Ever since I left London in June of last year, I’ve been longing to go back. I’m sure that‘s a similar experience for many people who study abroad, or really for traveling in general. I always knew that I’d find my way back there someday, but the big question of when was very much up in the air. Remarkably, when came much sooner than I had expected and less than a year after I boarded my flight home from Heathrow, I was back landing in that very same airport to spend a week in the city I had called home for a year.
I always think it’s beneficial to revisit places you’ve already been on trips to see more aspects of a city, and to be able to explore more. Going back to London was so nice because I was able to come in with a list of things I had missed (even with a year there, there was still so much that I hadn’t seen) and I was able to know my way around town immediately. Unlike other cities where it can be confusing or stressful to navigate my way around, and I constantly go the wrong way when trying to get somewhere, I never had any of those concerns while in London. I could confidently navigate the tube, I was already familiar with the currency (although I did have to brush up on the coins), and I didn’t feel the gnawing need to take everything in at every moment. It’s also nice to revisit the place where you studied abroad when you’re no longer a student. It gives you a different perspective on the city and you can view it with new eyes. It’s surprising how different a city can look (and yet, how similar it is) when you’re not constantly thinking about school work, or deadlines, and nothing academic can stand in your way of exploring.
In my week in London I saw new museums, got to see shows on the West End (couldn’t go to London without seeing at least ONE show… don’t worry, I saw four), found new treats to eat, and I was able to reconnect with friends that I hadn’t seen since before I left. I saw shows which were newly opened, and ones that I didn’t have time to see while I was studying abroad. I immersed myself back into the mindset of living in London immediately, and in some ways, it was like I never left. It was a long awaited trip, and it did not disappoint.
Even though going back to a familiar city allowed me to see new things, it also allowed me to bask in the familiarity of what I had once called home, and to visit all my favorite places in London. Within my first 24 hours in London, I had already enjoyed a scone complete with clotted cream, jam, and a lovely pot of tea. It was new and old all at the same time, and it would be the first of many, many scones within my week there (I had to make up for all the scones I haven’t eaten since I left, obviously). I got to revisit the V&A (one of my favorite museums), but also scope out the Science Museum, and the Natural History Museum (both new visits for me), which are just a few blocks away. I wandered through Kensington Gardens to find the Peter Pan Statue, and ended up in Hyde Park which I had explored back in early January of 2017. I walked down to Buckingham Palace and even though I’d seen it before, I got to get closer than I had before (and managed to locate the spot where Parks and Rec filmed for their London episode). A lot of my meandering was random and based on spontaneous because I knew that those locations were vaguely close by, and in being familiar with London, I felt at ease not having my entire day planned out (like I would do in any other city). It felt nice to be able to take my time in London day by day, and to have a relaxed view of my time there.
I got to check out Borough Market, and see the new statue of Millicent Garrett Fawcett in Parliament Square, which wasn’t there when I was in London. I went into the Lego Store in Leicester Square (it was very newly opened last year) and it’s the little things like that which made me feel like I was relearning little bits of London. There were new buildings in places that were covered in construction, and areas of construction in places that hadn’t been. I went to Sweet near Stepney Green which is very near to Queen Mary, and somewhere I had passed many times last year walking to the tube, but never experienced (if you’ve got a sweet tooth, it is definitely the place to visit)… Obviously in a city as large as London there are constantly new things to explore and discover, but there’s something magical about the blending of those new adventures, and that sense of familiarity that is always there.
I usually feel pressured when I visit a new city to see everything, and to have an organized plan for every minute I’m there. Going back to where I studied abroad, I felt none of that pressure, and was able to just take it day by day, with no grand plan for my time there. That was one of the beauties of coming back to where I had studied abroad – I got to simultaneously be a tourist and feel at home. Without a doubt, I can’t recommend revisiting where you studied abroad, or really anywhere that resonated with you, highly enough.