I want to tell you about a place. A place that, for almost nine months, was my home.

My friends and I once had a debate about what qualifies as having lived somewhere. The majority agreed that it took several months before you could really call somewhere home, and I think someone even argued that you had to be somewhere for at least a year before you could say that you’d truly lived there.

While I do think time plays an important factor in earning bragging rights of having lived somewhere, my criteria are slightly different; maybe it’s because I’m a literature student, but I think I can safely call a place home once I’ve found a cute café, wandered into the bookshop a few (hundred) times, and made a group of close friends. I managed to find all of those things in Birmingham, England, and now I want to share some of my home with you.

Though the city of Birmingham is unheard of by most Americans, it is the second largest city in the United Kingdom. With a population of more than a million, it is the largest city I’ve ever lived in. Birmingham used to be an industrial slum city, but it’s become a very modern city, known throughout the UK for its clubbing scene and its abundance of shopping options. I did experience both of those while I was there, but my Birmingham was so much more than afternoons spent at the shops and nights at the club.

When I look back at Birmingham–at those moments I really felt at home–I think of the cozy mornings I spent sipping tea at my favorite coffee shop. I smile at the thought of all the hours I spent in the Waterstone’s bookshop. And of course, even now that I’ve been back in the US for three months, not a day goes by that I don’t recall all of the wonderful times I had in Birmingham with my amazing friends.

Nestled between industrial-age brick buildings along one of the waterways of Birmingham’s extensive canal system was my favorite place to frequent, the Canalside Café.

This cute former boathouse is a coffee shop by day, pub by night. When it rains (which is often; this is England, after all!), the workers strategically place teacups throughout the shop to catch rain drops from the leaky roof, but that only adds to the charm of this atmospheric little place.

My friends and I often came here for the tea and cake, but every once in a while, we treated ourselves to some nice English breakfasts–they had the most delicious vegetarian version of the Full English that I had ever tasted!

It was hard to say goodbye to a place where I met with so many good friends, but I know when I next visit Birmingham, we’ll head back there to make more memories.

I always feel at home when I’m surrounded by books, so it’s no surprise that I quickly became acquainted with Waterstone’s, a British version of Barnes and Noble.

Whether it was to pick up a textbook, to browse through the latest and greatest books that were on offer, or simply to work on homework, I could be found in my favorite bookshop several times a week.

After spending so much time there, it’s strange to think that this year I won’t be able to grab my homework and stroll down to Waterstone’s for an afternoon of productivity. Regardless of whether I have work to do next time I’m in Birmingham, you can be sure to find me at some point browsing through the stacks for my next great read!

I’m happy to say that was only a matter of weeks before I really, truly felt at home, and I’m proud to tell people about the time I lived in Birmingham.

Love, Elizabeth

What does it take for you to feel at home in a new place?