Culture Shocked: I'm Loving London

Regina Karmilovich Goldsmiths, University of London, England


October 6, 2017
Editor's Note: if you are struggling with depression or anxiety, please reach out for help. in the u.s., call 1-800-273-8255 for the national suicide prevention lifeline. if you are on an arcadia program abroad, contact an arcadia staff member to be connected with professional mental health support, available at all of arcadia sites abroad

Although I have never been to the UK before, I felt at ease from the moment I stepped off the plane. At that point, my feelings seemed indescribable. I was content but confused, waiting for some form of culture shock to hit me. It was strange that London felt like home to me, that so many little things made me feel comfortable in this new city. Was it supposed to be this easy? Even still, two weeks into my program, I remain uninfluenced by negative emotions. I realize this kind of transition is not so simple for many travelers, but I want to explore my feelings of comfort and happiness as a form of “culture shock.”

Prior to arrival, I felt very excited and connected to what I perceived London and Goldsmiths University to be like. That foremost, positive outlook has really helped shape my experience abroad thus far. Now that I am mostly settled, it’s easier to describe exactly what makes me feel at home in my surroundings. Living in London’s busy, city environment has me reminiscing over my time in Philadelphia, PA in a way that I can appreciate without feeling lonesome for it. The constant bustle of transportation, large flocks of city-walkers, and the ever-present essence of productivity is welcomed and ideal for me as I strive for academic betterment. Additionally, the edgy, eclectic art scene of New Cross reminds me tremendously of University of the Arts, the university in Philly which I transferred from after my freshman year. This little patch of London brings so many of my collected areas of interest together, making what is new feel like home.

The people I’ve met so far have also played a large role in elevating my overall level of comfort. As an introvert, I expected it would take a while for me to naturally open up to those around me, however, I’ve never been so wholly engaged and social in just one week’s time. Being quickly and fully integrated with other international students has propelled me into forming surprisingly organic relationships with the most interesting people. My flatmates especially have made me feel very welcomed, accepted, and supported. Upon meeting them all the first week, we managed to bond and talk for a period of 5+ hours about books, music, politics, and everything in between. For me, this doesn’t just happen.

Finally, after all this time, I’ve managed to feel genuinely focused and remain fully “present” in the spaces I’m in. THIS IS HUGE! Part of my hesitance, or skepticism, toward this new adventure was because I struggle with depression. Mental illness has a way of tricking me into thinking I am incapable or undeserving of joy, even in times which are supposed to be happy ones. I never expected to spend this much time in the “honeymoon” phase, but I no longer view my experience in phases or based on my past. Living in London has already opened me up socially in ways that I considered but never believed possible, so I see great potential moving forward. As I have now completed orientation and my first week of classes, I feel prepared to continue the semester knowing that the shocking parts of my experience are ultimately positive.