Is this being an adult?: Managing Independent Living in London

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Last night, during a phone call with a friend from home, I said, “I’ve been so tired lately, I don’t know why.” She said, “Maybe it’s because you’ve spent the last week traveling from one continent to another—which you’ve never done before—then you went up and down a country, all while being sick and jet-lagged?” I think that sums up my first week in London pretty well.

This past week, I’ve learned to go with the flow and quickly solve the problems I face as they come up. When I walked into my flat on Sunday morning, I was so excited to have my own bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen I could cook in! Then, upon further exploration, I realized how much I would need to buy. Having taken only one checked luggage and my carry-on, I packed mostly clothing, medicine, and other essentials I could only get back home. I knew bedding, toiletries, utensils, and so on would all be available to me in London. But knowing that felt very different from having to actually go and conquer this seemingly simple task. Trying to ignore my jetlag and get to the shops before they closed early (since it was a Sunday), I spent my first day scrambling to get basics from nearby grocery stores. I also tried to get myself medicine for the sudden cough I had gotten, likely from the colder weather in London. I found myself missing all the dorm items I had collected over my last two years living at Wellesley. I wished I had the space to bring it all! But, this is the reality of being an international student on a budget.

After two days of shopping, I hopped on a train to Scotland, as it was my friend’s birthday that week. (This is when the going “up and down a country” of my friend’s comment comes in.) My best friend from high school is currently in her fourth year at the University of Edinburgh. Staying with her was a great way to familiarize myself with the UK landscape with the support of a seasoned veteran. Observing the dynamics of her flat also taught me more about what was expected from me as a flatmate and student in the UK. I expected there to be a more communal culture and was surprised that everyone was responsible for their own meals, 24/7. I initially felt intimidated by such an independent approach. But, seeing how content my friend was with her life in the UK, I took a more positive perspective: this was an opportunity to take care of myself exactly how I want to! Since getting back to London on Friday night, I have tried to take in stride my newfound level of independence. Here in London, I am being given the privilege and trust to act like an adult. I hope to come out of this experience feeling capable of independent living in any place.

Pictures: Street in Edinburgh; me at Millenium Bridge overseeing the River Thames