First Person

"I want to go because I think I will hate it."

Leslie Stratton '14

Confused yet? Me too, and I wrote it. I was a sophomore at St. Lawrence when I typed this sentence on a school computer. I chose SLU because it is the most wonderful place in the world (I am biased) and also because of the prestigious study abroad program. 

The time had come to choose what location and program I would go to, and ultimately, how I would be changed. Different destinations offer different voices, allowing various parts of “you” to wake up. I believe this is greater than any sights you will physically see while in a new place, though often, these sights are the catalysts for realization.

Kenya or London? I narrowed my decision down to these two potential suitors. Having grown up in rural New Hampshire and chosen to attend a university in Northern New York, I tried to conceptualize the differences between these small, quiet, cozy places and my two chosen destinations. 

I had never been to the United Kingdom or Africa. I enjoyed the outdoors but am also highly allergic to it, which I continually ignore (please do not wave grass in my face). Though not diagnosed by a professional, I was also allergic to cities—the noise, the crowds, the frenzy. It’s a bold diagnosis, which I determined at a young age, except the older I got, the more I realized that I made this diagnosis without any concrete data to back it up. Silly seven-year-old Leslie.

After days of thought and consulting with my family and friends, I opted the London route with much apprehension to the decision. I had fallen in love with the idea of exiting my comfort zone, and I wanted to prove my childhood, city-allergic self-wrong. My rationale for going to London became, “I want to go because I think I will hate it.” I wrote this exact sentence on my application. 

Five months and a newly adopted diet of bangers and mash later, I left my Muswell Hill flat in London for a 7 a.m. return flight bound for Boston. I remember trying to harness my thoughts enough to put them down on paper, to capture the experience. Although I was ecstatic to see my family and friends in the U.S. (Hi Mom, Dad, Dan, and dogs!), I would be lying if I did not say I was leaving a piece of me behind in Muswell Hill. 

While in London, I discovered one of my literary heroes, Pico Iyer, who said, “And for more and more of us, home has really less to do with a piece of soil, than you could say, with a piece of soul.” I had found a piece of my soul in London, a city, with all of its excess stimuli, crowds of people, and lack of free space. I acquired a passion for the sounds outside of my window, the anonymity of walking the streets, and the accessibility of public transportation. My allergy to cities—gone. 

Leslie is a Team USA Skeleton Athlete, Pro Smiler, Proper Nerd, Puzzle Lover, and Adventurer of Planet Earth.

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