A Love Letter to NYU London
Dear NYU London,
This has been both the longest and shortest semester of my life. I’ve experienced extraordinary highs and lows studying away, but overwhelmingly, these months in London have been some of the best of my (admittedly short) life.
Living in London posed its own unique challenges. For one, I assumed that the accent would be a non-issue because Americans and Britons both speak English, but that’s not entirely true. For one, the average Brit isn’t trained to enunciate and consciously make themselves understood, like the actors in movies and TV shows. Two, the typical British accent isn’t the only common accent in London, and you’ll often find yourself talking with people from all over Europe and beyond. And three, there are simply different phrases that you have to learn to keep up in everyday conversations. (For the record, “Leicester” is pronounced “Lester,” and when somebody asks “are you alright?,” they’re really asking “how are you?,” and you don’t have to get really defensive when you say “I’m fine, thanks.")
I wasn’t expecting to feel as much a foreigner in London as I did. I assumed that it would be like New York — a western metropolis — just across the pond. But it turns out that an ocean makes a huge difference. London feels practically ancient in comparison to New York; the buildings are older, and there is no grid system to speak of. It is infinitely easier to get lost, which is a both blessing and a curse. You may be late to appointments because the streets are confusing and the traffic moves in ways you don’t understand, but you’ll find lots of opportunities to explore when you’re trying to find the nearest tube station — and there is lots to explore. Go beyond the boundaries of central London to find cafes, pubs and parks in other neighborhoods; London has a lot of culture and history to offer, and I feel that I only scraped the surface in a semester.
For every time London gave me a stress headache though, it made me fall in love with it twice. Sunsets over the Thames are so beautiful, and walking past the Queen of England’s home is a slightly surreal experience. NYU London, you did a fantastic job planning trips to major attractions both in and out of London, from Buckingham Palace to Wales. I would advise everyone to take advantage of these cultural programming activities, as they are a great way to see London and make friends in the program.
However, I did feel that it was harder to break out of the NYU bubble here than it is in Manhattan. It’s easy to fall into the habit of going to and from 6 Bedford Sq., interacting only with other Americans and to forget that you’re in another country. Be sure to pop down the road to University College London and have a drink with some British uni students, because making global connections is what this is really all about.
If I did it all over again, I would take more time to see the UK outside of London. As it stands, I’m really happy with the amount of the world I got to see, but I know I have to come back and visit other places in the British Isles.
The biggest takeaway from my semester abroad is that NYU won’t make this experience. It’s up to you to make it what you want. NYU London, you gave me the opportunity to see London, and I am so glad that I took it, but I am even more glad that I broke out on my own to journey through Europe and really learn more about who I am as a traveler, a student and a person.
I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with London as much as I did, but now that I have, it’s only a matter of time until I come back.
Written and photographed by: Gabrielle Roehr