During my last month of studying abroad in London, I experienced a deep sense of loneliness and isolation. Being away from everything I am familiar with such as my family, friends, and my university, I felt detached from my normal life. Despite me enjoying exploring the United Kingdom and learning invaluable lessons at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, I began to feel alone. Specifically missing important milestones such as family members’ birthdays, the Thanksgiving holiday, and more, I was devastated that I could not experience these moments with my family. Moreover, I felt worse that I could not easily get in contact with my family members because of the seven-hour time difference between us. While my presence abroad was flourishing into a gorgeous bouquet of roses, my life at home was dissolving and wilting into a dead rose bush.
Adding to my isolation, I now begin to feel even more foreign in London. Growing up in New Orleans, Louisiana my culture of parades, second lines, jazz music, and warm weather was a large part of my identity. My culture contributed to my happiness and sense of self and belonging, without it I did not know in a way who I was. While initially going to college, I struggled with embracing my identity in an unfamiliar place going to London, I felt almost completely stripped of who I am. Not having the delicious soul-warming New Orleans cuisine, warm and humid weather, jazz music, and familiar people and places, I longed to be in the presence of something I knew. I began to realize how much having something familiar around me or near me was integral to keeping my sense of self. Without my anchors around me, as I floated across the Atlantic Ocean, I felt that I was drifting away from my essence.
To combat these feelings of isolation and loneliness, I began to call home to my family more and keep in contact with them regularly. Scheduling Facetime calls, sending messages, and interacting with everyone through social media posts strengthened my connection with them and lessened my feelings of loneliness. Additionally, I began messaging my friends at university and checking into how their semesters and lives were since I had gone abroad. After contacting my friends, I began thinking about my New Orleans culture and heritage, and a great way that I could connect with that was by finding people in London from my hometown. To my surprise, a close family friend was living in London during my time abroad, and we met and went on many day trips around the city. On one of our many day trips, we went to Tate Modern and reminisced on home, gumbo, and all our unique experiences growing up in New Orleans. It was so wonderful to speak to someone that had been a part of my native culture. Having this experience with my family friend helped me find myself abroad, and in combination with speaking with my family and friends gave me the strength to finish out my last month in London.