How do you find a sense of community and belongingness in a bustling city? Makenna writes about why she chose to study abroad in London and how she's carved out a "me place" to spend some alone time in her neighborhood. Read on and find out tips on how to bask in both the busyness and stillness of London.
London is a major city full of diversity. Experiencing the range of lifestyles and beliefs that the city has to offer was a major reason I decided to study in London. Seeing life through different eyes is fascinating. While interacting with masses of people is thrilling for the most part, I am an extroverted introvert, meaning that I need my alone time in order to continue functioning happily.
Space in London, and most other places young people are accommodated in, is tight and has the potential to feel cramped on days that I want to be alone. I found that when I travel to new places the easiest first thing to do is find a space that I can call mine aside from my bedroom. Doing this helps me find a space that I can go to when the house feel full or the city doesn’t seem to slow down. This is a great option for those like myself who tend to get traveler's guilt, meaning that when you’re uncomfortable or just need to relax, your bedroom is a space that brings a guilty feeling.
I call this outside space my “me place” because I like it enough to feel comfortable in it and I can have time alone there. In this space I can journal about my experiences, work for school, or simply sit down and have a cup of coffee. Usually my “me place” is a coffee shop. After a few weeks, there might be a few that pop up around town so I have different options based on where I’m at, but starting in my neighborhood is the easiest way to establish one that I can get to when I don’t want to commute very far.
Shepherd's Bush at golden hour is the perfect place for reading or hanging out with friends.
I am living on Goldhawk Road in the Shepherd's Bush area. Here, I’m within walking distance to the Westfield mall, Shepherd's Bush Market and a few different coffee shops. It seemed out of the way when I got here, but as I spent more time here it became comfortable. This part of London seems more like a suburb of the actual city, which can seem boring if you’re looking to experience every part of London. My bored perspective changed when I got off the tube at golden hour one evening and found the park full of people basking in the sunset. It was beautiful and meant that the area is safe enough to feel comfortable in the fading light. It almost looked like a community, one that I get to be part of.
In our part of London, two roommates share a flat with me. We have two bedrooms upstairs, a single and a double. There’s a living area with a kitchen downstairs. While the single bathroom can get tight, there’s plenty of room for all of us to live comfortably together. Plus, I have my space across the street.
I always love a coffee shop with plants to give it a cozier vibe.
There’s a coffee shop called Swallow just a few doors down from the Tube station closest to Goldhawk. While exploring the neighborhood on the first day, I walked in to grab an Americano and was immediately intrigued by the plants hanging from the ceiling and the quiet that came from the well-lit seating area upstairs. The baristas were kind and made me feel welcome, so I stayed a while. It was easy to make this a “me space” because I instantly felt at home. The chairs were comfortable and I was able to be productive.
It’s hard to find a perfect place to call yours, so make sure it makes you feel comfy on the inside and out.
Upon finding a space that I think could become an important one to me, I tend to go back a second time to make sure I like it. So, I went back the next day and found that it gave me the same warm feeling. The Americano was consistent and one of the baristas from the previous day was working. The atmosphere gave me a hug that I know I’ll probably need one day. It was settled, I found a “me place” in my neighborhood.
My "me place" in my neighborhood.
I don’t need to go there all the time to feel like it’s mine. I just need to know that if I’m having an off day that’s somewhere that I can go and feel warm and safe. To have one in my neighborhood not only makes my flat feel more like mine, but it engrains me into the city a little bit more too. Now, I’m not a floater because if anyone asks, I have a flat in the Shepherd's Bush area and a favorite coffee shop right on the corner. Now that I’m familiar, I can be home.
Makenna Sturgeon is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2019, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. A Journalism major at University of Colorado Boulder, she is studying abroad in London this semester.
Makenna's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.