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Hitting the ground running

| Tuesday, January 21, 2014

“Seek and ye shall find.”
It’s a familiar quote from the Bible and a phrase whose various current forms I’m intimately familiar with, after 18 years of my mother telling me to get up and look for whatever object I had misplaced at the time and wanted her to find for me.
Studying abroad is the opportunity of a lifetime, plain and simple. I’ve already been lucky enough to study in Israel with the University once before, and I know the friendships and memories that result from these experiences are truly transformative and last a lifetime. A large majority of my favorite college memories thus far were made strolling (or tripping) through the streets of Jerusalem or swimming in the Sea of Galilee over this past summer. It was a time where I discovered new things about myself and the world around me; discoveries which only could’ve come from placing myself outside my comfort zone. Therefore, it was with that image of study abroad which I set off a few days ago to my semester abroad in London.
The first few days were a jet-lagged blur as the group was tossed from meeting to meeting to get us orientated in a city which is larger and more difficult to navigate than South Bend. Yet, despite our exhaustion, we managed to brave our way into the city to try some bars that previous study abroad students had told us were worth our while, in order to acclimatize ourselves with the nightlife.
Therefore on Friday night, we went to an establishment which was very Irish in it’s decoration, yet was about as ethnically authentic as the food at Taco Bell. We followed it up on Saturday by visiting a club which was almost an exact replica of Michiana’s hottest nightclub. Needless to say, I was not impressed with the vaunted London nightlife.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m as big a fan of going out and having a good time as anyone. But I found myself wondering if those two bars, which were extremely reminiscent of the South Bend social scene, were really the best that London had to offer students who have the cultural opportunity of a lifetime in front of them over the next 14 weeks. In other words, I found myself wondering: What do I want from my time abroad in England?
So on Sunday morning, I woke up fairly early and decided to embark on my favorite activity to straighten my thoughts. I threw on a windbreaker, some shorts (yes, it’s warm enough here for that!) and sneakers and went for a run.
I had no clear idea as to where I wanted to go, and that act of spontaneity made me feel incredibly relaxed as my feet took me across the bridge from the South Bank into Westminster. Remarkably, despite having been in the United Kingdom for a few days, it was then, as I saw the sun gleaming off of the world-famous profiles of Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, that I finally realized I had arrived and that London was mine to explore.
So I kept running, and soon found myself in the famous Hyde Park, which was abuzz with the activity of a weekend morning. There were families out for a Sunday stroll, teenagers playing soccer with their friends and even an elderly couple snoozing away on a sunny bench. There were street food carts hawking their delicacies, fisherman on the banks of a lake and birds flocking to people feeding them crumbs.
There, in Hyde Park, I finally got a glimpse of the heartbeat of the city I’m a part of for the next three months. Seeing the mass of humanity at Hyde Park sparked the realization within me that London is a staggeringly big city which is more diverse and dynamic than any other city in the world, and that the vibrant present-day life of the city is wrapped up in the storied past of a town which has seen the world’s greatest writers, scientists, architects and leaders within its confines.
I want to get to know this city.
And I only have 14 weeks to explore it.
Seek and ye shall find, indeed.

Jameson Ondrof is a junior
studying in the Mendoza College of Business. He can be reached at
[email protected]
The views expressed in this
column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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