A funny thing happens when you start grad school abroad, especially if that school is made up of mostly international students and you live in a dorm. It starts to feel A LOT like freshman year of college. Going to a dinner with the dorm where I knew no one besides a couple people I had briefly run into in the halls gave me a serious taste of social anxiety, but it was nice to know that I am not as awkward as I was when I entered college! Oh sure I'm awkward and my natural inclination is to sit and look pretty until someone attractive or well dressed comes and speaks to me, but I'm working that. There is no place for being reserved in a new country, so I might as well just embrace the loud American stereotype.
Several of my friends are having similar freshman year of college-type experiences who've also recently begun grad school. However, I would argue that mine is even more intense in just a social/life sense because we're all trying to figure out what is and is not socially acceptable in this country. A lot of people (including sometimes myself) thought that cultural assimilation would be one thing we wouldn't have to worry about in England, seeing as how I know English, know English history, and have read enough British chick lit to know the basic slang. I consider myself fairly well traveled and have had two past roommates from London, so I thought the international living would be no breeze. But it is just different from say moving to NYC, especially as a grad student who has probably been out in the working world, and is expected to know the difference between David Gordon and Gordon Ramsay and understand cultural cues that may just be lost on me. We had a long discussion at dinner about the appropriate amount to tip, and the Italian/German/Turkish population promptly laughed in our faces when we said the general consensus was 20%. I'm unnerved and a little disappointed in myself for feeling so much more comfortable with the Americans and Aussies than the laconic Germans and indecipherable Italians. I need to work on getting my German roommates to speak to me. I hope my hair isn't making them nervous.
Despite the fact that I am half cracked out on sleep deprivation and the tiniest bit of Ambien, I think the dorm was a really good choice and the people seem cool and the neighborhood seems trendy and hip and a little bit "transitional" and more my style than the posh Kensington which everyone recommended. Pictures will surface this week, but get ready to be jealous of the sweet Spitalfields Market a block away. Ooh and the old buildings and the pubs and the cobblestones. Sayonara amigos.