The London Lass: Prologue

Follow our local UC student through her 15-week journey on the other side of the world

I suppose my journey begins a long time before I arrived in London, England on Wednesday morning. I suppose it begins during my high school years when I found my first true love: New York, New York. My mother and step-father took me, the small-town country farm girl, to tour colleges in the great big city just so I could see what it would be like. The moment I stepped into SoHo, I knew I was going to love it. I loved the people and the pace and the focus everyone seemed to have. I loved the acid-trip fluorescent lights of Times Square and the giddy excitement of the Broadway attendees and the splendor of guessing all the missions each person had at the forefront of his or her mind.  However, attending college at NYU also would have been crowded. It would have been noisy and crazy and, though deliriously wonderful, a bit too much for the girl who was raised in the land of tractors and pickup trucks. But I never forgot about Manhattan. I never forgot about the dazzling lights or the business-suited people with mentalities so close to my own. I never lost sight of my dreams of becoming a city girl one day.


I chose to study for my undergraduate degree at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, a short trek outside Philadelphia and just a few moments down the road from my older sister. Ursinus has its selling points and its issues we keep out of the brochures, just as every other educational institution in the United States of America. I’ll not go so far as to say no other choice could have been more perfect, but I’ve had the opportunity for a great deal of personal growth at Ursinus and I’ve met some of the most wonderful people in the world there, so the suburban choice was a good one to say the least.


However, the more I lived the predictable life of a suburban dweller, the more insatiable grew my appetite for novelty and challenge. I decided to study abroad in Galway, Ireland at the end of my freshman year. I’m not sure what quite happened to that plan, but by the time I entered my sophomore year of studies, I had jumped on a “SAVE THE WORLD!” bandwagon and was quite set on service-learning programs. The only two my college offered were in London and Cape Town, South Africa, so I decided I was going for a year and that was that.


Unfortunately, my stubborn spirit and generally bad attitude approaching the situation did not couple well and my Mother Teresa stint was squashed with the announcement that only one semester would be approved. Though I spent the following several weeks using some choice adjectives in reference to certain administrators at Ursinus, the decision certainly made me think twice about my life’s plan. Somehow, the denial of my service semester in South Africa eventually led from my reconsideration of my Peace Corps plans all the way back to changing my service program in London to an internship with a large-scale consulting firm in the heart of London’s financial district. I feel, for entertainment’s sake, I should also add I am planning on attending law school after my graduation from Ursinus the year after next. Please, do not question my life decisions. I still can’t quite explain them to myself yet.


Regardless, sophomore year was a whirlwind to say the least. By the middle of its second semester, I found myself in a pointless and dreadful pre-departure class, and by the end of the year I had earned an equally dreadful grade in the class and signed the paperwork for a semester abroad in London, United Kingdom.


I returned home to northwestern Pennsylvania for the summer to climb trees and go kayaking in the Allegheny National Forest, where I live. It’s so very easy to get lost there, to let one’s mind wander to faraway places. I dreamt of London often, nervous about the underground and excited about the accents, but despite my love of the urban and my research of London, the trip never really sank in until I found myself drowning in my own sweat on an airplane on Tuesday night, waiting for the air conditioning engine to be fixed, listening to the Englishman next to me moan over and over about the “bloody heat.” Every time he said it, “bloody,” in his thick English accent, I think I giggled a little bit. It just seems like a funny thing to say, doesn’t it? And then we were off.

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Diana Paddock September 09, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Wow, how exciting! What happened?
Laura Demers September 11, 2012 at 01:23 AM
You are my hero, Hillary.
Jessica Ashbaugh September 11, 2012 at 02:02 AM
Love it Hil so glad I can read about your life and you aren't ignoring those of us still in the States <3


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