London Calling

Emily Passey

(Brent Schwert)

Okay, before I get sued for saying things I shouldn’t, let me just say that I know that studying abroad isn’t supposed to be a vacation. And it’s not – at least not in the usual sense of relax-until-you-melt kind of vacation.
So what am I (not) saying then? Well, as I sit here and deal with the daily barrage of e-mails (that part of normal Lawrence life doesn’t go away, sorry) from various people like my advisor and dealing with various things like, oh, you know, honors projects and the GRE, I’m realizing that my mind is simply not equipped to deal with thinking about “the future” (cue the horror-flick music and accompanying shriek) at this point.
I’m in London. I go to class like a normal junior in college, but then after class I run out into the city and explore. We all do here.
In Appleton, you know the drill. You go to class, go to lunch, go to the grill, do homework, and maybe (maybe) do things like leave campus occasionally, if you can find a friend with a car who is willing to take a chance with their lottery parking space for a couple hours to go to the mall. In London, however, there is so much more to do that is actually more important than class and homework. Class supplements exploration, rather than the other way around. Homework is done on the Tube or in between class, or for a couple of hours on Sunday; all other time is devoted to trying to squeeze in as much of London life as time and money will allow, and this is how it should be.
So instead of being consumed by academics and the comfortable social box that is Lawrence life, I find myself consumed by that exact thing that university is supposedly about in the end: self-discovery and the pursuit of independence.
My mom came to visit me over the midterm break last week. I was pretty excited to see her as I’ve never gone longer than three weeks without doing so for my whole life (yes, I was spoiled, thank you). But about two hours into her seven-day visit, I realized that I felt hampered, tied down, and a bit like an unpaid tour guide. I know my way around and what there is to do, thus had to lead her through the ins and outs of riding the tube, catching the bus, looking for cars on the street, social interactions in the city, etc. It was frustrating. I wanted to be alone.
Despite the fact that I have very close family and friends, I have always seen myself as fairly independent. But since coming to London, I have come to understand what self-reliance really means. My rational decision-making abilities have increased. I don’t worry so much about things, especially – and this might turn out to be quite detrimental, track me down this time next year to find out – “the future.”
I spent so many hours this year working out “plans” for “the future” – making a) b) and c) plans for every aspect of the next year. I know that my previous planning was good, but I am more relaxed now than ever before. I go to clubs and museums and shows and whatnots and basically just breathe in London for all that it is, and I don’t think about how good I am, or how good anyone else is. I question what that even means.
What does it matter if I don’t get into every single internship or grad school that I want, if right now, right this second? Seven million-plus people are buzzing around me doing fabulous things, some of which I want to see or be a part of. If “the future” doesn’t work out as planned, then there will always be London, and the days spent walking from Camden Town to Edgware Road, from Trafalgar Square to Brechin Place, from corner to corner of Hyde Park. There will always be the nights when Lawrentians took over the clubs and showed London how it’s done. There will always be the supreme independence which comes from inhabiting such a brilliant, vibrant and gigantic place as this.
If anyone tried to tell me this when I first applied to come to the London Centre, I would have nodded my head and looked at them with supreme understanding, but I would have been lying. One month ago, I did not know what not being stressed out about school/life felt like.
Thus, here is my first Lawrence London Centre term revelation: being “alone,” or maybe just being in London, turns you into a very independent and strong person. If you aren’t at least a little bit independent already, you better work on pulling some strings and get a late application in for the London Centre, or any other study abroad program. Cut the strings, and just go.