Thursday, 1 March 2012

Friendship: The Best Link to a Culture

As a student who lives in a manor with other American students, British friends are hard to come by. During the week, schoolwork is such a priority that we often stay on the college grounds, making sure our to-do lists are completed for the weekend ahead. Because of this, we rarely get submersed in British culture like I imagined. Thankfully, an organization on campus found a solution to this.
The organization is called BASIC— which stands for Brothers and Sisters in Christ. It’s a Christian group that studies the Bible, sings worship songs and hymns, and provides support and accountability for one another. During one of our first meetings, a pastor from a local church came and led a Bible study. Afterwards, he casually mentioned to the group that one of his church plants in Lincoln, Lincolnshire was having a Christian retreat. He then offered us an opportunity that many American students don’t have: to spend an entire weekend with over one hundred college British students. Though I was nervous, and had no idea what to expect, it was an opportunity I would never have again. I knew I had to sign up.
I’m so thankful that I did; the retreat was phenomenal. The weekend was full of laughter, music, hot chocolate, and snow! My first night there, I played a card game called Pitt and ate sweets with my British roommates and their friends. We had fun learning about each other's culture. In England, rain boots are called “wellies,” minstrels are a type of chocolate (not a variety show), and candy is always called sweets (one of my friends asked, “What do you consider a candy bar?”). I ate toad in the hole— which is sausage in batter with potatoes and gravy— and learned how to make squash, a sugary liquid that only requires a cupful and then is mixed with water and deluded. (My first time making it, I filled the entire pitcher full of squash— only to find my British friends horrified that I almost drank it!). I learned more about British culture in those two days than I had in the entire semester.

Apart from the many cultural differences, though, I learned that no matter where you’re from, friends are such an indispensable part of life. This past Saturday, I traveled back to Lincoln to spend the day with my friends from the retreat. That morning, they met me at the train station (they knew I was nervous about traveling alone) and we took a quick tour around their campus. I saw two of their flats (what Americans call apartments), and we compared them to my college dorm back home. Other than their teapots and drying racks (they rarely use tumble dryers), we live similarly, just trying to do the best we can in small, but cozy space. Next we had lunch at a cafĂ© (I had a delicious tuna pasta), walked around the shops, saw the Lincoln Cathedral, and stopped for a leisurely tea break in the late afternoon. We grabbed a quick dinner before going back to the train station, where they graciously— and quite expertly— helped me arrange my train ride back to the Grantham.

It was a lovely day, and though I’ve spent weekends traveling to other countries and seeing magnificent sights, the time I’ve spent with my British friends will be something I cherish above it all. The friendships I’ve made here are something that I can hold onto when I return home, and my breathtaking pictures become… just pictures. My friends have linked me with this culture, and it’s been wonderful learning so many new things.

So, to my brilliant British mates— Judy, Rachel, Minnie, Rei, Sophie, Olivia, Beth, and Emma— I’m so happy to have met you. Thank you for everything! (Or, as you guys would say, cheers!)


  1. This is a beautiful story, one you will always look back on and enjoy each and every time! The friends you make there will always be your friends. You have shared something so spectacular that no one else can relate to! Always appreciate the time you are there, do and learn as much as you goes by fast, way too fast!

  2. How wonderful, Rachel! Glad you're getting to experience so much in so little time!