Hit The Road
London visit feels like homecoming
I am back in London for a few days, visiting friends and falling in love with this city again. Traveling back to England, for me, is a little bit like experiencing time travel; there is a déjà vu quality that overwhelms me with all the thoughts and feelings I had when I was first here. It's a little bit like hearing a song you once loved and listened to over and over, which defined a period of your life.
My best friend in London is Gemma, whom I first came to know as a pen pal when I was 13. We corresponded via e-mail nearly every day. Between Gemma's lovely notes about her experiences in London and reading stories about her city, my dream of visiting her grew until it was big enough to become a reality.
Because of my school stays, I now have many friends in London, and visiting the city feels like coming home. I have fond memories of cooking with friends, so even mundane things like the difference between American and British grocery stores thrill me.
It was with Gemma and her husband, Jon, that I first visited Old Spitalfields Market, which is still my favorite place in the city. And it is my host parents' house -- in a part of the city that is out of the way -- where I feel most like I'm being welcomed home.
FOR STUDENTS it can be difficult to contemplate going abroad for a semester, but the truth is that living abroad is so much better than simply visiting. Instead of just briefly eyeing the tourist destinations (which are usually a disappointment), you will have a chance to absorb another lifestyle and culture. The best part about staying for a few months instead of a few weeks is that you'll have time to plant some roots and make lasting friendships. Good friends make traveling less daunting; you'll always have someone to greet you at the arrivals gate.
Like going to college on the mainland, going abroad with a group means that there is a degree of safety. Even so, I would encourage anyone considering a study-abroad program to make an effort to connect with people outside of the American cluster, always keeping your safety in mind, of course.
Many schools allow foreign students to join clubs and study groups, churches welcome new members (even temporary ones) and community organizations always need volunteers. Creating these connections will enrich your experience so that it will stand out as much more than a few months of your life.
London defined my transition into adulthood, and like one of those songs I played on repeat, coming back brings up all of the excitement and optimism I felt at the time. In fact, if there were a song that defined my first trip here, it would be "I Believe in a Thing Called Love," by the Darkness. Not only was it incredibly popular when I lived here, but it rings true because London made me realize that I could believe in myself and in a deep love for my very good friends there.
Joy Uyeno travels frequently throughout the year, and her column geared toward beginning travelers or youths experiencing their first extended stay abroad appears the second Sunday each month in the Star-Bulletin Travel section.