Becoming a part of the London Community

A moment that stood out to me was when I met a University College of London student, Ali, in a local park. My friends and I were completing some assignments and eating a charcuterie board from Marks & Spencer. At first, our conversation was merely an exchange of friendly banter about “the best cheeses” that we “just HAD to try at Marks & Spencers” before we left the UK. However, our short interaction progressed into a much more meaningful one when she asked us about life in America. “Whats going on over there is really messed up,” she said, “have you guys heard about it since you’ve gone on Holiday? Everyone here is talking about it, I mean, how does this keep happening?” It was the day after the mass shooting in Uvalde, the second mass shooting in the US in two weeks. My friends and I were devastated, though, the frequency at which these tragedies occur has numbed us to the pain and we felt as if there was no hope for change in sight. I explained to her that we ask ourselves, “how does this keep happening?” constantly, but it seems that there is no end in sight. She went on a passionate rant about details on the tragedy that we were not even aware of; showing us videos of parents pleading to get into the building and officers waiting outside. She was able to express the need for gun control from the view of an outside observer – unobstructed by policy or partisanship – and she seemed more knowledgeable about the topic than most people in America.

I felt prompted to ask her about her opinion on Brexit, as that was the only UK topic of contest that came to mind. She explained to us that most people in London viewed it as a political action to promote racism and supremacy. She also explained that it has resulted in an economic decline in London, which made her scared for the future of the job market when she graduates college. She trailed off, “Ill probably move out of here, somewhere else in Europe.” Her comment resonated with the sentiments of so many Americans, who say that they will “just move to Canada” when a political situation becomes dire. This comparison illuminated the connection between our conflicts, in that young generations in Western countries yearn to leave because we do not see a resolution in sight for our political landscapes.

Meeting Ali gave me a more complete sense of what it felt like to be a part of her community as an outsider. Before I came to the UK, I did not know much about the structural or political conflicts in the country aside from Brexit. People outside of the U.S. are observant of our continuous struggles and urge us to take action, though it is complicated to express why we are unable to do so. Without the constraints of our cultural and political landscape, those in the UK view our struggles from an objective standpoint. Our ability to connect on this intercultural level gave me a sense of community. As members of the same generation, we see past the bounds of our political restraints and value humanity instead.

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