“Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world…”
You’ve all heard Journey’s song. Well, I am just a small town girl- but my world is far from lonely. I come from the small suburb of Laurel Springs, New Jersey. My town has just a little over 1,000 people in it, and two stoplights. In fact, the only thing we are known for is that Walt Whitman wrote “Leaves of Grass” there while at his summer home. I graduated with a high school class of 263 students, and now I go to Arcadia that has just a little under 4,000 students. Needless to say, I have always been the big fish in a small pond. But one thing I hated about that was that I never had any privacy. I was always a name, never a number. I like being a number. I like people not knowing who I am automatically. I like getting to know new people. I like being anonymous.
I’m Katie Sorino, a sophomore currently studying abroad in the best city in the whole world— London (okay, so maybe I am a LITTLE biased). I moved to London on January 1st, 2013. So yes, I began the new year in a new country. London is unlike any other city. The only thing I could sort of compare it to would be if New York City and Philadelphia had a baby and then put that baby on steroids. London is filled with so much history and culture, and it does manage to incorporate some modern buildings and other architecture, just like Philadelphia. And it is like New York for the size and the atmosphere. London is a very busy place. If you don’t believe me, try taking the tube at 7AM during rush hour.
On top of figuring out a new city, I had to learn to fit in so that I didn’t stand out- because let me tell you, Londoners will take advantage of the fact that you are American. (Fun fact- if you fake a British accent while in a cab, the cab will be cheaper than if you spoke normally. Cab drivers will drive around aimlessly if they know you are a foreigner so they can charge you more.)
I won’t lie— when I first moved here I had a huge “WTF” moment. The third night I was here I completely broke down. I wanted to go home- I hated the city. I hated everything about it. What the hell do I know about London?! Okay so they have the lovely Kate Middleton as their duchess…and fish and chips are a staple of their diets, and they say weird things like “queuing up” instead of lining up. But then I realized- I’m here for almost five months, and I worked really hard to get to this point. I decided I wouldn’t take this opportunity for granted and started making the absolute best of my time here.
I started getting comfortable with my neighborhood, figuring out the public transportation system, going grocery shopping, going to school, and still managing to go out at night and experience the incredible night life this city has to offer (all on a tight budget, might I add). After a few weeks, I had a routine. I am very lucky in the fact that I have Fridays through Mondays off. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays I go to school and sit through one or two 3-hour long classes, and then I am finished for the week! So during my weekends, I am able to travel or explore London. So far I have been to Amsterdam, Holland and Bangor, Wales. I liked Amsterdam better just because there was a lot for me to do like tour Anne Frank’s house, and take a boat ride down one of their famous canals. But don’t get me wrong- Wales was also incredibly beautiful. I plan on going to Barcelona and Rome during my spring break, and I am closing out my trip with a ten day excursion to France! I am very excited, but at the same time I know once I leave France…I go back to the United States. The weekends that I stay in London, I will normally go to a museum, an art gallery, or a park or something— there is so much to do here it is crazy! What is even better is that, most museums are free or cost very little for students!
Whenever I go exploring, I think to myself about how lucky I am to be here. I get to see Big Ben, the London Eye, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Hyde Park, and Oxford Circus every single day, while some people never get to see it at all.
I’d have to say my first moment of shock and awe was when I got off of the Westminster tube stop on one of my first few days here. In a span of about a minute, I saw Big Ben standing right in front of my face, the London Eye in the distance, and to my left (also in the distance) was the London Bridge. I literally thought I was dreaming. All of my childhood dreams were coming true! I felt like I had just stepped off of the set of “Winning London” (the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movie that came out in 2001, when I was 8). I literally turned to my new friends and said, “Are we or are we not in a Mary Kate and Ashley movie right now?!” The 8 year old inside of me could not stop smiling that day. In fact, I don’t think I have stopped smiling since I have been here.
I started to love this city more than I ever thought I could love anything at all. Once you completely give yourself up to something- that is when the best things happen. Now I have experiences I could have never dreamed of having. There is a saying that goes, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” I completely agree. I felt that moving to London would be a nice, fresh start for me. And it was. I can say for the first time in a very long time, I am completely happy. Moving here gave me a chance to find myself, and even recreate myself. Before I moved to London I had always been the big fish in a small pond. Since coming here I have learned how to balance being a small fish in a big pond but also having a very distinct identity. I never thought a place could define who you are, but London has done that to me.
Photography credited to Katie Sorino.