New City, New Eyes

In Arrivals, London, The Art of Travel Spring 2015 by Michael Frazier4 Comments

Hello all! I bring cheers from cold London. I will start with a brief introduction of myself. My name is Michael, and am currently a student in Gallatin (just finished Liberal Studies). I’m studying, what I will call, Story Development and Analysis. Essentially I’m studying the crossroads of literature, journalism, and creative writing (basically a multidisciplinary creative writing major). I hope to become a better writer while in college, and experience as much of the world as I can. I chose this course, because I blog already, I want to understand why I travel and new ways of looking at traveling, and I want to keep up with other NYU student’s journey at different study away sites. I’m currently studying abroad in London, England, and will be studying in Florence over the summer.

When I was in grade school and high school I hadn’t planned on studying abroad in Europe, let alone London. My heart had ties to the east, and I was certain I would study abroad in Japan (still plan on doing that eventually). That proved to be a difficult task, and as I arrived to college I began to lean towards the London program. First, I love literature, and London has plenty of English courses for me to dive into (Shakespeare and stage and Gothic literature). Secondly, I’ve been to Paris once, and ever since then I’ve wanted to come back to Europe and explore different countries (England being one of them). Thirdly, I know very little about England. I’ve seen Big Ben in pop culture, and know the stereotypes about tea and accents but I actually know very little about British culture. And lastly, I wanted to go somewhere where I could do some easily-accessible traveling—hello weekend trips to France and Spain. All of these factors contributed to my decision to come to London.

I’ve titled this post through “New City, New Eyes” because I feel like I’m coming to London with a new set of eyes and responsibilities. I will be doing a lot of international freelance writing for an organization I work for back in NY, and am a RA for one of the residential halls. Already, I feel the weight of these responsibilities, but not only that, I have to look at being in a new place differently. Not only am I trying to grow, learn, ad experience, but I have other students and peers that I’m looking out for. I’m looking forward to how my time here will be with said-mentioned factors. I’ve enjoyed it so far, I’ve had to learn my way around very quickly.

The readings made me feel very introspective. I find that I feel most connected to myself when I get lost in my reading or writing, so that’s definitely an anchor for me. Pico Iyer’s article was definitely speaking some truth. He said that we have no labels when abroad. That our ambiguousness identity is what makes traveling such a joy. I would agree with this for backpacking trips or for short excursions, but as students it’s different. We have the roles of students, and for those of us who work the goal is to not get lost, but to try to fit in and normalize our everyday experiences. I would like to have my “lost” moments, which I assume will come as I explore London, and surrounding countries, but for now, just trying to feel comfortable in this city is important. I am trying to find the home and mystic of NY here in London, but I guess that’s one of my problems. I keep comparing London to NY and in some aspects it’s letting me down—others aspects I’m pleasantly surprised. I definitely resonate with Iyer’s idea of having no expectations. My expectations are limiting me from taking London for what it is, so I hope to get past this.

I have plenty of “NYC” moments when I’m in the city. My love for the city gives me special moments (at least once a week) where I just stop on the middle of the sidewalk, and say, wow this is my city and I love it—no joke, once a week minimum, unless it’s a bad week. I guess I jumped into London expecting to have that feeling right away, which definitely will not be the case. I guess I need to learn the area better, and just get accustomed to it before expecting anything else of this city. If anything, the first two chapters made me aware that I bring myself when I travel, and this can be inhibiting for journeys.

There’s a lot more I can say about my current physiological condition, but I will leave with a little re-cap of where I am. London is cold, I have a load of new responsibilities, I see a lot of NYC in London (which I’m trying to avoid and instead see London as its own entity), and I realize my happiness here isn’t going to come from what London gives me, but from how I make “my place” here and feel comfortable. That’s a lot, and it’s only been a week. Pumped to get to know the rest of you, and see how we grow on our journeys abroad. Cheers!

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  1. Hi Michael! I hope you’re having a nice start to your week! I think you perfectly summed up how I feel so far, as well. Being in NYC can be easy because it’s comfortable and familiar, but as soon as we step out of our box, we find ourselves questioning our decisions and adaptability. Although there is less of a language barrier in London, I could imagine it to be difficult coming into a new situation carrying all of your current responsibilities (not to mention the weather. I’m feeling it here too). I think you have a great mindset though, in that, studying abroad is work and these places won’t just give us memorable experiences and joy out of nothing, we have to work towards them. Good luck, and I look forward to reading more about your adventures in London!


    1. Author

      Thank you Nicole! I look forward to hearing about your journey too, and stepping out of our boxes together. I’m beginning to feel more comfortable in London which is nice. Hope all is well!

  2. MICHAEL! I am sooo happy to see you are in this Art of Travel course. FIRST, I miss you and welcome to London. I’ve been there once already and I will be back there again to be with my best friend! SECOND, I think you hit upon 2 extremely great points. You contradicted the article exactly the same way I would. As I was reading that, I felt as though that would be more befitting an individual who is alone, backpacking the world, and perhaps making a living in that manner. But you’re right, as students in a study abroad site, it is a completely different ballgame. I don’t feel as though I don’t have a label. Although I don’t necessarily feel the need to fit in with the rest of the NYU kids (and I have a lot of Spanish friends so I really don’t), my label is still American. American study abroad student walking out of the financial district, one of the wealthiest districts, in Madrid during a time of political turmoil and economic difficulty is QUITE a label and says a lot about me to the average madrileno. Later on you go on to say that you see NYC in London. We learn our way around and learn our new homes through what experiences we already have so you’re not bad or wrong for doing so. In fact, IN doing so, you will probably see very quickly many parts of London that are NOT like NYC and learn about London and appreciate it much faster. But, I just wrote an article on Wayfinding about how as Americans, not a lot of Eurocities are ever very different from home. We see similar architecture, urban mappings, languages, etiquette, etc.. The only time I really felt like I was in a new new city (and I mean so new so foreign that I couldn’t ever find my way around) was in Marrakech–another different ballpark. I urge you to find very unique cities within London as much as other countries to travel too and see if you ever come a across a city where you feel you will never be a part of. It’s quite an interesting sentiment. Talk to you soon!

    1. Author

      Thank you for this Susan!! I miss you (and all of the LS crew) too, and hope you’re enjoying your abroad journeys (I love following your Facebook posts by the way– haha). Exactly! I do feel like American students are easily identifiable, which makes for unique experiences–at least that’s what I’m learning. And I’m glad you said the following! I’ve def learned more about London by having something to compare it to, and I think I’m growing an appreciation for both cities in their own rights. And such a good point. A lot of American architecture, language, and just culture-in-general has been inspired by European societies. That’s a good thing for me to keep in mind as I continue to analyze this great city. Looking forward to blog posts by you. Blessings with class!!

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