Letters to Home: Experiencing The City, The Sights, and The Great Convergence in London
Everyone has their own “million dollar question” that they struggle to answer. For me, it has always been a simple yet absolutely impossible one that racks my brain every time: “Where do you call home?” My first instinct each time is to instantly reply with “Singapore, of course." But then appears flashes of my sisters and me frolicking in our backyard on a warm summer day, rushing into our quaint house by Lac Geneve in Switzerland for a refreshing glass of cold, fresh lemonade. At other times, I think back to my time in Jakarta, greeting my driver as he brought me home to “Jalan Sekolah Duta Dua,” or in Hong Kong, where I would persevere each time I entered a taxi to pronounce the name of the road I lived on ("Gao Sang Deng Doh”) with perfect intonation in my attempt to speak the local language, Cantonese.
Many times, I’ve stumped myself answering such a simple question—my experience as a global nomad juxtaposes the traditional notion of “home” as a singular concept. I like to tell people that my home is infinite, where each room is a representation of countries I have lived in, and one that I continue to build.
Having lived in so many places, I quickly learned to adapt to new environments. I had six first days at a new school, and became accustomed to the rush of adrenaline, anxiety, and fear of making friends. Each time I moved, an emotional concoction boiled through my veins as I was sad to leave my friends, yet partially excited to explore my next new home. I did my best to keep in touch with close friends throughout my wanderlust, even if it was the one-off Facebook birthday post or a quick Snapchat.
Traditionally, Asia and the West have been viewed as two worlds—vastly different in culture, demographics, virtues, and beliefs. In his book, The Great Convergence (where I got my inspiration from for the title of this piece), Kishore Mahbubani optimistically speaks of the foreseeable matrimony of the West and the East, an event he terms “The Great Convergence.” After reading this book by my fellow Singaporean, I was intrigued by the concept, especially as someone who has lived in both spheres.
So by this point you're probably wondering—how the hell is this related to a study abroad experience? In grappling with the challenge of answering such a question, I have dreamt of a place where the walls of the rooms of my house break down and my worlds mesh together. Little did I know that London would be the city of the Great Convergence of my global identity.
I graduated from the United World College in Singapore, an international school where roughly half of my grade moved to the US to attend college and the other chose the UK. So when I applied to study abroad in London for a semester, I could not contain my excitement at the prospect of reuniting with some of my closest friends from my high school days. I meet two of my closest friends once every week here, and spend time with the extended UWC SGP/LDN crew—as we have termed ourselves—at least once a month.
I was amazed at how many of my high school friends I found in London and have had an absolutely fantastic time reuniting with them. But this was only the beginning; my world was about go from small to microscopic.
In early March, I journeyed northwards to Scotland for a weekend to visit a friend of mine I’ve known since my toddler days in Singapore. When she greeted me at her apartment and led me to their flat, I was in for a marvelous surprise—she shared a flat with two girls who I had attended high school with in Singapore, who she happened to meet at her university!
It didn't stop there. That same trip, I met up with a friend from Hong Kong who I attended middle school with but hadn’t seen in ten years. When I met up with her, it was like we had seen each other only yesterday.
Think that’s the end? Nope. When I returned to London after that trip, I was contacted by a girl I went to school with in Jakarta who I hadn’t seen in 7 years, nor had I kept in touch with, who wanted to grab a coffee and catch up. Seeing her again was like meeting one of my close CMC friends.
And to top it all off is the lovely coincidence that one of my closest friends from CMC, Stephanie Mace, is here in London for the two of us to enjoy our semester abroad together. Our adventures and escapades have been nothing short of exciting, spontaneous and daring, and sometimes, I still can’t believe that our stars aligned in such a way.
They say that London is a city akin to a cultural melting pot, demographically composed of people of various ethnicities, origins, and cultures. My experience here has been that and more—it has been that of a Great Convergence, a shrinking of my pre-existing minuscule world and a harmonization my homes, experiences and connections. My perception of the word “home” is something that I cannot even define singularly. Home, to a globetrotter like me, is wherever I go, whoever I meet, and whatever I experience. With two more months to go, I am itching with excitement to see what—or in my case who—is in store for me next.