I didn’t have any grand adventures on my trip to England last month, so I thought I would instead throw together some of the stories that made me happiest to be back “home.”
I made some wonderful friends when I lived in England, and my main reason for taking a trip back there last month was to see them again. Most of my trip this time was spent in Birmingham with them, as I stayed with my former flatmates, and met up with the rest of my friends for coffees, breakfasts, drinks at the campus pub, movie nights, and so many cups of tea. We reminisced over old memories and created several new ones.
Tea is a common theme in any part of British life, including friendships. It would be rude not to offer guests some tea, so that is often the first question you’ll hear upon visiting a British friend. The first time I met my friend and old flatmate Dan, he offered me a cup of tea so that I could immediately be initiated into the British culture. He was the first friend that I saw on this trip, and when he answered the door and saw me, he instantly asked, “Fancy a cuppa? I’ll put on the kettle!” And though we had barely talked in the year since we’d last seen each other, we easily caught up on each other’s lives while we sipped our cups of strong English tea.
On my first morning back in England, my friend Will (another former flatmate who I was staying with for the first part of my trip) woke me up with a cup of tea, a piece of toast, and a warning: “If the tea’s sh*t, you can make yourself some more. Unfortunately, you’ve been made tea by the only Englishman who doesn’t drink it.” He also then told me that all of their knives had been dirty, so he added a personal touch by using a cleaver to spread the butter. (This was the beginning of several days of kitchen woes in which we used toilet paper for plates and giant fruit bowls for cereal–finally, being the only person in the house who wasn’t stressing over any exams, I earned my keep by scouring the kitchen!)
And then there were the late night “tea talks” that have marked my friendship with Molly from the first night we met. She was another old roommate, and only days after meeting her, she became one of my closest friends in the whole world. We have spent so many nights together in the kitchen, drinking never-ending mugs of tea while talking about everything imaginable. We had some of the same classes together, which meant that in the days leading up to an essay deadline, we spent more time in the kitchen (always well after midnight and sometimes as late as three or four in the morning) drinking tea and discussing our texts than we did on the essays themselves. Though I obviously didn’t have any classes on this trip to England, we still talked a lot about literature that she was studying and we found plenty of non-school related things to talk about over a nice cup of tea. And my other amazing flatmates, Rachel and Nicola, joined us for a few chats as well, so it felt so much like last year, drinking tea (or in Rachel’s case, hot chocolate) as we stayed up late talking about school, traveling, feminism, work and volunteering experiences, and anything else we could think of.
Another very British tradition that marked so many of my friendships is Doctor Who, a sci-fi TV show that has been running for 50 years. I discovered Doctor Who shortly before I moved to England, and was caught up on every episode by the time I arrived, which was lucky, or I would have missed many casual references to the show. Our flat spent Saturday nights squeezed together, trying to see the newest episode as we watched it on my laptop. During my time in England this year, my flatmates had finally acquired a nice TV, so on each of the three Saturdays that I was there this time, our friends all crammed into the living room, ordered pizza, and enjoyed the latest episodes of our favourite British programme.
While tea and Doctor Who cemented so many of my closest friendships in England, I formed many of my other friendships thanks to day trips that my friend Kristian planned. On my second or third week living in England, I still hadn’t managed to leave Birmingham to explore. When Will told me that I should meet one of the people from his course (Physics), I jumped at the opportunity. He took me to meet Kristian, who had planned a trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon the very next day and invited me along. The next morning, I met with him and a group of unfamiliar faces from his course. By the end of the day, we were all close friends, and we bonded that year over the various adventures, picnics, and outings that Kristian planned.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make an outing happen during my trip this year since they were all hard at work for their physics exams. (I’ve been told that people who get their degree in subjects other than English actually need to study!) We did manage to all meet in the pub for a drink after one of their exams, and they told me about the adventures they’d had while I was gone, promising that next time I come for a visit, we would take a trip back to Stratford-Upon-Avon, where it all started.
Kristian and I did manage a mini-adventure, though. We woke up early and met for a trek along the canal. It was familiar territory, and we reminisced about all of the memories that we had along that path, which was the route we’d always taken to get to the train station. Then we made our way to one of my favorite places for breakfast, where we caught up on each others’ lives over a full English and afterward walked back through the student housing village where we both used to live.
My year in England is full of stories like these (and many other friends that I haven’t had a chance to mention), and my trip back is proof of just how wonderful, quirky, and memorable these friendships are. Some of my closest friends are those that I made during my year in England, and a year apart from them after moving back to the US has done nothing to shake those friendships. I know my time in England wouldn’t have been the same without all of the lovely people that I’ve met, and I’m so grateful for all of the memories that I have with them. I’m already looking forward to returning to England to see them again, but for now, I have plenty of stories to remember them by.