Tea Time: Thoughts on My Last Days in London

One item on my London bucket list was to have a tea party. Going out to tea is quite expensive, but luckily the Arcadia London Centre treated study abroad students to afternoon tea at the Orangery, a charming garden café next to Kensington Palace. This gathering was Arcadia’s little goodbye present as everybody returns home within the next month.

It was like a scene from a Downton Abbey episode, as waiters dressed in tailcoats greeted us at the door and took us to a clean white table with pretty grandma’s cupboard plates and teacups. I squealed when the waiters carried over to our table the three-tiered plate stand layered with mini sandwiches, scones, and cakes. I forced myself to take a sip of tea after every bite to avoid stuffing myself with desserts.

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The Arcadia program manager, Phil, asked us about our time at Westminster and plans for summer vacation. I explained that I would be returning to the New York City area and hoped to spend my summer at an internship. The other students talked about returning to summer jobs, working back at summer camp, and preparing applications for graduate school.

The entire table listened as one person explained that she was stressing out over GRE exams. Others chimed in with their own grad school plans. Then, it occurred to me. This may be my last true summer vacation. I’ll be entering my senior year, and I do not plan on going to grad school. After college I hope to enter the workforce. Other than that, my future is unknown.

I sat there holding my teacup, looking past the garden, thinking about this in-between time. I am between a time of certainty, during which school has been all I’ve ever known, and a time of liberation, where all paths are open to me. At the same time, I’m afraid to maintain a job where I’ll have less flexibility to do what I love most: travel.

In college, I’ve had the greatest opportunity to travel to places as different as Paris and Marrakech. I’ve had no attachments, no job keeping me in one place, but after graduation, that’ll all change. My time in London is ending. And I’ll be returning to Glenside in the fall for my senior year.

I squinted as a garden maze absorbed the sunshine in front of me, thinking about the rest of my bucket list and the places I still want to visit. I savored every bit of my tea, enjoying this time to think about the future, and the many different directions I can take.