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A year in London: a bittersweet departure

As Japanese blogger Reona returns to Tokyo for Christmas, she reflects on her three months in London and how she might feel when she leaves for good 

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Reona Matsumoto's avatar

Reona Matsumoto

January 3 2018
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As the Christmas break drew closer, I was asked many times by friends what I was doing over the holidays. My plan was to spend a few days in Paris, then head back to Tokyo for two weeks.

I confess that I spent the last few days before I flew home eagerly counting down the hours until I would be out of London. My departure was chaotic – I was trying to pack light and frantically running around buying last-minute souvenirs that my mom had requested. With no essay deadlines, and with nothing to worry about but the long list of souvenirs and my luggage, I was content to leave London for a few weeks.

Yet I couldn’t help but wonder whether my final departure for Tokyo in June would be like this. Would my last moments in London be as busy, and would I still be as happy to be leaving?

Having spent three months in London, I still cannot decide how I feel about the place. I do like the life that I have in the city, but I sometimes wonder how I would feel if I were studying at UCL for only a term, not a year.

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Some of my friends who are staying in London for only one term are living by the “you only live once” philosophy and doing all of the touristy stuff and travelling around the UK and Europe, while I have spent a lot of time relaxing and telling myself that I have a whole year to do similar activities when, in fact, I have only five months left.

I am already getting the “end of year” feelings. In Japan, there is an annual tradition of choosing a kanji (a word) to describe how the year has been overall. This year, it was “北”, which means north – a nod to how politics affected Japan in 2017. Inspired by this tradition, over the past few years, I have chosen my own personal kanji. For 2017, I chose a kanji that means resignation and acceptance.

For me, although 2017 was a year in which I experienced feelings of defeat, heartbreak and anger, it was also a time of change and about embracing new cultures. It was also a year of stiff smiles and socialising, a time when I learned to go with the flow and not against it. I learned to relax and to be happy with what I have, and I have become wiser and hopefully nicer.

I admit that I did feel a bit sad as my plane left London. While I was happy to leave the city to go home, I was also happy to return. I am not ready to leave London for good. That is the only feeling that I am certain of right now.

Read more: a year in London: ‘One of the best decisions I ever made

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