So…about that pastrami?

Applications for studying abroad are due this coming Monday. I just emailed in my portfolio (in PDF format! I’m so proud I figured out how to make it into one. It only took one semi-desperate phone conversation with my dad, too!) and letter of intent. I still have to turn in hard copies of both items to SU Abroad, along with a cool sixty bucks in application fees, but I’m more or less there. Knock on wood.

This whole process has been like applying for college all over again, in miniature, complete with faculty recommendations and those horrible inane essay questions. The application wasn’t hard in the slightest—they don’t give you enough room to really get into it anyway—but it’s just that there are countless possible answers to “why do you want to study in London?” All of them are equally valid—the proximity to amazing museums, the benefits of immersion in another culture, the tremendous local architecture and design, the perspective-broadening opportunities, the ease of travel to elsewhere in Europe, the chance of picking up a non-American accent, and hey, I like Monty Python as much as the next person—and all of them are equally expected. That doesn’t make them any less true, necessarily, and I for one certainly can’t wait for spring break in Italy and weekend trips to Dublin and endless visits to the British Museum, but let me tell you a little secret. The real reason I want to pack up and haul off across the Atlantic for a semester, to live in London for a few months and expose myself to a double-dose of culture shock at both the beginning and the end of the program? Come closer, let me whisper:

It absolutely terrifies me.

No, really. The only time I’ve ever been out of the country was for a two-day trip to Vancouver, which is about a forty-five minute drive from the U.S. border; I don’t exactly have a lot of experience traveling internationally. And it’s not even so much the travel—I mean, it’s another country, fill in the air-travel-and-customs blanks—as it is the living. In…another country. Which is great, and all, but what if I end up accidentally offending everyone on the Underground just because I’m ignorant of the fact that, in London, whistling Vivaldi to yourself is just Not Done? What if it’s a terrible breach of custom to, I don’t know, ask for mayonnaise on a sandwich at a deli? What if they don’t even call it a “deli,” so I end up wandering for hours in search of a pastrami-on-rye and just can’t find one and finally break down sobbing at the foot of Big Ben, alone and pastrami-less in a cold, mayonnaise-hating foreign land?

Okay, okay. I know these aren’t rational fears, and I’m not actually scared of some sandwich faux pas, but you get what I mean. I’m afraid of my own ignorance—nobody wants to come across as the typical clueless American—and, in considering all of this, I can’t help but notice how very very far away London is from, you know, home. I’ll be the first person to admit that I’m a bit of a homebody; I have trouble scrounging up the courage to buy a two-liter of soda from the corner convenience store sometimes, let alone attend a Central New York university 1,784 miles (exactly—I Googled it) from my house in Pueblo, Colorado. London, by comparison, is so far away it seems almost mythical. What really scares me is the idea of living there with no built-in support system, no clue about how society works, no insurance against…well, anything, really. I’d be on my own, more or less, and I don’t have enough confidence in myself or my abilities to just say, “Hey, London, no problem. What’s next, Egypt?”

And that—that fear, that lack of surety—is exactly why I want to study in London next semester, even more than all the other good reasons (see above re: museums, Monty Python, et al.) to do so. It’s the only way I can prove to myself that I can actually do things like this. Sure, there’s an initial period of adjustment, but I came to Syracuse, after all, and adjusting to that was a lot easier than I ever expected it to be. I know I’ll adapt, and my excitement for the whole experience far outweighs my anxiety. Ultimately, I’m less afraid of the inherent challenges than I am of letting my trepidation hold me back from attempting something so wonderful, so necessary.

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3 Responses to “So…about that pastrami?”


  1. 1 Haute Elle July 13, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Believe me, people who get the tube have seen everything, and ignored it all.

    London is scary but unlike anywhere else in the world – everyone who lives there makes it their own.

    Good luck with your application and if you get there, buy yourself an Oyster card and familiarise yourself with http://www.tfl.gov.uk – it makes getting around sooo much simpler.

    • 2 Colin July 13, 2010 at 10:04 am

      Hi, Elle – I actually did end up studying in London (this post is from a couple years ago), and despite my anxiety beforehand, it ended up being one of the best things I ever did. I completely fell in love with the city, and I can’t wait to go back someday.

      I miss my Oystercard. That thing and I were such good friends. Hee.


  1. 1 Let it begin « Nine Points of Roguery Trackback on January 13, 2008 at 2:30 am

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