England and America: Really not that different

Photo credit: Emily Juchau

Photo credit: Emily Juchau

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Photo credit: Emily Juchau

Here’s my favorite thing about traveling alone in an airport: zero accountability.

Seriously. No need to worry about the judgment of people you know and whose opinions you care about. There are only strangers — they will automatically assume the worst about you, and that’s incredibly liberating. Want fried chicken for breakfast? Cool. Because no one’s going to shame you away from Popeye’s at 8 a.m. Do what you want. Eat the chicken. Do not rest until you find a burger to eat in the apparently burger-less Philadelphia airport. Hum a Nicki Minaj song to yourself every time you ascend an escalator.

Mel Gibson said it best: “Freeeeeeedom!”

It took me a solid 18 hours to travel from Salt Lake City to London this weekend, but it felt like time travel because of the seven-hour time difference – though I officially arrived at 6:30 a.m., London time, that was just before midnight Mountain West time. As I write this, I’m eating Nutella on toast for lunch – but in Utah, the sun is probably just rising.

Jet lag is an incredibly accurate term, particularly the lag. I’m moving more slowly, thinking like a certifiably insane person (did anyone say “ice cream for dinner”?) and it feels like I’ve left part of me back in the States, like maybe a kidney or my left arm. I’m 100 percent sure that the only reason I’m functioning right now – and “functioning” is pretty subjective; my hair is wet, and I just looked down and realized one of my shoes has been untied for the last three hours; no wonder walking has been difficult – is all the Diet Coke I’ve been drinking.

Diet Coke, by the way, is different in Europe. It tastes a lot less sweet, and the bottles are all slimmer than Victoria’s Secret models. I feel chic instead of like white trash whenever I take a sip.

Jet lag is an inevitable part of studying abroad, maybe the only universally expected part of the trip. The U offers an incredible amount of study abroad programs, whether you want to do a semester on the U’s campus in Korea or live with a host family in Italy, like our editor-in-chief, Katherine, or go on an all-too-brief faculty-led program like mine. I’m going to be in London for an ephemeral five weeks, visiting museums, strolling through Kensington Gardens, eating curries, minding the gap on the Tube, standing in the Globe to watch plays and occasionally hopping on a train to get to Scotland or Stonehenge or anywhere else I want to go. I’ll also be in a classroom a few days every week, and I’ll receive credit and a grade at the end of this. The abroad is the fun part, but one mustn’t forget to study.

I’ve only been in the Motherland for about twenty-four hours, but I can already feel my feet growing roots. Yesterday my favorite thing was Kensington Gardens, which is incredibly green and sprawling and clean and quiet; today I’m getting a pretty big kick out of the cheese-ball-in-a-bag I just bought at Sainsbury’s. I don’t know what to expect tomorrow, but I’m sure I’ll love it.

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Photo credit: Emily Juchau

Despite the number of ways England differs from America, I can also find similarities. Sure, people drive on the wrong side of the road, taxi cabs have weirdly huge backseats and everyone in our neighborhood seems to own a really nice car, but drivers still get ticked and honk at pedestrians, and there are plenty of Uber drivers here. They might call it the loo, but every bathroom still has the basic, requisite set-up. My cell phone can’t use data here, but every corner Indian restaurant and cramped café advertises wifi.

Yesterday I sat down on a grassy hill in Kensington Gardens, which was full of people since it was Saturday, and counted sames. There was a white guy sunbathing shirtless a few yards away, flicking through his phone – I imagined he was swiping through Tinder, and I figured he probably had the same crippling self-esteem issues as any other twenty-something guy who needlessly appears shirtless in public. Same in America. In the other direction was a guy wearing a white polo, pastel shorts and a sweater tied around his shoulders, and I decided his father had to be a successful attorney and that he had a trust fund worth way too much money. Same. Walking past the Princess Diana memorial fountain, I saw a couple of teenage girls carrying H&M bags and chatting and giggling. Same. In a maze-like garden that made me think of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a few little French girls were playing hide-and-seek, and I counted along internally while they hid. Quinze, Seize, Dix-Sept, Dix-Huit, Dix-Neuf, Vingt . . .

And last night my roommate and I went to a London movie theatre and saw “Mad Max: Fury Road.” It was awesome.

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