London From A Foreign Perspective

Destinee Norman Arcadia in London Summer, England


June 17, 2019
Currently Studying At: ARCADIA IN LONDON Summer 
Homeschool: The University of Texas at Austin

This first week of my study abroad program has been filled with comparisons of what I was expecting versus the reality of how London really is.

As I walk around London, I see so many things I didn’t expect. The old buildings, the untouched history, and the culture that moves throughout the London streets. However, many more things are missing in London that I took for granted in the US.

During my time exploring the U.S, I have always thought that the anticipation and dream-like ideas in my head were the only truly magical thing about places that I travel to. Once I go to the places I dream about in the U.S, I realize that they aren’t as amazing as I make them out to be in my head. However, the more I explore London, the more I feel like it really is the dream I thought it was before I arrived.

When I got off the airplane I was immediately hit by a sensation of “otherness” that I did not think I would experience. The accents, road signs, and certain mannerisms were already confusing as I walked down the airport terminal and into the long lines of customs and immigration. As I walked past the “toilets” sign, I automatically felt this sense of anxiety that comes with being in a foreign place. It finally hit me that I was here in London. The place I’ve dreamt about for so long.

Being in a different country was difficult enough since I have barely been out of Texas. Now I was all on my own, no phone service, and with a group of people, I’m not sure I could trust. There were some things that made England still seem so similar to back home, but honestly, that was the scary part. The language is the same. The basic structures of buildings are the same. However, everything that I used to be comfortable with could potentially be the wrong thing to do.

Now that I have had a few days to settle in, things are becoming a lot more easy to navigate. I wear pants and nice clothing instead of shorts and sweats. I put my bag strap on my shoulder instead of across my body. I throw trash away in a bin instead of a trash can. All of these things are already normalizing for me in my head. Everything feels like an alternate reality. The world is easy enough to navigate, but there is just enough difference to drive me absolutely insane.
Even going into a familiar McDonald’s was enough for me to feel slightly at home. However, there was no Dr. Pepper anywhere. When I finally found some at this tiny convenience store, it still tastes slightly different. Just enough to help my caffeine addictions, but not enough to curb my Dr. Pepper addiction.

But this is also why I love it. I love the differences between here and the U.S. I love the atmosphere and how everyone can strike up a conversation. I love the nice weather and light air compared to my 100-degree heat and humidity that makes me feel like I am walking in the ocean. The more I get used to all of the different languages and different names for foods, the more I enjoy all the differences between the US and Britain. I love the smallness of everything.

I do know that by the time I forget what other things back home are like and start enjoying my “regular coffee” at some small restaurant around my area here that it’ll be time for me to leave. Then I will have to spend another month getting used to the “other” that was once the “familiar” place of my hometown.


England Summer