Living like a Local: London Edition
The three cohorts of the Global Management Program (GMP) arrived in London on September 12th, 2022, after two years of wondering whether or not their semester abroad would become a reality. As a Junior in GMP, I knew that my experiences abroad would be quite different from what I had anticipated my Freshman year. The idea of “living like a local” and being extremely far away from Berkeley frightened me in the past, but I’m currently embracing the European lifestyle, as well as analyzing the minor cultural differences that I have noticed thus far.
A common thought that runs through the minds of students who are considering studying abroad is whether or not they will be homesick. While discussing the matter with my peers, I have come to the conclusion that we don’t attribute the emotion to a physical place; rather, to individuals, routines, and lifestyles that make a location feel like “home.” Similarly, we long for the comfort that home can provide to us. I believe that aspiring to make a location feel like home is one of the most important forms of self care whilst abroad. Personally, I have a routine that allows any location to feel like home, as long as I align my lifestyle with the environment that I am in. For example, my morning routine is a simple part of my day where I can truly feel as though I am “home.” Each morning, I enjoy walking to my favorite coffee shop, ordering a latte, and crossing off items on my To-Do List. Although my routine is simple, it can be done anywhere – which provides me with comfort. Recently, since I’ve been in London, I have begun journaling as well. I never imagined that I would transform into an individual who purchases a notebook that is solely dedicated to journaling. Yet, that has become my reality. I believe that journaling has provided me with the opportunity to truly examine my emotions, as well as my ambitions. The idea of allocating time to journal reminds me of the importance of slowing down, especially in the chaotic city of London. Thus, I highly recommend journaling- especially when the concept of feeling of home appears to be questionable, or lost.
Correspondingly, I associate the idea of “home” with mannerisms. Specifically, the way individuals interact and communicate with one another in a social, yet casual, setting. In London, I have noticed that individuals are not as communicative as I would have imagined. Initially, I realized the difference in communication style at the coffee shop I walk to each morning. I noticed that the barista’s often ask, “Are you alright?” rather than “How are you?” Although the two questions are similar, they have the ability to impact how one perceives their internal emotions. When asked if “I’m alright,” I notice that I struggle to respond. I perceive the question as off-putting, and cold, even though it is unintended. I believe that “How are you?” is far more approachable, and allows for a casual, light hearted interaction. The degree to which mannerisms impact my day varies, depending on how I truly am feeling. But, it has been an eye opening experience. I noticed that I have begun to ask myself if I’m “alright,” while I journal. The unfamiliar question is discomforting, yet, it has positively transformed my relationship with my emotions. I recognize that there are various differences between Europeans and Americans, yet, I believe that mannerisms are often overlooked or disregarded. Fashion trends, vocabulary, and cultural differences are all to be expected whilst studying abroad, but mannerisms are a peculiar concept to grasp. The connotation of English has failed to cross my mind until residing in London, and it has been an eye-opening experience.
Yet, the most demanding question I have been asked while in London has been regarding living like a local. I find the question challenging to answer, as the United Kingdom operates similarly to the United States in terms of lifestyle. European nations value the idea of “living slowly,” and dedicate periods of time to abide by this philosophy. However, in the business capital of the world, life is extremely fast-paced. I believe that locals have a similar mindset to individuals who reside in Los Angeles or New York. The aspiration to constantly achieve the next goal or attainable object overpowers the concept of living a simple life. I find myself feeling anxious while observing locals, as they appear to be overwhelmed. However, through my observations, I have decided that I must live my life with intention. Rather than constantly focussing on my achievements, living in London has taught me the importance of appreciating my surroundings, as well as stillness. My newfound discovery will allow me to truly absorb the qualities of other Europeans nations, leading a new chapter of my life. The adjustment that I’ve made on my mindset will not only improve my quality of life in London, but as I travel throughout Europe. The real challenge will be maintaining my new mindset when I return to UC Berkeley, as the academic environment has the potential to revert me back to my old habits. Yet, in the meantime, I intend on focusing on being present in London.
Although distance from family, friends, and the familiarity of Berkeley has impacted me, I believe that London has transformed my mindset in regards to how I perceive my quality of life. Alongside my cohort, I plan on learning how to navigate between my academics as well as social exchanges, with the intention of improving how I allocate my time. Rather than attempting to solely reach my goals, I will begin to practice implementing the qualities of life that Europeans follow, in hopes to achieve balance.