Oberlin-in-London Blogs

Christmas Eve Musings about London
››› December 24, 2011 | Posted By Hannah Combe '13

Hello, faithful (one-time) readers! Now that finals are over and the fall semester is officially wrapped up, I am able once again to write about my preparations for London. These preparations are, as ever, highly speculative and largely confined to random musings about the likelihood that I will accidentally bump into and form lifelong friendships with any of the following people whilst in London: Harry Potter cast members, J.K. Rowling, Christian Bale, Judi Dench (hopefully she would bark something really cutting and on the mark to me!), Davey James, etc. etc. (I am here assuming that you can all just intuitively guess as to the other people I would want to meet.)

In short, the physically and mentally engaging planning has yet to happen. I suppose we have turned in all of our paperwork, gotten our ISIC cards, and said wrenching goodbyes to our friends and significant others at Oberlin--so maybe a few things have been accomplished (sob). But the packing has not yet begun, which is a fact that has started creeping into the back of my mind ever since I wrote the last sentence of my last paper for finals. What. Am. I. Taking. To. London?

For some peculiar reason, I am agonizing (slightly) over this issue the most--materially, what will I need? Besides the obvious rain-proof necessities and books for classes, the adapters for electronics and the sensible shoes that my mom bought for me yesterday (from Clarks--quite sensible, really), what else do I need? I am nagged by the feeling that I am not accounting for some vital object, some key thing that will prove to be indispensable to me. I think the activity for which it matters is the unknown adventure that I expect from this time abroad. "Should I bring a sword?" I wondered the other day, "surely I will get into period-themed scuffles while abroad." But of course I would never get that through airport security. Provided that there are at least three Inigo Montoya level fencers within the TSA ranks at Columbus International Airport.

So, I am nagged by this feeling of prematurely forgetting something. I know that there are going to be new situations, new people, new customs (to a certain extent), new adventure and travel. I have been thinking that there must be certain objects that are necessary to going across the ocean on my own, flying by myself for the first time ever, in order to live away from my family and my incredible friends at home and at Oberlin for four months. This morning I woke up, though, and after I accidentally fantasized about Rupert Grint for a minute, I realized what I have been worrying about. It is not what possessions to pack or how many pairs of shoes to take or when and where to buy my schoolbooks--I am agonizing about my emotional and mental preparation. I have spent most of the semester not acknowledging that London is a reality, and a fast-approaching one at that. Entrenched in the life I have been living, I have not been thinking much about what is about to chance. Luckily, that is changing. Staying at home for the next six weeks, reading Howards End and The Secret Agent, photocopying my passport, napping, I am going to have nothing but time to prepare myself for what is to come.

Of course, there is no way for me to entirely prepare for London. I don't know how I will feel being physically away for this long from the only two homes I have ever known. I have travelled abroad in my life, but always within the safety and comfort of my family unit. I did spread my wings and go off to college, of course, but to a college where my older brother went and where my sister is a senior now, and my parents are two hours away and have come to veritably every collegiate soccer game from my first to third year. I have never been out on my own. I have never had to look inside of myself for strength that I could not supplement with that of my family and my friends.

This is not to say that I will be severing ties from the people that I love, obviously. But there is a definite space that opens in the absence of physical nearness. It does not ruin or end relationships--that would be catastrophic. It can just change the ways in which each person copes with both their role in the relationship and their role in their own life without the other person there to sort of...remind them of who they are, remind them of how they behave and feel. My family makes and keeps me who I am, my friends make and keep me who I am. That is how I have thought of it. Where do I stand in this process?

I think that having this space from my life will bring me more independence and self-reliance, a willingness to live outside the confines of total comfort and security and routine. And I realize that self-reliance and courage and spontaneity are not going to fit into whatever amount of luggage I end up bringing with me (crap! Need to buy huge suitcases). I will endeavor to carry them on the plane with me, worn in cozy layers around my torso. They will keep me as warm as they can on their own for a while, and once I begin to forge friendships and connections with my London peers, I think that I will begin to understand how to balance what it means to be apart from the life I love and how to love the life that I am living.

But this rather large life step is contingent upon me not forgetting my toothbrush, because no one ever discovers themselves with skuzzy teeth.

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