Maybe this is too sentimental, but I can feel slight tears welling up as I write the words “one last post”. I somewhat feel the need to create this grandiose piece of writing, that which is hyper-organised and devoted to each and every moment I spent during my time studying in London, but I’ll save you from a novel. As cliché as I may sound, this precursor to tears is only a sign of how good London has been to me.
I’m not sure if I have actually written about my thoughts towards London, the culture of the city, or European culture in general, but I’ll try and get some of my thoughts out here. You might be happy to hear that when people ask, “Do you like London? How are you finding it?” my response is undoubtedly and without hesitation, “I love it. I want to make a life over here.”
I think it was about two years ago when I started getting this idea in my head that I would be somewhere in the UK come the time after I graduated from my degree in engineering. At the time I was applying to many scholarships, some that would put me at Oxford, some that would put me at Cambridge… I hadn’t even heard of UCL (as many in the US haven’t) until I was directed to my now-supervisor, James Wilson, by a professor at King’s College London. (Mind you, there’s a pretty big rivalry between King’s and UCL, so little did I know that this suggestion *by* a King’s professor to go check out a program at UCL was HUGE!)
Back when I was deciding between universities, I had a Skype call with James, as I was thinking of studying politics and ethics in a global setting without a health focus, but James thought that, just as an engineer doesn’t devote their time to studying pure mathematics, I might want to study within the intersection of health and philosophy instead of trying to study solely philosophy and apply those skills to health later on. Granted, I did end up satisfying a desire to study pure philosophy (whatever “pure” actually means) by taking classes within the political science department, which were taught by political theorists who taught us how to pick apart ideas with a certain intellectual rigour that I’m still trying to muster.
Aside from my classes and philosophy (to which I’ve devoted ample writing space), I cannot be more thankful for the warm reception that I had into the UCL jazz society. The people who comprise this society are what make the organisation (so much that we were deemed arts society of the year!!). My friend was asking about my thoughts on finding social circles or friends in London, and I remember telling her that this act is pretty hard to fulfil in London. My experience taught me that London is wonderfully social and open to newcomers, but one can only feel truly welcomed and received once they’ve worked their way into a social circle within the city. As expansive as the city is, and as cosmopolitan as the city is, one can still become very lonely in what’s known as the “city of lonely hearts”. Despite this label, however, my heart was anything but lonely in London, and the jazz society was integral in allowing me to feel like I had a deep and true companionship within the city. Or, perhaps I might say that music in general has done this, as I cannot forget my friends at Street Orchestra Live 🙂
Not only has the jazz society helped me integrate socially into London, but I might add that the openness and willingness to let me explore the nature of my musicianship has really helped me become confidently expressive in my life as a musician. I know that I have a lot of work to do with theory and technique, but the theory and technique can be practiced and work on, where it may not be that a natural musicianship is entirely something that can be learned. Being in the jazz society, and listening to others’ honest feedback about my playing, has really been integral to discovering a deeper connection to music that I’ve realised that I must feed throughout my life.
I’m thinking about how to continue writing this post and the phrase “little did I know…” keeps coming to mind in order to describe so much that has happened in this year. I might not bore you with a clichéd phrase, but the recurrence of that phrase tells you of how integral London has been to teaching me how to understand not only myself in new ways, but additionally the world around me. The thing about London is that nobody (or at least nobody in my social circles) will question you about what you’re up to in life. They’ll maybe inquire a bit further to understand what it is you truly do, but they won’t interrogate or ask why you’re doing what you do. Instead, what people care about in London is whether you’re happy, or whether you can be the best, most genuine self you could ask for. If that is being fulfilled, no other preconceptions or mentalities will get in the way of existing in the way one feels is most true to their self.
This lets me decide that a life as a philosopher-writer-ethicist-musician-political advisor-health advisor-consultant-human rights activist (that’s meant to be confusing) is possible. Or at least I’m led to believe that a life full of my own passions and interests is doable, so long as I can put in the necessary work to make it happen. I not only saw this mutual interest in my social circles outside of classes, but additionally in all of my coursemates. Many of my coursemates were taking a year out of medical studies to expand the breadth of their knowledge, to become more well-rounded doctors, but whilst doing so have managed to kick themselves out of the traditional route commonly taken in medicine and have set themselves on a trajectory that incorporates not only medicine (or even taking out medicine) but newer topics in the humanities, including (but not limited to) the topics listed in my course (philosophy, politics, economics, health).
I applaud those teaching this course of study for introducing us students to new ways of thinking, such that we become uncomfortably passionate about things we never would have guessed to be a part of our lives. I only say uncomfortably passionate because I’ve learned that being uncomfortable in a field of study is different than being bored or disinterested – discomfort leads to a more nuanced and intentional approach to reading, critiquing, and writing important works of writing that contribute to necessary thought.
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As you all know, I’ve been traveling in the most recent weeks, to Romania, Bulgaria, and Spain. I think I’ll be devoting a bit more time to thoughts from these travels in my other blog (link here!), for the sake of not keeping the blog from the next two fellows (that’s right, two!).
I have the pleasure to turn the blog over to Sonia Thosar, who is doing an MA in Film Studies at UCL, and Paul Reggentin, who is doing an MA in Comparative Literature at King’s! Needless to say, these two will have to reconcile their differences in choosing to study at rival universities, but I’m sure they’ll be able to manage in finding a good middle-ground between the dissonance… All jokes aside, I very much look forward to reading what these two have to say about their time in London, and I avidly await what their time in London will bring to them both!
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So, with the end of this post comes the end of my time writing on this blog. I hope you all have enjoyed my rantings and explorations into my confused and crazily interested mind (in all-too-many things, at times). As I fly back to London, I realise that the goodbye I say to this city is only temporary. Being able to experience this sort of culture has only caused me to be bitten by a highly infectious bug, such that I will undoubtedly be back in this region within a year’s time. (I feel that I’ve left out so many who have been integral to making London feel like home to me, but I’m sure you all know who you are!) As one last night, please, check out the next blog if you find my ideas interesting or would like to follow my future travels. With that, enjoy the writings of Paul and Sonia, and I bid you all farewell!