Across the pond

Chelsea Melamed

While brainstorming about this article, I realized that most of my meaningful experiences here across the pond are characterized by the people I am with or the people I meet, and it is really these encounters that I should talk about.
So far, I haven’t met many British people in London, which surprised me at first. Before arriving, I imagined myself befriending locals and completely immersing myself in the culture, but this ended up being false hope.
Avoiding negative connotation, I will generalize and state that the British are reserved. I have found that, overall, the English keep to themselves much more than Americans. After a discussion with a couple of British family friends, I have realized that they agree with this statement.
In London, my encounters with “real” Brits have been brief and impersonal: the random drunk guy mumbling obscenities under his breath or asking me to come home with him or the peaceful protester outside of parliament who tells me that America is not a democracy.
My least random encounters have involved those with opera singers. These meetings are actually the antithesis of random; I exercise strong effort to make them happen. I am quite the nerdy groupie. After each performance I wait eagerly by the stage door and get very excited.
I’ve met a handful of opera superstars and every single one has been kind, generous and down to earth. While these are impressive meetings, not one of the singers I met was British.
Just last night, however, I did have an encounter, not with a Brit, but with someone who really put my time away from Lawrence in perspective. I was with a group of Drexel students at a local bar; we were laughing and having a grand time, when all of a sudden, from a table away, a woman said that we had embarrassed her. I could tell by the looks on the others’ faces that none of us knew what we had done.
She said that she was American and had been in London for 17 years, then stood and shuffled over to our table. She tried to explain why she had been embarrassed but I failed to understand what she was saying; this may have had something to do with the amount of beverage she had consumed, but I didn’t want to rush to any conclusions.
I did, however, understand her when she said that she was from Chicago and transferred to “uni” in London because the private college she was attending was too expensive. When I asked what college, she said Lawrence!
I felt instantly bonded, and now, this woman who was once strange and drunk was suddenly a great friend! She said, “Are you the Lawrence Difference?!” I responded “yes!” and we shared a very enthusiastic high-five.
I was the only Lawrence kid there, so everyone else was a little confused. This encounter made me realize how much I miss the Lawrence campus. The environment that we live in at Lawrence cannot be transplanted in London, which was a big change that took me some time to adapt to at the beginning of this term.
The Lawrence environment is so unique and ingrained into our lives for four or five years that I think it bonds all Lawrence students deeply. I didn’t care that she was extremely opinionated, had a pretty sad Ameri-British accent and was somewhat offensive; she was my new BFF.
I wonder: Do I have a sign flashing “American” in bright red lights across my forehead? Why is it that almost all of my encounters have been with Americans? Well, I am happy to announce that tonight, while at dinner, I met another American – but! – he is married to an English woman whose little sister is my age! And, she is a singer!
I contacted her and we are hanging out this weekend. Maybe this is all I need to get my foot in the door! I will make tons of British friends, and then have to leave a week later. Oh well; better some than none.