While traveling to London, I had no real expectations of what I was going to experience. All I expected was to adapt to a new culture and the people that affiliate within them. I had every intention to research what life was like in the U.K. and, more specifically, as a local in the town of Wandsworth.
But to my surprise, I never did the research prior to my departure from the U.S. The most I looked up was what my accommodation would look like. (And if you’re wondering, after searching through TikTok on several different occasions, I still had no idea what my accommodation was like. As a matter of fact, I had no idea where I was staying until I stepped onto campus and they gave me my keys—but that’s neither here nor there.)
Wandsworth is a town in South West London. If you know anything about London as a city, you know that the addresses are referred to by the zip codes. Small tip: If you’re ever in London and they ask you your address, you would say N1 0PS, or whatever zip code you’re staying in. Wandsworth is what locals would call a posh neighborhood. It’s considered one of London’s most affluent and attractive inner suburbs, according to Home Views blog. The town has a nice scenic aesthetic given the riverside location, great schools, and convenient transportation links.
If I had to choose my favorite neighborhood within Wandsworth, it would hands down be Putney Bridge. The main reason is its accessibility from my location. Since the neighborhood is so close, I’ve become very familiar with the area. I can say with 80% certainty I know how to get to and from Putney taking multiple different routes. Putney is known for its many different shops, pubs, and scenic views. What’s also so convenient about the neighborhood is that it has an underground train, also known as “the Tube.”
If I had to pick a distinguishing difference between the U.S. and the U.K., it would be breakfast. In the U.S., the most commonly known breakfast is pancakes, eggs, and sausage or bacon. However, in the U.K. they eat fried egg, toasted bread, and baked beans (yuck! Am I allowed to be subjective?). Um, I’m not quite sure how enjoyable that is, but, as you can tell, it’s quite different than a typical American breakfast. It’s the small details like this that make the biggest difference.
Another thing that surprised me is how reasonably priced the groceries are. I can literally hold a full conversation about this because it’s so shocking to me. The most I’ve spent on groceries is around £55,00, which is equivalent to $75 USD. This includes my fruits and veggies, grains, poultry, snacks, etc. If we were to do the math, that’s $300 per month…compared to the $1,000 monthly spent in my seven-person household back home. I’m more than sure inflation has affected the U.K., but man, I’d prefer the U.K. inflation to the States’.
Although both the U.S. and U.K. are very different, there are tons of similarities as well. Personally, I feel the environment isn’t totally unfamiliar or difficult to understand. I’m learning the transportation system as well as I would at home, I can understand the locals here, and I’m able to pickup and adjust to the norms of the British people. When going back to the States, I would like to bring some of the culture back with me, such as taking public transportation more and the different vocabulary/terms used—for example, lift=elevator, queue=line—or the slang I was taught: “innit,” “you lot,” “leng.”
Knowing that London is considered a big city, I would’ve expected it to be more chaotic than it is. The city itself is very calm, which makes it feel more like home than I expected. Statistically, only 19% of Americans have traveled to another country, and within that, Black Americans are even less likely to travel abroad. If the opportunity to study abroad was to present itself to those reading, I say take it. I would even recommend staying for a year rather than a term.
Going to a new country creates so many different opportunities to explore a completely new area and the livelihood of those who inhabit it. All the people I have met so far have been truly amazing, making my experience grander. Ask yourself this: “If I had the opportunity to go anywhere in the world for three months, where would I go?” Once you discover the answer, start preparing ways to get you there.