What studying abroad in London has been like, so far

Ah, yes: midterm exams season is upon us. All I’ve really been doing today is studying (or rather, revising) for exams. As I look back on all of the neat theories and concepts that have shaped my semester, I thought I’d look back on some tweets that defined it as well.

Here is an overview of what my semester in London has been composed of, so far, as told by Twitter.

Showing Shakespeare love
It started innocently enough with my love of William Shakespeare. It’s through tweeting about what a good time I had at the Globe I discovered old Bill’s nickname has earned its own emoji on Twitter. Good to know that even in this post-modern era, we know how to show the OGs some love.

I also got a taste of the Internet standom when #FakeShakespeareFacts was trending. People were tweeting the darnedest things.



BBC: Brits breaking character
As I have noted with a fair amount of my abroad peers, the Brits can be a cold people. No matter how much they stare at you, commuters on the Tube give off a distinct “I won’t speak unless spoken to” vibe. And even then, the level of friendliness is questionable.

In the U.S., when someone looks great, you tell them. Whereas in the U.K., no matter how fit or dashing someone looks, you hesitate to compliment them. Someone could be looking absolutely fine and they’d never know, because you just keep it to yourself.

That being said, there was a 48-hour period when all kinds of nice Afro-Carribbean and Latinx ladies (out and about, at the pub, etc.) couldn’t hold themselves back from telling me how nice my afro was.

Which, in this reserved, Eurocentric bastion of white-washed beauty, made me glow inside.

Confronting the realities of being a senior
With a blog to update daily and a new city to explore, senioritis isn’t on my radar. Even on my poor mental health days, I am committed to seizing the day and squeezing as much meaning + enrichment out of London life as possible.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that I don’t feel the Weight of the Future. That Atlas-like  weight on my chest includes post-grad jobs, post-grad plans, commencement preparations, housing for next semester, housing for this summer, housing for the rest of my life and of course, whether I will be recognized for my talents in a capitalist system that really wasn’t set up for queer, black, femmes like me to succeed.

As one cheeky Londoner put it:


True that, Michael. True that.

Wrestling with spelling
I have been an excellent speller my entire life. So mind you, if I am thrown for a loop, the situation has to be dire. British spellings have gotten me all messed up.

I do poke a bit of fun at British spellings on the blog (with my “explanatory commas” I add in parentheses). But I really do struggle. My professors hand out assignments written in the dialect of the area. I am in England, aren’t I? Shouldn’t I respect that?

As someone who clings to the uniformity of institutions like AP Style for peace of mind, it’s tough.

I type words like “favourite” and “neighbourhood,” much to my laptop’s chagrin. I have, however, switched over to a U.K. keyboard on my phone. Friends, if I toss around the £ sign or slip in a “realise” too easily, now you know.

Reaching peak “Bi + Boujee”

This tweet is currently pinned to my profile. It is both a reflection of one of my better moments and what I aspire to be moving forward. Consider it inspirational.

Not only was I hype to be researching a story and actually, for once, able to access BBC iPlayer because I was in Britain. But I was also hype to be enjoying a glass of wine and some decadent dessert, feeling quite pampered and very much taken care of sensually.

Realising there are (fake) deep guys on every continent

You may think since was tweeted in the classic “Ya MCM…” style, I was poking fun at a hypothetical example of misguided masculinity. The cheek is there, but this is based off of a real-life experience.

If you’re going to be a f*ckboy, just own it. Like a lot of the intellectually inclined boys at my university, guys can disguise their jerk tendencies with a veneer of philosophy, indie films and Social Justice Lite. Whether observing my friends’ romantic misadventures or interacting with boys on a platonic level, it’s all so tiring. On every continent.

It’s the same level of exhaustion reached when you’re ensnared in a situationship with someone (the hallmark of our generation, usually involving a f*ckboy). There’s layers and layers of facade, and nothing wholesome can ever be uncovered.

Two tweets from fellow Londoners outlined this modern phenomenon in the U.K. perfectly:


Besides, it’s the pub. It’s so loud you can barely think. I understand most people come straight from work, but if that was the case, you’d have your affairs in your satchel or briefcase. Why are you ostentatiously toting around feminist literature to the pub? You clearly must be trying to get the one-up on the guys who bring their puppies to the pub. Nice try.

Embracing the music culture and humor
I feel like this BBC video embodies the kind of wry snark that made me an anglophile to begin with. Leave it to British folk to combine sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll with the sacred art of brewing a cuppa.

Understanding the temporary nature of it all
Here, I don’t mean the metaphysical. I quite frankly mean the fact that I am only going to be in London for a few more weeks, give or take. Sure, studying abroad does give me enough time in the city to make my mark and lay the foundation for genuine nostalgia.

I, however, will not be here long enough to do the things that matter most to me. Like get a better shot at seeing “Hamilton” on the West End or go to the kind of concerts you have to plan for months in advance.

I am indeed 100 percent salty about the concert situation.

And in this moment, I really didn’t care about governments and corporations tracking my habits for their gain. I cared about how viscerally upset I will be in February when Lamar breaks his social media hiatus just to post an extra disrespectful Instagram pic from Holborn station or something.

I am working out the kinks to attend a few smaller shows as we speak. But there is a particular kind of frustration I feel about the tours happening at home while I’m here (Halsey) and the tours set to ramp up in Europe when I go home (Evanescence, next to Kendrick Lamar). Don’t get me started.

Navigating the sticky world of cheese twists
You’d think all grocery store pastries are created about equal, right? No, you are absolutely wrong.

This semester, Sainsbury’s cheese twists were the best thing to ever happen to me. Even greater than the whispers of hazelnut I pick up in their chocolate croissants.

For less than a pound each, these little morsels of sharp and savoury deliciousness brighten the breaks I have in my three- and four-hour courses. They also make for a particularly delightful modified breakfast sandwich when you throw an egg on top.

So, knowing this, it’s not hard to imagine how I could have the same light of adoration burning in my chest when I swung by Tesco to pick up their cheese twists. It’s also not hard to imagine, then, my grave disappointment when Tesco’s offerings did not live up to those nuggets of heavens from Sainsbury’s.

I don’t know if I got a bad batch. All I know is that I took one bite and knocked my Prêt mocha back. Hard.

I also know that even if I just happened to get a bad one, I currently don’t have the kind of income to give Tesco a second chance. Sorry not sorry, mate.

And finally, really making the effort to feel British
I’ve done a lot of readings for class about how being black and being European (or even just existing while black in a predominantly white, Western space) is an antagonistic existence. How do you balance nationality and pride for your country with the stain of that country’s imperialism all over your ethnic heritage?

No solution I can offer is quick or easy. And besides, I’m not sure how valid my answer could be. I am not a U.K. citizen (and citizenship doesn’t always match up cleanly with national identity, anyway). But more importantly, I am not a permanent resident of the U.K. and I don’t plan to be one any time soon.

Still, I have made an investment in speaking and eating and dressing and enjoying the arts as locals do. Which culminated in this private spectacle and surprising revelation on Thursday morning:

As I also learned in class, culture is learned, integrative, adaptive and social. (Look who really has been studying for midterms!) At the very least, I should get some sort of national recognition for being able to celebrate popular African-American and Scottish music simultaneously. I think I have made a fine case for being an exemplary American expat in London.


By Caroline Colvin

Black retro-obsessed non-binary baddie ♡ pleasure & wellness advocate ♡ aesthetic archivist ♡

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