A Night Off (Interlude #1)

Diary/Scrapbook/Keeping in touch – A quick note

It is a bit hard to toe the line between writing this blog in the form of a diary (where I express my true thoughts and feelings), an update to friends, a scrapbook (where I can refer back to reminisce), and an update to family. With each of these categories in that order, I leave a little bit more out and give a more idealized view of my trip. But they all serve different purposes and I want to have the benefits of all of them.

I’ve tried my best to get the best of all worlds here…

A New Place

Moving into a new environment is always hard. I didn’t know anyone here. London is a city with over 8 million people and I didn’t know one person who lives here. And I’m pretty certain that as all of this becomes more familiar and less foreign, the frequency of these posts will diminish as I become more comfortable in my milieu. This is how I imagine it would be like moving to a different city for work – your life, schedule, social structure, and comfort all change for better or worse. In a sense, just like going to college for the first time, you become unknown again and have a chance to remake yourself. When that opportunity is afforded to you, there is this process of introspection, where you rate your personal qualities and compare them with the others around you

“Am I being outgoing enough?” “What am I looking to get out of this semester?” “How frequently should I talk to friends or family back home?” “Should I be myself or try out a new persona?” “Should I go out alone and be in a better position to meet new people or should I find a group an experience friendship in a similar way to back home?”

These questions swirl around in your head – I’m guessing most of the other students here have at least some form of these thoughts. These insecurities are natural when your world is upended and you are thrown into a new place. I’m not saying that this is bad, but it is different. When we started our freshman year of college, everybody was in the same boat and everyone was very open to meeting new people and making new friends. Here, we have come in the middle of the British academic year, so the English students are much less inclined to be welcoming. I have seen cliques form even among the study abroad students as people cling to what is familiar.

My roommates do not converse with each other – in fact, I believe they don’t even know each other’s names even after being in the same room for the entire first semester. There is no social aspect to the rest of my dorm either. I’ve tried to do something every night, but a few nights ago I was alone in my room for the entire evening. So it was quiet and though I’ve met some really cool study abroad students, if the few people you’ve just met have other plans, you are once again alone in a new place. I haven’t gotten a cold yet, but I can’t imagine it would be fun being sick in a place where you don’t really have anyone looking out for you.

Now, the only cure is to get out and meet people. Don’t think of this section of this post as one of self-pity. It’s not. And I realize by sitting in my room and typing it out, I’m not making it easier on myself. I’ve done my best to get out and experience London, meeting others in the process and also learning to enjoy exploration on my own.

I’d just like to have these thoughts be read and out in the open. My motivation for this post was (1) to help myself understand the dynamic of being in a new place and (2) to help others understand that these feelings are natural. In my first two weeks here, I’ve already seen and heard homesickness from my new friends. Now, I very well might be making generalizations where none exist, but it seems to me that this dynamic might exist for the other study abroad students too.

All that I’m asking is that when you (friends here, at Princeton, or back home) meet someone new who is out of their comfort zone – whether that would be just trying a new hobby or moving to a different city/country – just welcome them and be nice. Show them around; go out of your way to help the transition; do your best. It means a lot, and creates a positive cycle, where everyone is friendlier and makes it easier to move to a new place.

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