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Message from the SU London Director

“Really I must buy a pencil”

Dear SU Londoners

– and you are all Londoners by now! You’re living alongside the locals and blending in more. The way you dress may have changed, or maybe the same wardrobe just looks or feels different on you now. Your body and your gaze move through the city with more confidence, seldom looking lost. Perhaps you’ve found a few familiar places to call your own. You’re swimming in the life-stream of the city without always thinking about it, living that longed-for immersion that studying abroad promised at the beginning.

So I want to say to you all: well done. And now get lost.

By ‘get lost’ I don’t rudely mean ‘go away’. Getting lost in a city is easy and requires only ignorance, as Walter Benjamin wrote. Losing oneself in a city, however, is something different. Writer Rebecca Solnit describes it this way: “one does not get lost but loses oneself, with the implication that it is a conscious choice, a chosen surrender, a psychic state achievable through geography.” To lose oneself, she continues, is to be “utterly immersed in what is present . . . and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery.”

So just when you’re starting to feel like a Londoner who knows the city, I want to encourage you to be even more present, here and now, and to lose yourself once more in this mysterious metropolis. With just a few weeks before an ending to the semester, make a point of doing something you’ve not yet done. Choose something that you once thought wouldn’t have been ‘you’. Flick through your journal, written or mental, from the past several months and recall something you had hoped to do or see, and make it happen.

Perhaps you want to take a break from studying, every day that remains here, and follow Virginia Woolf’s advice to “indulge safely in the greatest pleasure of town life in winter – rambling the streets of London.” Woolf, who lived much of her life right here in Bloomsbury, loved to wander the city streets, especially in winter at dusk, observing, seen but unseen as only a Londoner and not a tourist can be, imagining the lives of the strangers she encountered, letting her mind as well as her feet wander. She believed you needed only the flimsiest excuse “for walking half across London between tea and dinner,” an object that you say you’re in search of but that is not really your purpose at all. An object as mundane as a pencil.“

"Really I must buy a pencil.” And off you go.

Dr. Troy Gordon


Travelling this weekend? Complete a Travel Form

Students: if you spend any nights away from your registered London address, you must fill in SU London's online travel form.

Letting SU London staff know of your travel plans greatly aids our ability to offer help should you need it. Completing a travel form simply gives you an extra layer of comfort and security while you're off exploring the continent and beyond.

Click here to view the easy, breezy form and please bookmark it for future use.

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