Lessons in London

LONDON – Studying abroad is like trying a new food. You’re not really sure what you’re going to get, but you’re still willing to throw down the money and take a chance, simply because you’re tired of the tried and true soda-burger-fries routine and need something new at the table.

But while many of us toy with the idea of studying abroad, in the end only an approximated four percent of Temple’s population ever did the last academic year.

At the last moment, when the waiter arrives, 96 percent of us slink back into our comfort zone and order the usual.

While listening to my taste buds may make me just another statistic, I’m glad it’s on the minority end. I’m an American living in Great Britain through the School of Communication and Theater’s London program – and while I knew I wouldn’t be living in the United States for three and a half months, I never thought I’d actually feel like a foreigner. Even before you open your mouth, Londoners know you’re an American.

Appearance-wise, your mixed heritage makes you stick out like a sore thumb. And it’s not only your speech that states the obvious; it’s your dress, posture and mannerisms that also distinguish you from your British counterparts. Case in point: An unusually hyperactive Londoner began yelling at a group of us one night when we rolled through the pubs 10 girls deep, dressed in slinky tops, butt-hugging pants and heels rather than today’s standard London female uniform of leggings and skinny jeans.

Listening to him yell, “You ain’t from ’round here, girls, are ya?” I realized that no, we weren’t from around here – and no matter how many sweater-leggings combination out fits I wear, it wouldn’t be easy hiding the fact that I hail from the melting pot of the world. Being a foreigner has its perks, of course. The London men find the accents of American women “sexy” and “feminine.”

Apparently British girls speak in low tones; and the chaps (boys) find our Valley Girl vocals and phrases more to their fancy (liking).

The language barrier stretches beyond accents, too – English isn’t always the universal language we assume it to be.

After getting pissed (drunk) at the pub (bar) and snogging (kissing) a few fit (attractive) British chaps (boys), I order a late night take away (take out) order of fish and chips (cod and French fries), which I then throw away in a bin (trash can) or skip (dumpster) before heading back to my flat (apartment).

The Brits wouldn’t like any rubbish (trash) on their clean pavement (sidewalk). Even my dress is different here. Before I take the tube (subway) into Central London, I put on my knickers (underwear), trousers (pants), trainers (sneakers) and a jumper (sweater).

When I’m craving home, I head to the nearest cash point (ATM machine) for some quid (pounds, or the UK currency) and queue (wait) in line to order a two and a half pound (nearly $5) Starbucks iced coffee. All this drinking has me running for the loo (bathroom), which is often already engaged (occupied) by more than 7 million people living in this 609 square mile city. I’m living in Kensington, the official “royal district” of London, a far cry from the dodgy (ghetto) Temple campus.

Here, police carry a bobby (a stick used for beating) and aren’t so much the willies (dicks) that we’re used to them being. You can’t ring me (call me) on my mobile (cell phone) here, but if you get yourself together (get organized), you can pick up “The Temple News” or log on to www.temple-news.com to read about my adventures.

Keep in touch and maybe you’ll be inspired to be a statistic, too.

Sammy Davis can be reached at s.davis@temple.edu.

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