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A Trip Across the Pond - Culture Shock!

Fri, Oct 7th, 2011
Posted in Columnists

When I first applied to Saint Mary's University I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be in theatre. When I found out that part of their theatre program involved studying in London for a semester I was hooked. The day I got my acceptance letter I knew where I was going.

After two years of waiting, the time has finally come. I spent the summer working multiple jobs to save up, and on September 3 I boarded a flight to London. I've been here for almost a month now, and it has already been one of the most amazing experiences of my life! Being a small town girl it has been an interesting adjustment living right in the heart of London, but soon enough you get used to having hundreds of people surrounding you on a daily basis.

This city is pretty amazing. Armed with a camera, a student ID, and a subway pass (called an oyster card here) I have the whole city at my disposal. The first week here we had to get everything set up to prepare ourselves for the months to come. There are a total of 13 of us in three flats (apartments) and we needed supplies! So after getting all the bare essentials we set off to our first classes. One of the classes we are taking is called Page to Stage. The class requires us to read playscripts, analyze them and then we go to a professional production of the plays and critique based on what we see. Since we have been here I have seen a total of 10 professional shows. Six were for class and the rest were on my own terms. This is a very difficult place to save money when you're a theatre nut like me. Basically I'm seeing on average two or more shows a week. Not a bad set-up, eh?

Speaking of "eh?" something I've really noticed here is even though we are technically speaking the same language as the locals, there is still such a language barrier in many ways. I didn't really think I had much of an accent, but now that I am among people who talk differently I seem to sound even more Minnesotan than usual. I use the phrase "ya know" a lot more than I would care to admit. But it's not just my accent. The accents are sometimes very hard to understand and they call certain things by different names. For example, here are a few things that have caused my fellow students and I some confusion. They call the subway the tube. Pants are trousers (if you say pants you'd be referring to UNDERpants) and they really do call a bathroom the loo! There are so many other slang terms you just don't hear, even in British-themed films. There are also so many dialects to worry about. In the acting class we are taking, we are learning about the multiple ways of speaking you can hear throughout the country. There are many just in London alone!

So after a month here I feel I could at least somewhat pass for a local. They dress a little nicer than you usually see around campus in Minnesota, but the food is good and the people are really quite friendly. Although apparently no one likes to talk when riding the tube. Someone should have told us that. While trying not to be obnoxious Americans, we've come to realize that subtle to us is still considered quite outspoken to some Brits. It's definitely something we will have to work on. It's funny how even the slightest differences can be made so obvious when put into a whole new environment, and London is certainly new!

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