The Final Study Abroad Wrap-Up

I'm terrible at conclusions. In papers, in stories, in life. Goodbyes are just the worst, and I always end up rambling and, of all times to be completely ineloquent, this is where my ability to effectively use words completely deserts me. But I think it'd be a huge mistake to not write some sort of epilogue to my study abroad experience.

I visited eight countries. I explored castles and climbed towers (and an extinct volcano). I saw the city where the Harry Potter books were born, and the studio where the Harry Potter movies were filmed. I was in the crowd at five red carpet movie premieres and saw four West End shows. I camped out for a freezing night outside the O2 Arena. I tried tea with milk, haggis, whiskey, macaroons, and all kinds of wurst. I learned what it was like to thumb my nose at schoolwork... and what it's like to mistake a deadline and scramble and make myself physically sick trying to finish in time. But I also learned what it's like to rise to the pressure I mistakenly created for myself, put my nose to the grindstone, and successfully finish in time. I followed a dream and discovered what it feels like to do something I'm truly passionate about, and do it well.

When I was preparing to go to London, I was excited about the prospect of wandering around the city by myself. And while I did my fair share of that and loved every minute, by far the most rewarding times were spent with the amazing people I met. Sucking wind and trailing after Lorraine on Arthur's Seat while trying not to fall to my death; meandering through Christiania on 4/20 with Erin and Angela; exploring Bethnal Green with Celeste and the GPS system in her tablet; sleeping on Liz's shoulder before The Hunger Games premiere; waiting for hours in the freezing cold with Jen to see Leonardo DiCaprio, only for him to never show up; picnicking and walking through Hyde Park eating ice cream with Amanda. And, you know, everything else.

Then, of course, there was the Olympics. I visited the world headquarters of the Olympic movement and three Olympic Parks in three different countries, and could see one of them from my bedroom window. I got to run around in two empty Olympic Stadiums, including the one where Jesse Owens defied Hitler's ideas of Aryan superiority, and sat in the aquatic center where a man I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing won a silver medal. I've spoken with Danny Boyle and shaken his hand. I've met a man that's been a part of the ceremonies' creative team since 1992. I've watched ceremony auditions and rehearsals and had to fight to keep the tears at bay. I've seen storyboards and pre-vis presentations and heard Danny Boyle speak to the performers about his vision for the ceremony. I walked around in a film studio and on a giant concrete lot wearing a fluorescent red vest with "Casting Team" emblazoned on the back and my name scribbled on it. I froze and I melted (usually froze) and I came home damp, chilly, and exhausted. I sacrificed sleep, schoolwork, and my social life. I worked with the database, sorted thousands of bibs, cut my hands alphabetizing ID badges, made copies, and filed paperwork based on unintelligible handwriting... and loved every single minute of it.

Even more than the Olympics, though, I just plain love London. There's an article that was published in the NY Times called My London, and Welcome To It that I think comes the closest to explaining why.

London is a city of ghosts; you feel them here. Not just of people, but eras. The ghost of empire, or the blitz, the plague, the smoky ghost of the Great Fire that gave us Christopher Wren’s churches and ushered in the Georgian city. London can see the dead, and hugs them close.
But even better;

Now the Olympics has come and dragged us all into the bright light, and a lot of attention is being given to London, and we’re not used to it. We’re not good at showing off. We’re not a good time to be had by all, we’re not an easy date. London isn’t a party animal by nature, it doesn’t join in or have a favorite karaoke song. It does, though, have a wicked, dry and often cruel sense of humor. It is clever, literate and dramatic. It is private and taciturn, a bit of a bore, and surprisingly sentimental. And it doesn’t make friends quickly, is awkward around visitors. We will be pleased when all the fuss and nosiness has gone away.
That's me. London is me in city form. Or I am London reincarnated as a human. I've always felt a connection to this city, and now I know why. We're the same.

(That may be all for London, but now I begin my new project -- blogging every day in July! So keep checking back!)

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