I didn’t realize how long I had been away until my neighbors said to me “You are finally back!”. My five months abroad felt like only five weeks. Although I was quite excited about going home and seeing my family and friends, I still hoped I could have another five months. London is a city with charm. At the beginning you may get overwhelmed by how busy it is, but very soon you will be amazed by how diverse and vibrant it is. It is a city that can’t be described in a simple sentence and a city that I will miss forever. Here are the four things about London that I will miss the most.
The Unique International Environment
There is nowhere else in the world that you can easily hear five different languages when you are walking on the street. As a cosmopolitan city, London welcomes millions of tourists from all over the world every year. I lived ten minutes away from St. Pancras International Station near King’s Cross, where Eurostar trains can take people directly to France and Belgium. I passed this railway station everyday on my way to school. I have seen people walking out with big suitcases, telling their friends to hurry up in Spanish. I have taken photos for a family from Lille in front of this giant Victorian architecture. Standing in the lobby of the station made me feel like standing in the center of the world.
The Convenience of Traveling
A Spanish friend from my home university used to tell me her family would drive an hour to have dinner in their favorite restaurants in France on the weekends. I didn’t believe her because I couldn’t imagine how it could be possible to go to a different country just for dinner, but now I do. Once in London, Europe was almost at my doorstep. In the past five months, I visited ten European countries. For most of the countries, it took less than three hours of travel from London and less than one hour to travel from one to the other. When my friends and I talked about our short breaks during the semester, we didn’t ask each other, “What did you do?” Instead, we asked, “Where did you go?”Also, one of my favorite things was sitting down with my friends to enjoy the snacks each of us had brought back from various countries.
The Roaring London Buses
The iconic red double-decker buses in London frightened me when I first got there. These buses are more than fourteen feet tall and always raced past my side without warning. They were like naughty kids showing up out of nowhere, running past me like the roaring wind and leaving me clenching my fist yelling, “Slow down!!” inside. Because of that, I never walked near the curbside in London. However, it was a lot of fun taking the bus. It is the perfect way to explore the city. I always went to the upper deck, hoping to take the seat in the front row to get the best view. No matter how busy the streets were and how fast the bus drove, it was a peaceful moment for me to quietly observe London from the bus windows.
Biscuits! Biscuits! Biscuits!
As a biscuit lover, I knew I was in heaven as soon as I saw so many different kinds of biscuits in the grocery stores. I even brought seven different types back home. I still remember when the security officer at the airport saw my seven gigantic packs of biscuits he looked at me like, “Are you serious?” Yes. I love these biscuits. Among all the biscuits I had in London, I particularly like custard cream biscuits, tea biscuits and digestive biscuits. These biscuits are common snacks that can be found in any grocery store. However, each grocery store has their own brands, so the taste varies slightly. For custard cream biscuits, I prefer Tesco’s, which is twice the amount of those from other grocery stores and less sweet. Tea biscuits aren’t too different across brands, but McVitie’s tea biscuits taste best with milk in my personal opinion. My favorite digestive biscuits are Sainsbury’s Basic Digestive Biscuit because they are slightly more crispy, toasty and nutty than others. Anyway, it wouldn’t hurt to try different kinds of biscuits. None of them will disappoint you.
What I miss about London is actually far more than the four things listed above. The places I went, the friends I met, the food I tried and the many interesting things I encountered will all be valuable memories in my life. These are the memories that still make me smile and laugh while I’m writing this essay. Studying abroad was a unique and beneficial experience. I encourage all students to grow and enrich your life through studying abroad.
Wenli Bao is a student at Brandeis University studying Business and Psychology who studied abroad with IFSA-Butler at University College London in England in 2017. She served as an International Correspondent for IFSA-Butler through the Work-To-Study Program.