A Year in London (#1)

Maybe you’d never think to compare London and Florida, but they have something in common: they both feel like places where magic dwells. London has that historic, industrial edge; Florida has its swamps, its storms, the encroaching ocean. Magic. Maybe that’s why people always get drawn back.

I’m a few weeks into my second semester in London, and I’ve been putting off this post. It’s so much easier to write about a place when you’re just passing through. Where to start?

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Is the weather as dreary as they say? Yes, but it doesn’t rain as often as you’d think, and when it does, it’s rarely more than a drizzle. After you’ve been through Florida’s rainy seasons and a hurricane or two, London’s weather doesn’t faze you.

Is it as diverse as people claim? Yes! TV & film tend to portray London – and the UK in general – as a place that’s mostly white, but it’s really not.

Is it as exciting as they say? Absolutely. There’s always a show to see, an event to attend, a new restaurant to try. I got to experience my first Bonfire Night and Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, among other things.

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up days and down days

What I say: I’ve always had anxiety issues.

What I mean: I’ve lived my entire adolescent & adult life with low-key dread permeating my mind at every moment. I constantly feel like something is wrong or I’ve done something wrong, even when, in reality, everything is fine and I’m having a perfectly good day. On my worst days, it manifests in the form of physical symptoms, like headaches, stomachaches, insomnia, and shortness of breath. On good days, I still carry my anxiety in the space just above my belly but below my ribs, a hard, ever-present knot of tension and unease.

My experience probably sounds familiar to a lot of you. Anxiety gets called an epidemic for a reason: it can vary from person to person, but the one constant is that it’s widespread.

Before I made the decision to come to grad school, I knew I had to take my mental health into account. School is one of the biggest sources of stress. Grad school, which emphasizes self-directed learning, can be even trickier for someone whose anxiety means they have trouble motivating themselves. Could I handle it?

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You Can Always Go Home

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One thing traveling has taught me, above all else, is that no matter how old I get I’ll never stop needing my mom.

I’m a fairly independent person. I left home for college at 18, and for the next five years, I never spent more than two or three consecutive months in my parents’ house. I’d visit on occasional weekends, and I’d spend most summers there. Then, when I went to Korea, I didn’t see my family in person for a year and three months.

In between my return from Korea and my recent departure to grad school, though, I moved back home and lived there again full-time, for eight solid months. Leaving after that was harder than ever. As you get older, you start to be more appreciative of time with your family, and you start to realize how special it is, in a way you didn’t when you were a teenager eagerly fleeing home for the glamor of university.

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