By Chelly Jin

I remember when I first applied to UCEAP Study Abroad — I remember that the first thing I thought was how I desperately wanted to leave America and leave behind the need to be with anyone. As a fourth year, I wanted to find that place in my life where I could be comfortable in my own skin, independent and carefree. 

As I set my budgets and plans for London, I didn’t anticipate the crushing feeling of suddenly being alone. At first I wanted solitude, but when I arrived, all I wanted was a community, to join a society (which they call a club or organization), to make friends.

This blogpost is about my journey in finding a community in London, both the lows but the ultimate highs 🙂 Unfortunately, I’ve joined societies and met friends who don’t like photos of themselves being taken, so enjoy some beauty shots of King’s Strand Campus! 

The Struggles of Trying to Find your Place  
The search started with dance societies. King’s does this awesome thing at the beginning of the year, which is the Activities Fair. Go to it and sign up for EVERYTHING. Don’t be afraid of signing up for commitment, because no one expects anything from you and all you get are extra opportunities to stay in the loop (top tip: use your King’s email to sign up for all these clubs so you don’t have to deal with it on your personal email!)

I came in with preconceived notions that I would join a dance team. The reality is, as a semester student, a lot of competitive team sports won’t allow you to audition or try out because the first semester is used for training while the second semester is used for competition. Thus, I showed up to dance society auditions only to realize that I wasn’t allowed to join. 

Ukulele Society 
Luckily, I had snagged a flyer from the King’s Ukulele Society booth at the Activities Fair — and although it wasn’t my initial first though when I came to King’s to join the UkeSoc, it ended up being the best!  
I didn’t bring my ukulele from home, but for a £20 deposit, they’ll let you borrow one for as long as you need! On Mondays, they have tutorials to teach you how to play (but for the people who’ve been playing for a while like me, we use it as a socializing time). On Wednesdays, we all go out to a pub called The Albany where they host Ukulele Wednesdays — a night of ukulele jamming with ukulele players all around London. There is absolutely nothing more satisfying than screaming Purple Rain alongside 50 ukulele players, trust me.

Running A Mock 
Another serendipitous occasion was joining the comedy improv society, Running A Mock. And not only joining the society, but actually auditioning to now become one of the 6 improv troupe members. Prior to coming to London, I had never had any formal acting, theatre, nor comedy experience, but these people have been some of the most incredible (and hilarious) individuals I have ever met.  
Joining Running A Mock became the family that I didn’t realize I needed. Every week I look forward to the workshops on Tuesdays and improv rehearsals on Wednesdays, with jokes and silly games that remind me to keep my head high in London — to take everything with a grain of salt and a good chuckle.  

The most important thing I’ve learned through improv is the idea of ‘Yes, And...’ In improv, this is the first and foremost rule. We say ‘yes’ to accept the challenge, the situation, acknowledge our own ideas, respect other’s ideas. Then we say ‘and’ in an act to contribute, to be a part of the solution, to move forward in progress. And this is how I decided to treat my time here in London, to look at every opportunity with a ‘Yes, And...’ — not a ‘no’, nor a begrudging ‘yes’, but a true acknowledgement of the current situation and the willingness to add to its value. 

Improv has been one of the most formative experiences here in London and I couldn’t be more grateful to this community.