Split the Bill, Half the Plate, Go Dutch

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by Justine McPherson | Queen Mary University of London, Spring 2019 

So… People (and food with said people) must be the most important aspect of my time in both London and Seoul. Though I spent most of my time alone, wandering around shops and writing papers in the library, I also made several acquaintances who made my time very memorable. At my university in London, I only had class two days a week. Most of my school life was rather uneventful, so I joined the drama club, the choir, and a Christian fellowship, which met each week. I got to know many English students and listen to how their weeks were going, which made my life far more colorful. I went to concerts that they invited me to and ate with them, my choir even bought me a cake for my birthday (I was touched). Apart from this, I found a church, which allowed me a peculiar opportunity. Sometimes it would move locations in the city week to week, so I explored far more of London just looking for where it had gone to that Sunday. Emory also had a coordinator in London who took out all of us Emory students to various places and events that were culturally significant (I adored those trips).

Justine with new friends exploring the city

The above is just a big picture of my time in England; I made a far closer relationship with someone with whom I shared many meals and tabs. This was my fellow schoolmate Gabi, who was a year ahead of me at Emory and whom I literally ran after (stealthily) when I saw her right before orientation began. She was very surprised, I was practically a stranger, we had only seen each other once, stateside, and didn’t greet each other. I was just happy for a familiar face, so I introduced myself and the rest is history. We were best friends for those five months we were there. We found different restaurants to try, sometimes online, sometimes whatever was around, and we ate out once or twice or however many times a week, and it was always the best food I had ever had. Each time Gabi and I went out to dine, we split the food, as well as the bill. I also did this for every meal in Seoul with my four acquaintances.

As you can tell, I love food, good food, and good company. I think it is one of the most important aspects of studying abroad, communal food culture. It allows you to meet and be at ease with people, and you get to understand their tastes and who they are. When the revelry is through and the tab comes, you are in it together. Everyone has shared in the merriment and now everyone is responsible. Through our shared love of delicious cuisine, most of my available time was spent with Gabi. We enjoyed hot chocolate after waiting in beyond freezing temperatures for a bus that didn’t arrive and walked through strange and diverse neighborhoods in the dark evenings to eat cheese and egg from a bread bowl.  

My experience in London would not have been the same without the brief companionships I formed, and I say brief because they lasted only as long as I was in England: five months. I also made fast friends in Seoul, whom I still speak to regularly, even though that bond was only for ten days.  

P.S. It is very easy to split the bill in London since they carry the card scanner to your table. Not so much in Seoul, but you can always use money transfer apps (or cash).