ACCENT London: Playing with the Yetis

Today’s post comes from UC Berkeley student Deborah Oh, who joined the University College London’s ice hockey team. There, she found regular physical activity, expanded opportunities to explore London, and the friendship and collaboration that springs from team sports.

My aspirations started out quite small. I first joined University College London’s Ice Club, hoping to find more student-friendly deals for rink sessions than the skating times that were offered to the general public – I just wanted some affordable time on the ice. This was because, as London’s weather began to take a gradual descent into a frigidity that my Californian self could not tolerate, I decided to find a sport that would replace the outdoor physical activities that I normally participated in year-round. Therefore, having figure skated and played ice hockey as a child, I showed up to Ice Club’s welcome social and was somehow persuaded into joining one of their hockey teams. Thus began my experience as a UCL Yetis offensive forward.

With practices on Wednesdays, games during the weekends, and socials scattered throughout the week, the club became quite a prominent priority during my stay in London. From sprinting to the Streatham train station in order to make it on time to class, to carpooling down to Alexandra Palace at 1.00am after a game against a team from France, I learned much about London while merely trying to get from one place to another for club events – including hour long conversations with taxi drivers and questions about my hockey kit from people on the tube. I must have been quite a sight: a 5’4’’ Korean-American girl trotting through the lamp-lit streets of London with a stick in one hand and a bag large enough to fit her own body in the other. Yet despite how odd and out of place I may have looked, I’d never felt so at home.

My team made me feel welcome the moment I entered the sweat-stained air of the locker rooms. With their dry British humor and sharp wit, my mates would often battle with me over our divergent colloquialisms, differences in spelling, and incompatible units of measurement. They explained to me the difference between cricket and croquet, invited me to evening gigs, and took me through the most beautiful areas of London with grace and charm. Whether it was on the ice or the dance floor, these individuals became friends whom I could look to for support and encouragement as well as an unlimited supply of cheeky, sardonic comments and memes included for no additional cost.

Because of Ice Club, London became not just an interesting study abroad experience, but truly a place that I could call home. Therefore, no matter which continent or side of the ocean I may be, I will forever don my Yetis jersey and bleed UCL purple confidently.

~Deborah Oh, University of California, Berkeley

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