By MARIEA SEKIJIMA
Contributing Writer

London has always held a special place in my heart. As the backdrop to the Muggle world in Harry Potter, the site of the 2012 Summer Olympics and the home to many influential writers, philosophers and artists, the cultural significance of the capital of the United Kingdom cannot be understated. Naturally, when I was choosing my destination to study abroad, London was my top choice. I’m currently an affiliate student studying Political Science at University College London (UCL), a school I chose because of my interest in their masters programs and challenging courses.

It’s been three weeks since I first landed in my new home for the duration of the spring term. Upon arriving, I was immediately reminded of my excitement for the unknown. The United Kingdom and the United States share many similar traits, among them the English language and their melting pot nature of diversity. Although similar, one can’t ignore the differences that make living on this side of the pond so refreshing and unique.

Although New York City and London are both major cities and the hubs of social, economic and political activity, I’ve found London to have a sort of pleasant charm to it that I see as absent in New York City. When I picture New York, I think primarily of flashy neon lights, skyscrapers and crowds of tourists. While many tourists undoubtedly flock to London as well, I’ve noticed that London was able to preserve its history and culture whilst still adapting to the modern day. Historic buildings in London stand next to newly renovated office spaces while (free!) museums housing ancient artifacts and artwork are scattered across the city.

All countries and cultures suffer from both negative and positive stereotypes, and England is no exception. Before arriving, many of my friends and relatives reminded me to expect rain every day while I heard from academic websites that silence is the norm in university classrooms. Both have been proven to be false– it’s only truly rained a few times while I’ve been here (although when it rains, it rains) and my seminar portions of each class are largely discussion-based.

I’ve been lucky enough to be able to live in multiple cities throughout my life (Shiga, Japan, Los Angeles, New York City), each one of them different and alluring in its own way. London has been the first to make me feel both at home and like a foreigner at the same time. While these may be my first impressions, I have six months to explore and learn more about this iconic city, and I look forward to making lasting memories in my new home.

Mariea’s study abroad experiences will be further documented on her blog, marimilktea.wordpress.com.

PHOTO COURTESY OF MARIEA SEKIJIMA

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