Kalli Damschen

I fell in love with London when I was seven years old and 5,000 miles (or 8,000 kilometers) away from the city.

I’d just finished reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (since apparently us Americans wouldn’t want to read a book with the word “philosopher” in the title), and although I lived alongside the snowy mountains of Utah in the western United States, my mind was full with dreams of King’s Cross Station and double-decker buses and treacle tart. I was barely old enough to fathom life in a foreign country an entire ocean away, but I already dreamed of the day I’d travel to England.

As the years went on, other authors from Jane Austen to J.R.R. Tolkien only provided me with more reasons to long for England, and when I was presented with the opportunity to spend four months studying and working in London, I was ecstatic. Not only would I get to see the places that had shaped some of the stories that changed my life, but I would also have the chance to gain experience through an internship—an ideal opportunity, since I’m a novelist who aspires to a career in publishing or journalism, two fields which both emphasise the importance of work experience in addition to a university education.

This is the road that led me to Paddington Arts, where I’ve spent the last two months writing for Youth Arts Online while lending a hand around the office.

My time in London, both in and out of the workplace, has helped me learn and grow in so many ways. I’ve seen incredible aspects of history and culture. I’ve adapted to life in a different culture, where people are confused when I use the words “college” and “university” interchangeably and give me strange looks if I say “fall” instead of “autumn.” I’ve had the opportunity to speak with some incredibly talented young artists for Youth Arts Online, and I’ve expanded my writing portfolio with all my articles for the website.

Although I’m excited to get home to Utah for the holidays, where I’ll have a white Christmas surrounded by the family and friends I’ve missed over the last four months, I know I’m going to mourn London once I’ve left. In fact, I’ll probably spend the entirety of the holidays crying into a cup of tea by the fireside while eating ridiculously overpriced imported Jaffa Cakes from the one, little British shop in my hometown. Though I already know it will be hard to move on from my experiences in London, I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given this term—for the people I’ve met, and the places I’ve gone, and the things I’ve done.

I’ve learned about the differences between a British and an American office, and I’ve learned how to write in British English (though deleting my Oxford commas always kills me inside!). I’ve learned to be confident, even when stepping outside my comfort zone, to find where I belong 5,000 miles away from everything I know, and I couldn’t have done it without Paddington Arts.



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