone booths about the place I was soon to travel. This blog post details the differences that color my time here, from language barriers to culture shock, in a hopefully interesting enough way that you will read it with enjoyment.
One thing that I love about London is that it can take your breath away with its beauty or its culture or its history enough that you want the entire city to just pause out of respect for this moment of revelation, this moment when your world is being redefined. But it doesn’t, and of course it doesn’t, because London is not the kind of city that has the kind of time to sit still or wait for anyone or anything to catch up to it.
I suppose that’s part of its magic.
Coming from America, I wondered what kinds of feelings I would feel as I entered the land where my ancestors decided to leave and eventually divorce. I thought my first impressions would be deep and wise, but instead I found myself gapping at the driver-less vehicles that hurried past me, a single body in the passenger space, traveling furiously on the wrong side of the road. My first trip in one of these vehicles was rather unsettling, and I found that while navigating the streets I was more than grateful for the “Look Left” paint on the road saving me from becoming Red-Bus-Road-Kill.
As if this Great Confusion were not enough, the setup of London adds to the challenge of studying abroad. The changing of tube lines, the twisting, cobblestone paths, the crosswalks that often became cross-RunAndHopeYouMakeIts creates adventures for me and my new friends. Learning to navigate without having a GPS is a rite of passage, and I am grateful for the opportunity to grow in such a way.
Other differences that encouraged me to grow as an individual: the true global-ness (if I may use such a term) of this city. Never before have I seen such a beautiful blend of cultures. Shop keepers have patience with me as I try to figure out the ever-confusing currency and offer to help. People on the streets speak a myriad of languages, but most wear a smile for you. The city breathes in different cultures and exhales an acceptance and appreciation unlike anything I have ever known. And that is my favorite part.
The class in which I study holds a mixture of people who come from places all over the wide world with perspectives and ideas much different than mine. This is exciting and new; I’ve never had a class so diverse. I am excited to learn and share with you what I will learn in my time here, both intellectually and culturally.
While these are some of the bigger differences between the US and the UK, I think the little, subtler differences are the most surprising to me. A small language barrier exists that I did not anticipate, between “chips” not being Chips, and “pounds” not being Weight, and “calories” existing as Kilo-Jules. Lunch is cheaper takeaway, alcohol is available at Tesco, and stickers are not a popular souvenir and very impossible to find. I delight in these differences and cannot wait to find more of them to share.
London is a big place for this small girl, but it is a playground I am thrilled to explore.
I am glad you can peek into this adventure with me.
Until next time,