Here are some winter break reflections:
I’m able to count how many times I’ve stepped into a car since I flew in. That’s because I bike everywhere I can’t walk, and I walk anywhere less than 30 minutes. I bike to class, I bike to groceries, and I bike to distant friends’ houses. Everyone else bikes too: children, other students, office workers, and even professors that happen to be very old. I live by two daycares so when I bike to class I see adults not waiting in a car line to drop off their children, but a bike line instead (apologies, a queue). One of my hobbies is seeing all the different ways young children ride on the bikes of grown-ups, and each time I think I’ve seen it all I learn a new way.
I learned how to politely ring my bike bell to tell pedestrians to get out of my lane.
I learned that I need to buy the oldest, rustiest, looking bike on the market so that it doesn’t get stolen.
I learned that ‘quid’ is slang for a British pound.
I learned within the first few days (but I’ve gotten used to it now) that everything is smaller here- the cars, the streets, the sidewalks, the hallways, the rooms, the stores, the food packaging, the food servings. In the midst of my culture shock, I felt very claustrophobic but now it feels normal. I’m sure that when I return home everything will feel big.
I learned to say football practice instead of soccer practice. I was invited to play for the Eagle’s, The 2nd University Women’s Football team for the University of Cambridge! I’ve been playing for the men’s team for my Hughes Hall since we don’t have a women’s team, but I’m very excited about the Eagle’s. I’m going to try to play for both if I can manage the time and workload.
I learned to say trousers instead of pants because when I say pants my friends think I’m talking about underwear. Also, sweaters are called jumpers.
I learned that grass is not to be walked on. The landscaping here is pristine, absolutely beautiful, but if you dare to step on the grass you may get chased down by a porter. I’ve never been chased, but I’ve heard stories. My room window looks onto a sports field and I see how many hours it takes them to keep it beautiful. I do get sad though when I see a football pitch right in front of me but I’m not allowed to play on it for fun with friends.
I learned how to take a Lateral Flow Test, the take-home COVID test. Did you know the government (NHS) mails them to you for free?
I learned how to enjoy a homemade Chinese Hot Pot with friends in their kitchen. I thought I could decently manage my spice but they proved me wrong. It was fun when they laughed at how red my face turned.
I learned that I love homemade Indian food. Stove-top pressures cookers are some kind of witchcraft, chai is divine, and CTM (chicken tikka masala) is not a real Indian dish. (Edit: I was corrected and it actually is, sorry, my mistake)
I learned to always keep a grocery bag with me anytime I leave the house because you never know when you want to shop for groceries. It’s awful to have to buy another plastic bag when you already have five at home. Don’t tell my Poppa that I’ve made pesto noodles for the third week straight.
I learned that pres means pre-drinks before a party or a night of dancing.
I learned that some academic buildings in Cambridge are older than the US itself.
I learned what it’s like to experience my first major holiday (Thanksgiving) away from my family, it’s a deep ache that I’m not looking forward to again for Christmas. I have time now to prepare and plan with friends, though.
I learned what it’s like to get less than eight hours of sunlight a day. It’s hard to keep working into the afternoon/night when the sun sets at 4pm.
I’m proud of learning how to read very difficult texts. A few days ago I reread works by Donna Haraway that felt impossible in the first few weeks of classes, but after the first term, I can skim them and easily understand what she’s trying to tell me.
I learned what it’s like to meet someone who despite growing up across the world from me, holds inconceivably similar life values. The time spent learning about and caring for each other feels heavier because only this one year together is guaranteed. At the same time, I remind myself to enjoy the present.
I love how my views of the world, which I thought were decently open considering I grew up in the US, are challenged not only by my coursework but by new people I meet from different backgrounds.
I am happy here. I feel very inspired by my research and everything else I’m learning/experiencing. I am also homesick. It helps that I am making meaningful connections with friends.