Sweater Weather, Primark and an Obsession With London That Just Won't Die
I wonder if in the future, feeling like you've been born in the wrong country will become an acceptable circumstance to fix through a gift of citizenship to that location. Growing up, I was intrigued by all things British. I felt early on that I wasn't ever meant to have been American, and that a life in England would've suited me better. Upon telling this to actual British people, they thought I was insane and that I should feel lucky to have the nationality that I have, since it's one they crave so much. My response to them is that if I could trade my citizenship with theirs, I would gladly do it. In fact, I wish I could commandeer a program like this, as I have met many people in this situation and I feel that it could be very helpful.
After years of begging my parents to let me go to England, I was starting to feel like my plight would never work. I researched boarding schools I could attend, tried to find group trips to go on, dreamed constantly for the day I'd finally go to the place I was meant to be. Once I got to college, I set out to find a way to make my study abroad dreams come true. Unfortunately, many of the programs offered were extremely expensive and I wasn't sure how I'd pull this off. Thankfully my school was a part of a special exchange called ISEP, which allowed you to go to another university and pay as if you were still at your home school. The only con to this was that none of the universities were in London, and you didn't get to chose where you wanted to go; they placed you based on the openings they had available.
After applying to the program and waiting patiently for my acceptance, I hoped I'd get placed at a uni in Edinburgh, but received my letter saying I'd been assigned a spot at the University of Chester. At first I was a bit disappointed, but then I got over it because I realized it didn't matter where I was; I was going to get to live in England for 3 months. Cut to the most amazing time of my young adult life. It was the first time being so far away from home, so I was definitely homesick, but I also got to have a taste of this beautiful country as well as take a trek to Europe. It was also the place where I discovered Primark.
Awwww, Primark. The place that low key ruined my life for the better and for the worst. You can read my story about it on my Instagram post below.
Sometimes you just have to go to wherever is your happy place, especially when you're feeling down. People think I'm a bit odd for finding @primark so wonderful, but when I studied abroad in England for the first time in 2011, I was a girl who was so frustrated with how terrible and expensive plus size clothing was in America. So when I stepped foot into this place, not expecting to find anything, it was the first time in my life that I could find cute clothes in my size. The same clothes that smaller girls were wearing, and not pushed into some separate plus size section in the back of the store. So I went there a lot over my 3 months away, and then yearned for it when I was back in America. And when I was in London for grad school last year, I went 2-3 times a week. Even if I didn't buy anything, it made me happy just to walk around and see all these cute items that could fit on my body. When I found out they were opening Primarks in the US, it was the best news! So far I have been that insane person who has bought bus tickets to go all the way to the one in Boston, Philadelphia and now the newest one in New Jersey that opened this past weekend. Call me crazy, but something about being in these stores soothe me. Every time I go back to London, I make sure I go and I can end up spending hours in there. Your happy place doesn't have to make sense to anyone else but you, so go to your happy place and let it bring you joy. #primark #happyplace ❤️
But seriously, it became a place where I spent a lot of money, and even made special trips to the ones that opened in America, just so I could feel a little piece of home.
After arriving back to the US, I felt that I wasn't done making England my home. I went back to Europe twice that next year (after having won two travel contests; I'll write a blog post about that another time) and prepped myself for a life abroad. The last year of college got me quite busy with trying to actually graduate, plus I wasn't so sure of trying to go to grad school in London because of the costs, so I took a bit of a hiatus on that dream while I completed school and tried to see if I could make a life in America. I tried Los Angeles and that wasn't anything close to how I wanted it to be, and got re-inspired to make London a reality.
I poured all my energy into the process and came out at the other end with an acceptance and preparation to get ready for school in the fall. I arrived in London in September 2014 and finally felt home. The weather was perfect; the temperate autumn that I truly enjoyed. I could hop on a double decker bus whenever I wanted, grab a drink called Rekorderlig Cider (only found in the UK at that point), go to Primark with ease, walk 10 minutes and see a famous landmark, take a train for 2.5 hours and be in Paris. The only problems with my time abroad were that I was pining over my boyfriend and attending a university that was not inspiring me to do my best.
Returning to America seemed like the only choice as I got to the end of my program. I wasn't confident that I would be able to stay there and I was trying to convince myself that I had fallen out of love with the city as a way to cope with my impending departure. I felt that New York City made sense to go to and start my career, and if London was meant to be, it would find some way back into my life. I arrived in NYC ready to go, but London kept haunting me. In the Pret a Mangers everywhere (a coffee chain I thought was only in the UK), to Rekorderligs becoming available in every convenience store, to Primark's opening up on the East coast, I was starting to get confused. All these things I loved about the UK were making their way to the US, but it didn't feel the same to try and enjoy these things here when it felt so much better and real to experience them abroad.
And don't get me started on the weather (actually, let me, because it's what I hate the most), but last summer and now currently I have been dying everyday from the heat that invades the city and constantly wishing for the wonderful sweater weather that I not only received back home in the PNW, but also in England. I'm one of those weird people who actually enjoy rain and snow and overcast weather. Unfortunately, NYC has plagued me with heatwaves for much of the time I've been in the city and I don't understand how I'd ever be able to consistently stay in this for years to come and keep my sanity.
A photo posted by Samantha 🌍 (@saaamohhh) on
As you can see here, I'm all about that sweater weather.
Basically, all this rambling has led me to a crossroads. Do I give up on a dream to live in London? There's obviously some things holding me back like a boyfriend, a job that would be stupid to quit, taking out more student loans, the possibility of failing grad school AGAIN, being even further away from my family, not getting a work visa when I graduate, the list goes on... But, at the same time, there's a strong pull inside me that knows I'm not done there yet, that knows I'm not ready to settle down into a life of normalcy and routine. My obsession with living in London just won't die, and there must be a reason for that.
So that leads to a bit of an announcement... I'm researching grad programs in London for September 2017, and potentially going to go back abroad if I am accepted. I'm nervous about starting this whole process over again and nervous about what it could mean for my relationship, my job prospects and future, but I don't know how else to get this feeling out of my head. As long as that Anglophile spirit lies within me, I'm never going to be satisfied living in America. I have a nomadic soul and a stubborn mind that won't allow me to just sit still when there's dreams out there to be accomplished. It'll be crazy revisiting all the pre-departure stuff that I stressed out over so much 3 years ago, but I work best when I have a big goal to travel towards. Wish me luck.