Towards the end of our time in London this May term, my friends Chelsea, Meaghan, Rebecca, and I were spending all of our free time cramming in as many tourist attractions as possible. Okay, who am I kidding — that’s how we spent our free time the entire trip. Had to make the most of it, right?
On this particular Wednesday, our plan had been to visit the site of the 2012 Summer Olympics, between our morning class and evening trip to see “War Horse” at the New London Theatre, but that never ended up happening. (It was too far away and everything was under construction, so we wouldn’t have been able to see anything.)
What did happen that afternoon turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of our two-week trip.
When I arrived to class that morning, Meaghan already had a plan. She had happened to see on Twitter that the members of One Direction would be holding a press conference in London at noon. And we were going.
To be fair, Meaghan was the only one of us that is a huge One Direction fan, but the more she talked about it, the more we wanted to tag along.
After all, One Direction is hugely popular in the US, and even more so in the UK. So why not? This would be a great cultural experience, and if we happened to meet celebrities along the way, we’d have a great story for everyone that night at dinner.
So as soon as class let out, we were the first ones out the door and headed off to Wembley Stadium, the site of the press conference, still not knowing what announcement was supposedly being made.
It turned out to be that the boy band will be launching a stadium tour in 2014. Not really groundbreaking, but as you can tell, that’s not the real story here.
Anyways, we made it to Wembley, a huge soccer — I mean, football stadium, and found only one group of crazed screaming girls waiting for the pop stars.
We decided to distance ourselves from the crazies and explore Wembley. We gathered what little information the security guards and other staff would give us along the way, which was not much.
Apparently, the press conference was supposed to be entirely secret to the public. But I guess no one told One Direction, because they’re the ones that tweeted about it from inside the stadium.
It was clear from the start that we were never actually going to meet, or even see, the singers. But we thought we’d hang around — just in case they decided to glance through a window or something.
1:00 came and went with no sightings. But then the press started to appear. Reporters and photographers slowly trickled out from within the massive building. A few even stopped to interview the few fans that had stuck around. Meaghan was interviewed by a lady from Reuters and there were paparazzi wandering around everywhere. Pretty exciting stuff!
In the end, we’re pretty sure we saw the car containing the boy band drive away. And Meaghan’s confident she saw one of their stylists through a window.
But who we did meet were other fans our age. And they were all pretty great.
One of the first things we were told upon arriving to London was that everyone would know that we were American tourists, and that they would hate us for it.
But those One Direction fangirls (and one boy) we met disproved that theory.
Sure, everyone could tell we were American, and I’m sure we didn’t “blend in with the locals” as much as we thought we would.
But at least for that afternoon, no one hated us for it. In fact, they were all fascinated. They had nothing but positive views of the United States. One girl even told us how “posh” our accents sounded!
When you study abroad, you’re still a tourist. And that’s okay. It’s just as important to get the cultural experience as it is the academic one.
You won’t always blend in, and some things will be different from home. But it helps to know that not everybody hates tourists, or Americans in general.
You’ll meet people from all over the world, who see you as another person and are just as fascinated by you and your culture as you are by them and theirs.
And that’s what studying abroad is all about.