Since arriving in this country over seven months ago, I’ve grown accustomed to most aspects of British life: rainy weather, two-pence coins and non-refrigerated eggs in the grocery stores, to name a few. But as my time in England nears its end, I’ve started to reflect on things that I hope to remember above others, whether it be for significant, sentimental or just plain funny reasons.
The European version of Forever 21, this department store provided all kinds of clothing and standard household items for cheap. My friends and I would spent hours rifling through the racks, both to hide from the pouring rain outside and in the hopes of finding a steal. I am not exaggerating when I say that their £10 sweaters saved my life during the winter months; I had gravely underestimated how low the English temperature was capable of dropping when I had packed my suitcases. To date, I own four sweaters, two scarves, a jacket, and a pair of boots from Primark. If Southern California ever has a snow day, at least I know I’m prepared.
4. The Buses
It’s common knowledge in California that if you do not possess a car, it can be quite difficult, even impossible, to get around. But in England, the public bus system always provided a cheap and easy alternative to navigating the roads by yourself. In Canterbury, a bus day-pass cost only £2.90, a price I gladly paid. National Express, an intercity company, also provided bus travel between towns all over the UK for a decent price. A good thing, too, as English driving etiquette remains a mystery to me. Between the narrow streets, driving on the left side of the road, and the roundabouts every fifty meters, I still have no idea how a massive bus was able to wind through without hitting anything. Kudos to those bus drivers, seriously.
3. University Life
Like most schools in England, University of Kent offered over fifty societies (clubs) and multiple sports teams that all students were welcome to join. With a range that spanned from the Debate and Engineering societies to the more unusual, like the Quidditch society and the Psychedelic club, students were guaranteed to find something that catered to their interest. The sports teams are mainly just for fun, so everyone was encouraged to sign up, even if they had never done the sport before. I tried out a trampoline class before discovering I was absolutely hopeless when it came to heights. No matter, though; kickboxing and swimming turned out to be more fun anyways.
2. Actual seasons
Having lived in California my whole life, I had never experienced any kind of real seasonal change before coming here. Though I still have yet to fully embrace England’s cold and rainy weather, watching the scenery change so drastically as the months passed was quite cool. It was amazing to me that people here had grown up witnessing this their whole life, and thought it strange that I had never owned a raincoat or an umbrella before. It even snowed one of the weekends in February. Of course, I was the only one excited about it, running outside in my flip-flops as everyone else huddled around the warmth of the radiator, laughing at me as I took picture after picture of the clouds.
1. Pub culture
Are you over 18 and looking to unwind after a long day of classes? Wander no further than your local pub(s); there were five on my university’s campus alone. Pubs offer a great atmosphere to catch up with friends over beers, or to meet new people while playing pool or watching the game. More often than not, clubs and societies would organize pub crawls to inspire camaraderie amongst members. It was on one of these nights that my new friends, waving their £1 pints around, had tried to teach me the lyrics to “God Save the Queen”, insisting that I could never be a real Brit until I had it memorized.
A few hours and pints later, I finally got it right.
God save the Queen, indeed.
Sydne Aguilar is studying English and film. She is studying abroad in Canterbury, United Kingdom during the 2016-17 academic year.