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Reflecting On My Identity and Countering American Stereotypes in London

Oct 27, 2021 10:07:00 AM / by Andrea Arias

How does one fit in when they already stand out? Andrea shares some examples of the differences in the US and UK. She also blogs about the memorable trips she's taken outside of London and adapting to the local environment.

Hi again everyone, and welcome to my third blog post. For those of you who may be new readers, let me introduce myself. My name is Andrea Arias and I am a senior attending James Madison University. I am a theatre major with concentrations in both theatre education and performance. I am studying abroad in London for the fall semester. Throughout the semester, I will write about my internship opportunity, things I’ve learned, and other memorable experiences I’ve had the privilege of being a part of! 

Me at Stonehenge

Caption: Me at Stonehenge.

My First Month in London

My time studying in London so far has been nothing less than wonderful. I am in awe of the people, the culture, and how being in this city has changed my own perception of the world. After orientation week, we hit the ground running into starting classes as well as our internships.

I am currently studying on a combined program with CAPA and my university, James Madison University. Through this program, I am participating in CAPA’s Global Internship Program while taking classes through my home university. 

The building where most of my JMU classes are held

Caption: The building where most of my JMU classes are held.

The American Stereotype

When we were first accepted into the study abroad program, my university shared some resources to help us understand the differences between people from the United States vs. the UK. I remember one of the presentations I looked at had a slide that read “Americans are seen as loud and abrasive. Don’t be that person.” I remember laughing when I read this, and even sent a screenshot of it to a couple of my peers who were also studying abroad so that we could all laugh together. Being here now, I actually see how that advice was incredibly useful.

London in general is a relatively quiet city in terms of noise levels. Getting on the Tube here, which is the equivalent of getting on the subway or metro back home, is different. While the metro back at home is loud, busy, and full of people on the phone or talking to whomever they’re traveling with, London’s Tube is quiet, and people are generally respectful and cautious of others around. Walking down the street and talking to a friend in the United States is not a big deal, (and I know me and my friends are usually as loud as we want to be) but here in London, people are very aware of their surroundings and always seem to take note of who may be listening in on their conversations. Londoners are more private and keep to themselves out of respect, while in the United States, the majority focus on themselves and don’t take the people around them into account when in public (at least not nearly as much as Londoners generally do).

Continuing to navigate the city and going on excursions will further help us American students blend in to this new community of people. Luckily, none of my peers have had any experiences where we have gotten in trouble or have gotten odd stares for being too loud. We have all been very actively aware of our volume and how we are presenting ourselves in public.

Memorable Experiences

I’ve had the privilege of visiting different parts of the UK. A couple weekends ago, I had a very busy but exciting weekend visiting Stratford, Bath, Stonehenge, and Windsor Castle! Stratford is the home of Shakespeare, and as a theatre major, I could barely contain my excitement being able to see where Shakespeare grew up including his home, school, and even where he is buried along with his family. I even saw the comedy of errors performed by the Shakespeare theatre company as part of my theatre class. 

CAPAStudyAbroad_Fall2021_London_Andrea Arias_Me with Shakespeare’s statue in Stratford-1-1

Caption: Me with Shakespeare’s statue in Stratford.

Stratford is a quieter town compared to central London, and although it was beautiful, I am definitely a bit more of a city girl, so I would say that my visit in Bath fit a bit more into that city life. I got to see the Roman baths, and a few friends and I decided to go watch a rugby match between Bath and Newcastle (p.s. Newcastle won).

With one of the Bath rugby players, Max Clark, after the match

Caption: With one of the Bath rugby players, Max Clark, after the match.

The last day before going home, I went to both Stonehenge and Windsor Castle. I can’t explain the feeling of being able to see Stonehenge up close. Three of my peers and I decided to walk to Stonehenge, which was about 30 minutes from the gift shop/main entrance. There were open fields and cows everywhere and it was very different from the busy streets we had become so accustomed to during our time here. The weather was perfect and the experience itself was beautiful and unlike any other. Windsor Castle was also incredible. Knowing that the queen lives her life there and being able to see all the different rooms was mind boggling. You could spend hours in Windsor Castle just looking at all the detailing and discovering every room.

The Roman baths

Caption: The Roman baths.

I am beyond grateful for my time here in London, and I cannot believe a month has already passed! It really does show just how much I have been enjoying living and studying here. I have made a home here and will continue to spend every moment soaking in the beauty of what London and the UK as a whole have to offer. Lastly, I’m grateful for the classes I’m taking because they have allowed me to really reflect on my own qualities, and how “American” I really am. As I continue to go on excursions, I feel I am able to pick up more and more on the environment here, and what I need to do to fit in more and combat the American stereotype.

Thanks, Andrea!

Andrea Arias

Andrea (Andy) Arias is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2021, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. A theatre major from James Madison University, she is thrilled to be studying abroad in London this semester.

Andrea's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.

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Topics: London, England, Local Culture