Time is a weird concept, especially when studying abroad. On my computer screen, I keep track of three different time zones: One for my parents (-8hr), for my friends back in the States (-5hr), and of course, one for London (0hr). Meetings and phone calls are usually scheduled at extremes – early in the morning or late at night. When I call my parents, I am often a day ahead, well into my daily activities. Groggily, they’ll tell me that they just woke up.
In addition to the thousands of miles of ocean that separates the United States from the United Kingdom, the time differences seem to enhance the obvious distance between the two. While I sleep, things are happening in America. They always are. Yet, rather than being exposed to a constant stream of updates and fragmented soundbites, I hear about things long after they have already happened. The information I receive is more complete and the time that I spend taking everything else in is neatly condensed into one or two articles or a podcast recapping everything that has happened.
Although it is difficult to keep track of everything while abroad, the delay that these time differences have created are also a welcomed breath of fresh air. In a way, it has given me the opportunity to escape the narrow fixation that, as Americans, we often have on local news. Instead, what is happening in the United States only encompasses a fraction of what I pay attention to. Globally, the world is changing, things are happening, and time is passing. Yet, I find that being in London – a few hours ahead of the place that used to make up my world, has allowed me to take in the present while simultaneously broadening the way in which I think about international affairs. Although my semester is coming to an end, I find myself thankful for Big Ben and the time that I’ve spent learning about the world based on a different clock.