In the days leading up to my departure from London, I had so much to reflect back on. I read back through a list I made before traveling that focused on my wishes and fears for this trip, and I was intrigued to see how my thoughts compared to now. My biggest fear at the time was that I wouldn’t make friends or socially fit into the culture. I understand this is a very natural fear to have, as humans are intensely social creatures, but I haven’t always been the bubbly and loud person I am now. I used to find it hard to make connections with people, especially if it meant truly expressing myself and my thoughts. There’s no one person on Earth that will agree with you on everything, but I used to believe that these slight differences would make it impossible to genuinely befriend people. As I’ve gotten older and encountered others who live vastly different lives and hold differing values, I’ve learned that my personality can be a universal experience if I allow it to. I’m loud and overly positive, but I have found these help me engage with all sorts of people, and these interactions have been overwhelmingly positive. My ability to open up has helped incredibly on this trip.
I know in my first blog I wrote about how British people aren’t as friendly or engaging as the culture in the South calls for, but I think I was incorrect here. I was a bit too focused on establishing relationships with my American classmates at the time, that I think I was too harsh when judging the London folks. They can be just as friendly or more, it’s just that the culture is to be more reserved upfront. Whereas where I’m from, you are openly friendly and engaging from the start of the interaction. I had countless times in the city, having conversations, where all it took for me to ask the other person “And how are you doing?” Before we divulged into full blown discussions. Making it known that I want to fully engage from the beginning on my end leaves the other person feeling comfortable enough to talk more, and then it turns into a natural volley. This simple step (along with some gentle flattery) earned me not only the trust of the other person, but sometimes a little goody to go along with it! My favorite example of this was when I got two free ice cream cones, after talking about tattoos and Harry Styles with the cashier for a bit. It’s a gratifying experience socially, and a freebie thrown in never hurt either!
My friends would often tell me “You always find a way to make a friend wherever you go.” And it always made me smile to hear. I do genuinely care about what people have to say when we have conversations, and I love knowing intricate details about their lives. But I think more than my personality led me to this point. Before I left, I wrote that I wanted to be open to the situations I would be put in during my time in London, and I believe this greatly influenced my social habits. I had to push my reservations and fears aside since this was my one opportunity to truly experience London, and try my hand at living as a global citizen. This trip has given me so much confidence and appreciation for cultures I never come into contact with back in the States. I will forever be grateful that FEA helped to fund this life changing abroad opportunity, and I can’t wait to see where life takes me next!