May 11, 2018

Every morning that I have woken up here so far, I get up and pull apart the drapes to my window. I open the window and listen to folks talk beneath me. Thick British accents travel up to my window along with cigarette smoke and I grin. I realize I'm in a place I always thought was quite unreachable for me. But here I am, within ear and nostril reach.

My idea of England since I was very young was definitely an island full of smoke and quirky accents. I’m here and experiencing it right now! With a bittersweet feeling about it of course, smokey air not being my preferred air flavor.

I chose this program because I was interested in learning more about the many cultures that helped build this island. This is England, a film by Shane Meadows, was one of the first representations of England in a way I had never really thought of before. The film revolved around community, centering around the skinhead subculture in the early 80s, the plot being about a lonely kid named Shaun who tries to find a sense of family within the group. A prominent theme in the film revolved around nationality and the questioning of who was allowed to call England their home. I thought this tied in with the description of what I would be learning if I chose to do this program, and I’m glad I did because I’m learning so much more that expands on the topics of race, identity, nationality and community also explored in the film. With already with one week down, my classes are far more insightful than I thought they would be, expanding my view on these topics outside of America. For our first excursion, we went to the east end of London, to visit 19 Princelet Street, a historical building that became a museum filled with suitcases and history of migration and multiculturalism that helped to shape the area of Spitalfields, and London the way it is today. The neighborhood the building stands in has grown into an Asian community, with flavorful curry restaurants at every corner, as well as a go to for tourists to go to the market nearby. I thought a lot about how the building itself stood for the moving in of different families and communities, which, having changed the ins and outs of how the building once was from the moment it was built, also yielded an insightful change in the demographic of the area surrounding it.

June 8, 2018

The end is definitely near, and I don't know how to feel about it!

I think the fact that I've been living the abroad life and have basically been treating myself everyday, hasn't really hit me. But once I'm home, it will definitely sink in. I’ve really gotten to familiarize myself with little things here and I’m not sure if I can say I’m ready for my world to be switched back to big America. I’m really going to miss this island.

I had the pleasure of really chilling this week. It was nice weather today so I spent my days outside at the park by my housing building, reading and doing homework, people watching and accent listening. It has been this strange metamorphosis of blooming into a “loner”, or a person who cherishes nice moments alone since being here. At the beginning of the program, I was anxious, I didn’t really know anything like the rest of my peers. I think the way this program is brilliantly set up is that you don’t exactly have to be with a group of people to have fun, or enjoy the area. The excursions expand our view of London as a whole, and we take the new knowledge of getting instructions to a previously undiscovered place and it sticks with us in our brain of mapping things out. Soon you come to know things by the back of your hand. Of course, I love meeting up with my program peers and faculty during class and excursions, but very little have I had much needed time to myself, to navigate London not as an entourage, but interacting with people casually and as my separate self. I think it is pretty easy to do the “I’m going to be alone for the day” thing here and not have to worry about your safety very much. Because people are literally everywhere, and are more than likely going the same way you’re going.

As the program comes to a close, all the experiences I’ve come to have now are much more heightened, almost begging me to stay! I became a regular in the places I frequent. Camden Town, for instance, which is only two stops away from my house via tube, has been my little place of happiness. I’ve come to blend in with the sort of scene here, which builds for me a sense of community away from my homeplace. There is always an artist playing their heart out outside the station, and the same cool monk who greets me before I cross the street heading to my favorite expensive burger restaurant. I think it’s strange to finally get into becoming accustomed to a place, and the people, just when your time’s nearly up to leave. It is bittersweet, because although of course I can’t stay here forever, I know I wouldn’t hesitate to come here again if the opportunity arises.

June 16, 2018

My most significant takeaway from being in this course as well as program is that there is always room to grow. As a person, a people, a society. Being on this trip has definitely opened my eyes about me growing as a person as I digest new information, as well as the possibilities of societies improving for the successful inclusion of underrepresented people as well as the issues they go through. There's room for growth in the darnedest of places, there just has to be reception. As this program comes to a close, the many learning experiences I've come to acquire while being here definitely will be put to use. I've grown into something more than what I was when I first got here, and I'm thankful for that. I now know how to bargain, thanks to the Camden Market, as well as find my way back home through underground transit thanks to the tube station and our man excursions taking us all around London.

I would like to commend London for its exceptional theater culture. I’ve come to love theater from the few plays I’ve come to experience here.

My first trip to the National Theater was to see Translations by Brian Friel, an amazing and historically insightful play about nationhood. The play was set in Donegal, during the time the British redcoats came to make a map of Ireland, in doing so running the risk of erasing the Irish language and history by translating Gaelic place names into standardized English. It was an exceptional show, and definitely had me thinking about what meanings are behind certain place names, if such historical meanings remain or are remembered, as well as the concept of conforming to modernisms, and what compromises one has to go through to be included, in a collective, such as the United Kingdom.

My second and last trip to the National Theater was last night, to see An Octoroon by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, an adaptation of the 1859 play written by Dion Boucicalt. It was an electrifying play about the history of America and even spoke a lot about what history is being made even today, and I’m glad to have gotten to experience it my second to last day here in this amazingly artistic city.