Today marked the halfway point of my voyage. 59 days down, 59 days left. To mark this occasion, I assembled a little list of some things I have learned along the way. Enjoy!
List of Things I’ve Learned in London
A Work in Progress
- How to live in a city. I’ve spent most of my life in suburban Iowa or in Grinnell. This was not to say I had never been to a city, but living in a city is completely different to visiting one. I was not exactly sure what living in London, or any large city would be like. I was somewhat nervous when I first arrived, exhausted from my journey and more-than-slightly confused about the complex London public transport network. However, as time has passed, I’ve found I’ve adapted quite well to the city. I understand how it works, I see the rhythm of the city, pulsing with so much life and movement. I understand what it means to be a part of something so massive. I feel simultaneously alone, yet never by myself in London. I can always hear the hum of the city traffic, the chatter of the pedestrians below, and it reminds me I am just one small part in a greater whole. I am truly living in London.
- How to cook creatively for more than myself. One of the challenges I had eagerly anticipated was cooking for myself and my flatmates. I love food and cooking, so having the opportunity to cook for myself and three (flexible and grateful) flatmates seemed awesome. It has been so much fun building menus and meals, creating quick dinners and improvising creatively to use the ingredients we have available. I’ve learned to cook so many more dishes, and how to make similar dishes each week unique and exciting with the introduction of different ingredients or spices. Its also brought me a greater appreciation of everyone who has fed me amazing meals my entire life, from my mom and dad, to my grandparents, to my Nana, to the stellar dining hall at Grinnell. (Which I am so excited to return to again!) I’m enjoying the cooking experience and we are eating healthfully and substantially, which makes everything that much better.
- How to successfully navigate the Underground and bus system. At first, this was terrifyingly confusing. However, it quickly became almost second nature. I’ve even been able to help some lost Londoners and foreigners figure out where to go. It feels so incredible to completely understand a system that baffled me at first.
- How to blog successfully. I’ve never written a blog before. It has been really an enjoyable experience and it has served a variety of useful purposes. I feel it has improved my writing, acted as a great visual journal, and it has been a great way to inform everyone what I have been up to during my adventures here. The writing has become almost therapeutic, a perfect way to finish my day and tie up those loose thoughts before bed.
- How to enjoy the small things in life even more. Life in a city can become pretty routine. It feels nice to break up the monotony by noticing all of the amazing things the city has to offer. There is art everywhere, the people all look so interesting, restaurants abound, countless little things remind me of home, and there is always something interesting going on!
- How to take better photography. Before this trip, I had a little bit of experience on a DSLR camera, but was still definitely a beginner in photography. I have learned so much about principles of photography and how to best use a camera to capture the stories and memories that surround us every day. I have loved learning what makes a good shot, and how to share my London experience with the world through my photographs.
- What homesickness feels like. Before London, I had never really felt homesickness. Being at Grinnell felt so much like home that I felt comfortable from the start. But London is a whole different world, and an ocean apart from so many loved ones and friends. As time has gone on, I’ve gotten better and worse at fighting the homesickness. I am still enjoying London, but I feel like my appreciation for all the treasures that remain at home has grown even more whilst I’ve been here.
- How amazing Iowa is. Seriously. Wow. I always knew Iowa was pretty special, but I never realized how absolutely perfect the Midwest, especially Iowa, is for me. Being in London helps me appreciate everything about it. I miss the open outdoors, the endless farmland, the friendly people, the inexpensive food, the absolute quiet sometimes, and just how easy it is to move around. Iowa is amazing, and I am so excited to come home before long.
- How to walk for hours. I realized the other day that a half hour walk felt like literally nothing. We walk so much here, and it is something I’ve grown to appreciate. I love being able to just walk around the city and look at so many things. Plus, the walking helps me feel even healthier, especially combined with working out.
- How to look at art academically. One of my favorite experiences has been my Art History class. We spend one session per week in the classroom discussing what to look for in art, and the other class session actually using it in galleries around London (and Bruges, as well.) I have always loved art, and I am so glad I can actually look more deeply into it now, and draw conclusions about style and composition. Its a skill I have been wanting to hone for awhile, and I have finally gotten the opportunity to do so.
- British History. It is one thing to read about history in a book, it is a completely unique experience to actually live in and see the places where history was made. I love living in a historical city like London, where history is more than just words in books; history here lives on in the buildings, in the monuments, in the cobblestones, in the traditions, in the names of the streets. London lives and breathes its history.
- What a good play performance looks like. One of my favorite parts of my entire experience has been having the opportunity to see free and highly subsidized performances. I have seen eight West-End plays, six Shakespeare plays (including three in Stratford-Upon-Avon and one in the Globe Theatre), an outstanding poetry reading, and countless street performers and musicians. I love the theatre culture, and every amazing memory I’ve made as we’ve seen the performances unfold.
- How to see the world. London has opened my eyes to how small the world really is. I see so many people every single day, each one on their way to somewhere different. When I step back and look at the city as a whole, as almost a living entity, it becomes even clearer how connected everyone is. We all live in London. We create and shape and adapt London. London is made of people, and seems almost like a scale model for the world. Everything is here, and that is a pretty beautifully complex thought to ponder.
- What diversity looks like. London is undoubtedly the most diverse city I have ever seen, and on so many different levels. I see countless countries represented on a single bus or tube ride, and it seems like I’ve stepped into a different country as I visit various parts of London. The divide of the classes is also stark; I’ve seen Bentleys and Beemers alongside beggars and their belongings. Everyone and everything is represented in London, for better and for worse.
- So much more… This is a mere fraction of the things I’ve learned. This experience has shaped me so much, in ways known and unknown. I am so excited to continue on this amazing adventure of a lifetime, and see what more there is to learn.