At age 18, my first summer of college, with an instinctive need to get out and see more, I decided to live in London for an entire summer on my own.
According to Samuel Johnson: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” At 18, I was not tired of either, and decided that after my initial trip when I was 17, that I had to get back to that city. So, I looked for a job, found a place to live, and bought myself a $300 ticket.
I found an internship working for a public relations company, Neville McCarthy Associates. My mom went to Vanderbilt with the owner, and she gave me his email, as she knew I had been looking for opportunities in London. After emailing back and forth for three weeks, I finally received my confirmation that February.
Next, it was on to finding a place to live. I was not getting paid for this internship, but I had saved up money from babysitting every week, and had took some massive dives into my savings account. While I was willing to pay rent, a stroke of luck and the benefits of knowing people helped.
My aunt’s cousin, Carolyn, lived in London. She saw my mother’s Facebook status reaching out to those near and far who could help me in my search for a summer stay. In her Primrose Hill home, she had a greenhouse, and she was trying to find a reason to convert it into a bedroom. She found her reason, and I found my free room.
After an entire semester of tinkering with plans and letting my excitement consume me, I finally arrived in London on a wet May day. I had been to London before, but never by myself.
I got off the plane, finagled my way onto a train – hoping it was the right one – and arrived at Victoria station. I took a taxi to Primrose Hill. All of this done without the help of a cell phone.
After Carolyn helped me settle into what I called my cylinder block bedroom, I changed and took the afternoon opportunity to get lost in London. This became my routine almost every day I found time. I would let my curiosity take hold and, hopefully, find myself somewhere new, and preferably interesting enough.
This sort of wandering lead me to funky pubs, quirky stores, and completely scenic moments. While most of this time I was on my own doing this, I did finally make some friends to take on these lost and found adventures.
When you are in a city by yourself, it can be easy to get lonely, especially after living in the dorms at Ole Miss and constantly being surrounded by your best friends. You end up being friends with just about anyone you find bearable.
Through the turmoil of finding friends in London, I found some groups I could finally stick with. One was a group of 20-year-olds who had just graduated from Oxford University. Another was a crew of Fashion Institute of Technology students who had also come over for internships. Lastly, were my Brighton friends – those I had met on my weekend trips to the coastal city with my intern friend, Meg.
My friends from Oxford University were enthralled by the idea that I also studied at an Oxford, and it became an ongoing joke that I went Oxford University when I went out with them.
They were brilliant, but mostly just pure fun. They had parties at a few of their flats. One happened to be right around the corner of mine in Primrose Hill. These were always themed, my favorite being the swimsuit party.
The group of FIT interns were all girls, mostly from New York. It was a ritual to go to Warwick Castle every night, a pub in Maida Vale. I tried to go as much as I could. There was me, a blonde girl from Mississippi, with a group of at least 10, all brunette, Jewish girls from New York.
The Brighton friends were my favorite. This friendship was built on the fundamentals of agreeing to find a drink at 11 in the morning. Brighton was also an escape from the big city, a town with a beach and friendly faces who were not afraid to come up and talk to you at the pub. This is probably what lead to making friends so quickly, and the compelling nature it had on me to go there every weekend after my first visit.
All of this wandering through the United Kingdom left an imprint on me. Since my summer trip, I cannot go three months without going back. This term has been a long haul since I was back in March, but May is just around the corner.
By Wade Johnson. Read more stories like this on Oxford Stories.
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