As the winter holidays come to a close and I get geared up to a second full semester in London, I cannot help but be dumbfounded at how quickly the first has flown by. To be fair, it did not start till late September and was thus no more than three, maybe three and a half, months of classes. But even then, the speed at which we have arrived at 2018 is astounding.
If I could sum up my first semester in one word, it would be this: disorientation. I arrived quite inevitably with uncertainty about what the city and the university would entail, but also quite ‘evitably’ with uncertainty about what I wanted out of my first semester. As a result, I spent the first month and a half dazed and torn; I was stunned each day by the experience of living in central London and the immediate barrage of sights, smells, and sounds that met me at my dorm door, but also divided between the desire to take advantage of world class academics and the desire to experience a world class metropolis. Naturally, I ended up doing a little bit of either and a lot of neither. Unable to make a decision about my priorities, I lived sporadically, spending days at a time walking through museums, gardens, and busy streets, and days more cramped in the library.
Eventually, if belatedly, I found my rhythm. The incredible experience of taking three overlapping, though distinct, IR courses has created a new sense of respect and an awful lot of opinions about my chosen major. The opportunity to study modern Chinese history has finally quelled the guilty whisper in my heart, no longer ashamed to face the Taiwanese mother who raised me and gave me so selflessly to a foreign language and culture. And the city, oh the city, with block after block of stunning christmas lights, with its thousands of hidden cafes and underground bars, with its grimy charm and unkept beauty, has thoroughly taken my heart.
I find myself infinitely grateful that I picked a year long program, and I can hardly wait for another semester of exploration. But first, some new year’s fireworks on the Thames are in order.