For all practical purposes, I’m a transplant. Well, at least for now. I’m living with Americans. I am taking classes with Americans. I eat with Americans. I walk around London with Americans. Even though I’m in the United Kingdom’s capital, the States often seem just as close to me as when I’m in Knoxville.
Despite the occasional somewhat shocking difference, the transplant-approach to studying abroad has been much of my experience. While it’s comfortable to cling to my American friends, make American jokes, and bask in the joy that came out of 1776, that’s not why I’m here. So what was my resolve? I quickly became painfully aware that Ryan Ray needed to become a little less comfortable.
Since the last post, I’ve lived a crash course in getting to know the locals. Now that I’ve become intentional about engaging in the London community, my journey has been much, much more powerful. By talking to everyone I can from a 70 year old retired London man at the local YMCA to speaking with a 24 year old teacher from Cambridge on a train, I’ve already learned more about people than I expected to during my brief time here. I’m even more interested in British culture and even more proud of my homeland. For the first time, I’m truly learning what it means to be American.
Perhaps the greatest blessing I’ve received since embarking on my slightly less than comfortable initiative has been a place called Reality London. This small church plant, originating in L.A., is perhaps the purest form of Christian community that I’ve ever been apart of. It’s neat to see how love transcends cultures, oceans, countries, and people groups. The support and encouragement I’ve felt from those there has already been an incredible addition to my trip.
As I progress in my study abroad experience, I hope to major on the things that truly matter: acquainting myself with a new way of life, learning to love a new type of people, and understanding the ins and outs of a new country. Rather than filling my time with my head in a statistics book, life is going to be much more fulfilling if I continue to get a bit more uncomfortable.