Last weekend, I took my first trip out of London to the lovely city of Amsterdam. I spent the weekend there with my parents before returning to London to show them around my newfound home. Reflecting on this experience, I feel like I learned a lot about the process of not only studying abroad but living abroad. You learn a thing or two when you suddenly become a tour guide of a city you’ve only lived in for a month, and it truly is an enlightening experience.
Amsterdam is a beautiful city, with canals running through the center of the city and many museums and sites to see. We, of course, went to the famous “I am Amsterdam” sign and took a relaxing boat ride through the canals. A tip to future Amsterdam-bound travelers: Watch out, because everything (including signs to buy train/bus tickets) is entirely in Dutch and is super confusing, especially coming from London where you don’t have to deal with a language barrier. It is a lovely city, but a small one — so you can see most of the attractions in one day. It’s hard for me to describe the feeling of returning to London after my first trip outside the city. It was so great to travel and become a tourist once again, but it was also amazing to come back home to London. It’s still a little strange for me to pair “home” and “London” together as I’ve only been here for a month, but it really did feel like returning back to my hometown after being gone — even though I was only away for three days. It was so comforting to return back to my flat, my friends, the familiar places and streets — everything that made it feel like home.
Another element that contributed to my feeling of being at home in a new city was having my parents come visit me. It was great to see my parents again, but the pressure of showing them around the city I wasn’t entirely sure I knew myself yet was overwhelming. I learned that I can’t make it as a tour guide quite yet, after I got us lost multiple times. However, afterward, it really made me feel like I knew the city, and, as my own tour guide said, I am now a true Londoner.
I took them to all the popular tourist sites, including Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Tower Bridge and many more, and I guess the true test of what makes a place home is when you’re no longer taken aback and in awe by these places. Of course it’s lovely, but it felt very nonchalant to casually drive by Trafalgar Square, a world-famous tourist destination. It was a feeling similar to not being wowed by any of the popular Los Angeles landmarks because I’ve been there for so long.
As I said goodbye to my parents today on their way back home, I truly felt like I was home in London. It reminded me of why I chose London as my study abroad destination, and how we all choose our place for a reason. A large part of my reason to come here was to be able to have a “second home” in London. Today marks a full month in London, and I am so happy to be here, at home, where I’m supposed to be.