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To England, With Love.

“Maybe I’m not in love with New York anymore.”

After returning from a magical year in the City of Dreaming Spires– Oxford, England– I thought my heart had been irreparably broken. As a born and bred New Yorker, I thought there was only one place I could ever swear allegiance, the island of Manhattan.When friends suggested I consider other cities– Chicago, Washington DC, even Boston– I shrugged off their suggestions. Did those have hobos, hipsters, and the infamous Yonah Schimmel’s Knishery within a one mile radius of each other? Certainly not.

Then I studied abroad in England, and my insularity gave way to a willingness to explore and experience other cities. Oxford, perhaps the most magical city in the world, served as the perfect window of opportunity. Tutored by the world’s leading academics, I had the opportunity to learn about myself– not just as a student– but as a citizen of the world. Subsequently, when the year came to an emotional conclusion, I returned to New York thinking that my love affair with the City that breathed life into me was over. I had severed my bond with the City that Never Sleeps, while simultaneously losing my residence in the City that inspired my new outlook on life. Simply stated, I was a sheep without a shepherd.

Despite the reunion of my college friends in my hometown, my summer internship in New York posed some notable challenges. I walked along Fifth Ave each morning and felt like Morales in A Chorus Line, who searched right down to the bottom of her soul and “felt nothing.” The air of inspiration that had previously pervaded the City had given way to heat, humidity, and haze. I was neither inspired nor comfortable frolicking about the City in my business casual attire. I wanted to return to Oxford– to the only city in which I had ever achieved a balance of work and play.

I had found a new muse, and it was inconveniently located 3,500 miles across the Atlantic.

However, as the saying goes, “Time heals everything.” And by the end of the August, nearly three months after my return to the United States, I had found my groove again. New York was beginning to excite me once more. I saw job opportunities, Sunday brunch spots, and apartments with fire escapes in my post-grad future. In other words, while Oxford had been a wonderfully enriching opportunity, I was a New Yorker at heart and in New York I would form my adult identity.

In an effort, though, to maintain my friendships abroad, I determined to book a ticket back to England for the December break. While England was no longer my home, it would undoubtedly continue to play a critical role in shaping my perspective on global and perhaps even more local issues. Like it or not, I was officially the aforementioned citizen of the world.

Sadly, Mother Nature disagreed and in a burst of snowy explosion, coated the United Kingdom with inches upon inches of snow. While I enjoyed my additional week in New York, I was also determined to reconnect with my British friends and subsequently rebooked my ticket for spring break. Now I find myself back in England, and honestly, the entire experience is surreal. I feel like a visitor in my own home. While working on my thesis in the infamous Starbucks on Cornmarket, where I composed many an Oxford essay, I found myself instantly at ease. Oxford was and will always be a home away from home for me.

In fact, it is the city that inspired my very thesis topic, the city in which I began to explore my academic potential, and the city that taught me the importance of intellectual humility. Walking down its medieval streets, I was overcome with a magical sensation– one that created the dreaded separation anxiety the previous June. There is truly no comparable city (not even Cambridge), and as I sat down to compose my thesis, I was instantly inspired by its academic magic. Within four short hours, I had written the rest of my thesis chapter and begun outlining my concluding chapter.

Now en route to London to visit the London School of Economics and Political Science, where I hope to spend the next academic year, I am beginning to realize that I am becoming a true travel girl, with not one home, but many– each providing a particular influence or mode of inspiration.

yaffa
Yaffa is a self-described caffeine addict. In fact, she almost never went abroad for fear of encountering a Starbucks-deprived country. After discovering the joys of European cafes, however, she quickly succumbed to her senses and embarked on a ten-month adventure through Western Europe, using Oxford, England as her base. Now a Wellesley College graduate, she is spending her every waking hour working on travel grants to take her to any country except the 19 she has already visited. And yes, Yaffa is relying on caffeine as a source of fellowship application fuel. You can follow her through the mind-numbing travel grant process at: http://thegreenstraw.wordpress.com.

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    1 Comment

    1. Awesome article – really illustrates what it feels like to cheat on New York! I just left the city after 4 years to try another, not because I didn’t love it, but because I wanted to see what else was there. I don’t regret my decision but I can’t help but miss NYC (specificaly Brooklyn!).

      I’ve realized traveling is being willing to have your heart broken many, many times. I’ve fallen in love with so many cities, told myself “that’s it, I’m moving here!” only to have to continue on to the next – or worse, go home – with a heavy heart. But if you stay in one place forever, you’ll never get to see the rest of the world!

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