Letters from London: Two weeks in and getting adjusted to life and new friends in England

VTSU Castleton student Jess Emery is studying abroad at the Univervisity of Roehampton this semester.

I’ve been in London two weeks as I finish this and let me tell you a few things: the apple juice is good, Australians use the word “cunt” as often as Americans use the word “cool,” the toilets are square shaped rather than cylindrical, and it takes at least an hour to get everywhere, although that may be more of a city thing than a London thing.  

My biggest culture shock however has probably been when there is a loud bang in a public setting, sounding similarly to a gunshot – and only the Americans jump.  

I was also under the impression that as an American, I would be deeply despised by everyone. Thankfully that has not been the case.  

Except for my Australian friends, they hate us.  

A few British men have also been impressed by my American accent, which I found quite odd.  

The other night, when a guy discovered I was American, he immediately asked what kind of deli sandwiches I like. I said turkey, obviously, and then he immediately followed up with a question of whether or not I like my turkey sandwiches hot or cold. 

Which obviously I like them cold.  

Personally, a hot turkey sandwich sounds rancid.  

I can’t not talk about the drinking culture because it is so vastly different from everything I’ve experienced in America.  

Since the drinking age is 18, my friends and I will go out on a Tuesday and often see people in their school uniforms at the club. We also have a bar on campus and when we had the campus tour, I remember seeing many people at the bar at 11a.m.  

When we’re out, me and my girlfriends, the men very aggressively hit on us but my safety doesn’t feel threated, which is good.  

I guess.  

The other day, two of my girlfriends and I went to an antique shop in Central London on Cecil Court.


The shopkeeper’s name was David and when he found out my friend was from Minnesota he said, “well someone’s got to be.”  

After discussing our likes of Shakespeare, he proceeded to recite a whole soliloquy from one of his plays.  

However, when we asked him if he ever did theatre he said, “oh no, I was never that pretentious.” 

I immediately liked him.   

My Australian friend calls us the “confused cunts,” which I find endearing, honestly.  

Except for the other night when we were on our way home from the bar and he shouted, “don’t let any of the blondes do the navigating.” 

Contrary to that statement, I’ve been doing a fair amount of the navigating when it comes to my friends and I going out in the city.  

The app Citymapper has become my new best friend.  

We went into Central and saw Big Ben and the London Eye and all the amazing sights and I felt like I was in Peter Pan.  

But I cannot, in good conscious, talk about my study abroad experience without talking about the things I’m struggling with.  

Jess Emery out on the town in London.

My identity, for one.  

I appear to be having some identity issues, and I also appear to be the only one experiencing these issues, which is comforting.  

I’ve always been confident and secure in my personality and friendships.  

I find I’m able to make friends quite easily because of my charismatic charm.  

But since I’ve been in London, I’ve been feeling pretty insecure in my friendships and maintaining them, which isn’t something I’ve ever had to previously deal with.  

I’m assuming as I get adjusted, those fears and insecurities with start to dwindle. 

I keep reminding myself that I have only been here for two weeks and I’m still getting adjusted and that will take time and I need to give myself time.  

Jess Emery is a VTSU-Castleton English major and Communications minor studying in London at the University of Roehampton for the semester and will be sending periodic dispatches back about her experiences. 

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