Living in London Was Life-Changing
By: MELISSA FISHMAN / EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Wednesday, October 20, 2021—I’ll never forget that day.
I had just found out the day before that my mom was going to need surgery to remove her kidney. My life was uprooted when my mom told me, but I remember crying tears of joy when I found out that she has a good chance of survival.
My life was changed in a day and then it was changed again…24 hours later.
That Wednesday I only had one class–magazine writing– and I was making my way to the elevators when I was stopped by my former professor, Dr. Engelman. He waved me down with a smile and ushered me into his office. After some brief pleasantries, he asked me, “what are your thoughts about going abroad?”
Going abroad has only been the biggest dream I have ever had and little did I know that I was closer to my dream than I could have ever imagined.
I had known that the journalism department at LIU had an endowment called the Kruglak Fellowship which was donated to LIU by the family of Theodore A. Kruglak, a well-known journalist and former faculty member of the University, but I never thought that I would be considered for the award.
The Fellowship would provide recipients with the opportunity to live and work abroad during the summer between their junior and senior year. It would also offer placement at a job-site where the student would refine their skills in journalism and communications. To me, it was almost too good to be true.
Within seconds of hearing that I had a possibility of going abroad, I knew I wanted to go to London. I had loved the United Kingdom since I was a preteen because I was a big fan of British culture: One Direction, Doctor Who, Sherlock, Harry Potter–I loved it all. What I love above all, however, is musical theatre and being near London’s West End
would be one of the highlights of my trip.
When November 11, the day of my mom’s surgery rolled around, I sat in the waiting room with my grandparents and my father from 6:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. and thought of nothing but getting through that day.
I thought to myself that if I got through that day I would live every day to the fullest going forward.
Thankfully, my mom was discharged that same day with a clear bill of health and I decided that I could finally focus my energies on the prospect of going abroad.
After a few bumps in the road, it was May 22 and I was headed to the airport for a direct flight to London.
In the car ride to the airport, my dad stayed quiet, then gruffly unloaded my suitcase from the trunk of his car. At the curb of the airport he gave me a hug and said his usual sendoff, “Love you. I’m very proud of you.” It was a simple goodbye, but it was full of love.
My mom, after many months of recovery and down one kidney, was the person to deliver me to the TSA line. I didn’t even get to the luggage drop-off before I froze. The tears began before I could stop them.
“Mom, I screwed up. I can’t go, I screwed up.” I remember saying.
Then my mom, who spent months playfully dissuading me to go said, “You were meant for this. Go.”
I dried my eyes and thanked God I had the foresight to not put on makeup that morning, then I gave my mom one last hug and marched myself into the TSA line. I watched my mom shrink into the distance as I snaked through the line, clutching my carry-on bag for dear life and willing myself to feel excited.
When I arrived at my accommodation in the outskirts of London, in a tiny town called Walthamstow, I received my room key and took the short ride up the elevator to my flat on the eighth floor.
Outside my window, I had a view of the beautiful Walthamstow Wetlands and in the distance I saw The Shard and the London Eye. Everything would be okay.
Soon days turned to weeks after I began my work at the Hampstead and Highgate Express, known locally as the Ham&High.
My editor, Andre Langlois, treated me with the same respect shown to his full-time reporters but answered all of my questions with all the care of a person who understood what being a fledgling journalist was like.
Andre sent me on assignments all around London: attending a children’s book release in Hampstead Heath, meeting a 100-year-old Holocaust survivor in her nursing home in Hornsey, and interviewing the owner and operator of a coffee shop housed in a telephone box in Highgate. I loved every moment and I enjoyed speaking with every person I met.
While in London, I wasted no time and jumped headfirst into the culture as much and as often as I could. During weekends, I mostly visited museums such as the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum or attended shows on the West End.
Every time I observed an ancient relic, clapped during the curtain call of a performance, or simply reflected on my day while taking a ride on The Tube, I felt nothing but gratitude. In the quiet hours of the morning when I waited for the world to turn and bring daylight to my family back home, I felt gratitude. In the evenings as I curled into bed and marvelled at the small room before me, I felt gratitude.
Living alone more than 3,400 miles away from my family back home, I learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of. Besides taking up all of my domestic duties, such as cooking and cleaning, I also learned how to have more respect for myself.
Before leaving to London I remember speaking to my friend, Reyna Iwamoto, who was on her way to Paris to do her Fellowship. We both spoke about how nervous we were and the uncertainty we had about the task ahead of us and she said, “If we can do this, we can do anything.”
At first I wasn’t so sure about her words, but as I sat with Reyna a month later in a park outside the Louvre in Paris, France, I knew she was right. By that point, I had been in London for over a month and most recently had taken a two-hour train ride to Paris to see her. At that moment, I knew we had made it.
I will leave you now with this short passage from my journal that encapsulates what this experience has meant to me:
“I’ll probably always question my worthiness in life, but this time, even if it’s just this once, I feel like I am worthy.”
London, I’ll always be grateful for the person you helped me to become.