Words by Kiana Duncan
This weekend, I had the pleasure of going to London, England, a city I have wanted to visit since either my first Doctor Who episode, or my first “Harry Potter” movie—whichever came first.
Living in an apartment, which we have thoroughly beaten up in a foreign country, I like to think we’ve gotten pretty cozy and comfortable here. From our chipped mugs, to our Thursday brunches, to our recent fiasco where I threw my leg up on the wall in what was meant to be a model-esque style, and completely kicked a hole in our plastic fan controller. (Suffice to say we are not the landlady’s favorite.) Our grocery store experiences have gotten a lot less awkward, and we can easily find our way around and even give directions in our small city. But I’d forgotten exactly how long I’d been here until we arrived in London.
Of course we were excited about hearing British accents, afternoon tea, all the great shopping and the London eye, but when our plane landed, I was completely caught off guard. (Well, first of all, by the fact that we’d managed to make it on time. After all, I was there.) The man we spoke to about our bus into the city must have thought I was crazy because I stared at him for a good five seconds before I realized he was speaking English. It was so shocking. Sometimes people can tell we’re American, but mostly we get the initial questions in Italian, which we usually try to curb with, “Parli inglese?” We didn’t have to try to be comfortable in London. We just were. The Metro was crazy easy to navigate and everything was so efficient. Not to mention beautiful and huge. We got Starbucks coffee more times than I am comfortable admitting, mostly because it was decorated for Christmas, slightly because we’re lame and it made us feel like we were in a movie and a bit because it was so cold it kept our hands warm. We also visited the Warner Brothers Studios to see the “Harry Potter” movie sets, but I will reserve that conversation for in person interactions where I can cry with you about how beautiful it was.
Now, like I’ve said, it definitely takes time to be comfortable in a new city, especially one where English isn’t the primary language, and it has definitely been eye-opening. But more than that, in Florence I have relationships and people I look forward to seeing on a daily basis. I have professors who care about me, my favorite spots to study and beautiful monuments that are basically in my backyard.
I began to compare why I was so comfortable in this city with why I was comfortable in Florence. Sure, because people spoke English and for other reasons that were cultural. (I would go into actual intercultural communication reasons I’ve studied in class, but you obviously aren’t here because you wanted to do schoolwork.)
I think the more you travel, the more comfortable you get being uncomfortable. It’s a good feeling. It’s important to be uncomfortable every now and then. My roommate and I were even laughing about this the other day in London. We were there, staying in a hostel with at least 15 other people to a room. It smelled like dirty socks and you had absolutely no privacy, but it was the most fun I’ve ever had. We met people from around the world and even made a friend to go to Amsterdam with this weekend. iI anything bad happened, we laughed it off and moved on. It wasn’t important.
This week, I’ve been challenging myself to be uncomfortable more, and as my time here starts to get shorter, I think it’s important to look past the mistakes and enjoy the little moments, like our favorite crepe place, our weekend trips or our plethora of kitchen mistakes—seriously, we’ve started the motto of, “If you see something, say something.” It’s not all about the big accomplishments. Sometimes learning to be comfortable is enough.