By Perry Newsome, Undergraduate student in the RTA Production program, Faculty of Communication and Design
Last Sunday evening, I was travelling back to my residence at the University of Westminster in Harrow on the westbound Metropolitan Line train. It was nearing dusk, and the sky was lit up with a fiery, pink-streaked sunset, bringing the perfect spring weekend to a close.
I had spent the last two days meandering my way across Covent Garden and Chelsea, my two favourite districts in Central London. The weekend was driven only by a desire for both food and spontaneity, as my friends and I crawled across the city in search of great bakeries, cafes, and green spaces upon which we could lie and soak up some warmth.
The spontaneity of my weekend, and the striking sunset that ended it, encapsulates the beauty and contentment that I have found in my semester abroad.
There was a point two months into my stay when London no longer felt foreign and the quiet unease of being a tourist dissipated. Instead, London has become a familiar playground and a city that feels personally fitting in a way even Toronto does not.
There is an undeniable feeling of euphoric freedom when you leave behind your normal pattern to scrape out a life in a new place. Now that I feel settled in London, I am faced with this daily.
For me, it was glorifying to suddenly realize that the feeling of vacation has passed; that the novelty of my new city had given way to normalcy, and suddenly London had become my life and not just a temporary layover. It’s rewarding to be able to glance at a tube map and take myself anywhere in the city, and to realize London’s winding, busy streets are no longer overwhelming. Being here has given me the opportunity to discover something new each day, whether it’s an old neighbourhood, a seaside town, or which corner deli has the most delicious baked goods. In case you’re wondering, it’s definitely either Bread Ahead, Honey and Co or Ottolenghi. Though if we’re talking food places, I also suggest that you go to Dishoom, and order the potatoes.
I wanted to study abroad because I wanted to escape all that was familiar and give myself new opportunities to explore and grow as an individual. I chose London because it was a city I had always admired from afar, and because it had so much to offer culturally, historically, and gastronomically.
I’m now quickly nearing the end of my time in England. Next week I begin travelling across Europe, hitting Denmark, Amsterdam, Ireland, and Spain before heading back to Canada in May. While I’m excited to begin the next leg of my adventure, I’m already sad to be leaving both a city and a great group of friends that I have grown to love. The ability to explore London as a resident and to feel in tune with its rhythms and quirks has been an unbelievable accessory to living in the city. Being in London has reminded me how easy it is to get caught up at home in the worn in, comfortable beat of our day-to-day stresses. A whole other world is out there, and that world has a lot to teach you, both big and small. After all, how else would I have discovered the important fact that while traditional scones and jam really are delicious, British English muffins are actually inferior to their Canadian counterparts?
That’s one thing I can promise, however ironically, is much better at home.