Lancaster…. Ohhh where should I start? Should I start with being a big city girl or the fact that 4/4 of my London friends do not know where Lancaster is? Along with them, many English/British people I’ve come across, have no clue where it is as well. Obviously, Lancaster is a very small town in the North West of England. A fact that I was well aware of eventually being a challenge, but knowing me…. I love a challenge. Lancaster is a very cute and quaint town, has pretty architecture and is… very small (if I haven’t stressed that enough already). I have the luxury of looking out of my window and having a view of the Lancaster Castle which is pretty dope. I have access to great produce and fresh meat which I DO NOT have back in the states and for a very very very low price. The cost of living is so ridiculously low here, it still gets me. Though with all that cute stuff being said, I’m absolutely dying! You can see it however you want to, "New York City girl complaining and crying that she’s out in the hills with the boring sheep." If you know me well enough, you would know I love the outdoors and the countryside…. But in doses. I knew this time would come when the honeymoon stages of moving to a new country would wear off and the bore and the daily annoyances would strike.
England being a very small country, traveling from town to town things change drastically. The architect, the terms used, teams, and the accents. Oh, the accents fascinate me, English people sometimes not understanding other English people in the town over is amazing.
But with all that being said I noticed a shift, a shift that may have been caused by several factors. This shift was the way I felt out and about in town. Few possible reasons why: could just be me being a weird natural human being, seasonal blues (impacting the Lancastrians’ as well as myself), seeing the town of Lancaster's true colors, or the Lancastrians’ just being damn tired of students taking the town over after the end of one whole term. I know if I were a local here I would be annoyed from time to time. When I first arrived, I was on a high, new continent, new country, new town, new culture. Most people were friendly, people would start random conversations, smile and say “Hello love” (a phrase used very often here in the North)…Makes you feel all warm and welcomed, it’s great. As seasons changed, the days got shorter (much shorter than back home, we’re slightly higher up north), and it got colder. I am a big believer in the effects of seasons, I noticed the change in my housemates, and campus wide. The energy of things just naturally shifted like it does every year, and with that, so did the locals. This noticeable shift was confirmed when my friend flew in to visit me from San Fran and the first question she asked as we entered the town center was, “Does everyone here just stare?”I tried to respond in a positive way by telling her there were very few blacks, so it’s a rare occasion. She responded, “Isn’t your school filled with international students?” I had no comment….
Noticing the weird stares, hearing the under breath comments in passing, the unwanted energy, having random strangers approach me on the street and put their hands in my hair, then to have an older man tell my friend and me that, “your race isn’t wanted here”. Was this possibly because the locals were just at their ends dealing with the massive influx of students after 3 long months? The town of Lancaster has a population of approximately 140,000. Lancaster University alone has a student body of 13,320, that does not include, professors, mature students’ families, and all the rest of what else a huge university would bring along. I must include, in addition to Lancaster’s students, there is another campus in town which is much smaller but most definitely increases the total population of students well above 16,000.
Why was this so suddenly becoming my reality? Why hadn’t I noticed it before? Could it be that I was just finally seeing the ugly side of things (there’s an ugly side of everything and everywhere, believe me), or the grunt of BREXIT? An important mark in history (to say the least) that I had been warned could possibly impact my experience abroad. In addition to mine, are other racial occurrences’ that I cannot speak on because they were not my own. Xenophobia is a big problem in Europe and is ever so growing, but my University is a pretty damn good one. If there isn’t already an existing program to better the dynamic of the two worlds to better coexist, I say we start one soon. It could potentially better the relationship between the students and the Lancastrians. BREXIT is current, recent and real. It has real impacts on us all, creating and bettering a bond between the universities and the locals can and will benefit future students to come.