It’s only been a week and yet somehow, I feel like I’ve been here for a month. The days have all run together and I’m amazed at all I’ve learned in just the first couple of days. From quickly learning to be more self-reliant to how other cultures view and move through the world; this week has been just a taste of what I think this semester has in store for me.
SATURDAY, WESTMINSTER Spent most of the day in bed trying to kick this whole jet lag/not getting on a UK schedule thing. Honestly, the extra sleep is probably not helping. I went on a walking tour of Westminster this afternoon. It was cold but entertaining. Our tour guide was a character. He told great stories of Kings and Queens of old, Wars and Civil Wars, and of Fire after Fire. We walked around a couple of blocks in the neighborhood and saw the Palace of Westminster (Parliament) and the Abbey along with several other notable homes and historic sites. I took serval pictures as I have been threatened once or twice that if I didn’t return home with some, I would be ostracized in some manner.
FRIDAY, STRAND CAMPUS It’s finally here. FDOC. To be honest, I’ve been looking forward to it for a while. A chance to finally get on a schedule of some sort. Unfortunately, it started out a little rough. Rush hour is a beast. One that I did not understand until I met it this morning. I have never really felt like a sardine until riding the central line into town. While I had given myself a good 40 minutes to get into campus I ended up having to sprint to make it to class on time.
It turns out my mid-morning jog was for nothing. Our professor didn’t show up until about 15 minutes after class started. The way classes are here is a little different than how it is back home and it was not what I was expecting from the class, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it soon.
My second class of the day was a seminar, what they call a small group class drawn from your lecture group. It took me about 20 minutes to find the classroom. It was on a floor that both does and doesn’t exist. Apparently, when combining centuries-old buildings together, buildings tend to have some interesting floorplans. When I finally got there, it was only one other person. We sat and had a good talk because yet again there was a lack of a professor. Turns out the school had messed up or schedules and put us in the wrong room at the wrong time. We managed to sort it out and I got a good chuckle out of the whole ordeal.
THURSDAY, WEST END I didn’t leave my flat for most of the day. I am proud to declare this my first lazy day here in London. I did, however, go to a comedy show this evening in the city. The show was pretty good. Most of the comics were half decent and I had a good laugh or two. One did make a joke about America and guns and you could hear a good 20 percent of the audience audibly moan (most of the study aboard students are from the states after all).
WEDNESDAY, KING’S COLLEGE Still suffering from a bought of jet lag I overslept this morning. Scrambling not to be late to orientation, I forgot to check one critical detail before I got on the tube. It turns out orientation for the day was at the opposite campus from the one I was traveling to. So, I quickly hopped off the tube and sprinted across the Thames. I scooted in a few minutes late and caught most of the presentation.
After grabbing lunch with a few other Study Abroad kids, I headed back to Strand campus where I originally thought I’d spend my day. I took the foreign language placement exam which turned out to be just a short conversation in French. Apparently, despite my lack of ability to respond in French, I knew what was being said and somehow that was enough to help me manage to skate into the level I needed.
WEDNESDAY, STRATFORD I’m a little proud of myself tonight. I went real grocery shopping for the first time tonight. While making dinner, I finally met a couple of my flatmates here in London too. They told me a little bit of what I had already pieced together. The flat for the most part is quiet and not the most social of places. There are a lot of postgrads here in Angel Lane which also contributes to the overall lack of a major social atmosphere. They were intrigued by me it seems. Apparently, I reek of Americanisms.
TUESDAY, STRATFORD After another long day of orientation sessions that were actually helpful this time and meeting more people who have no idea what they’re doing in this town, I got home to one of the best things I ever heard. Montana and I had caught one of the last trains back and after entering the dorm decided to ask if our bags had managed to finally arrive. The desk attendants then said some of the most magical words I’ve ever heard, “We did get two bags in about an hour or so ago.” I can’t lie, I sobbed happy tears at that moment.
MONDAY, LONDON I got up rather late today and headed into the city. Before attending orientation, I thought it would be a good idea to head to Winston House, UNC’s home base in Europe. Now my primary reason for visiting was to find out if they’ll be hosting watch parties or anything of the sort for the UNC v. Dook basketball games coming up. A guy has got to have his priorities in order after all. I found the house after getting turned around only once or twice. I stood on the doorstep and rang the bell, knocked, rang the bell, knocked, and then again rang the bell. Well after about 20 minutes I decided that Chapel Hill was standing me up. Slightly dejected, I crawled into the arms of a Five Guys burger.
Determined not to have anything else go wrong, I quickly finished my lunch and headed to the Strand campus of King’s College. After convincing a bus driver to let me on for free (mainly by just being a very confused American) I got to campus with plenty of time to spare. I picked up my ID card and ran into several other Study Abroad students, some from Carolina and others not.
As a group, we all walked over to Waterloo Campus and attended our first orientation session of the week. It left many things to be desired. I don’t think they explained anything well. I did, however, learn that UNC sent one of the largest contingents of students to King’s for the semester.
After orientation, we all headed to, you guessed it, a pub to meet and talk with all of the other study abroad students. I met several people from all over the States and the world. I met several Australians and a lot of people from Michigan tonight. After leaving I called home and got to talk with everyone and hear voices I dearly miss.
SUNDAY, STRATFORD With most of my things still in transit over the Atlantic, I ended up sleeping with only a hoodie for a pillow and a rain jacket for a blanket Saturday night. This morning I quickly decided to resolve my less than an ideal sleeping situation. I grabbed a quick shower, using an undershirt for a towel, and set out to explore the neighborhood.
After grabbing a quick breakfast at McDonald’s, I went to the major shopping center next to my dorm and bought bedding, linens, and a SIM card for my phone. It was at the register after going on my little shopping spree that I fully began to understand the impact exchange rates would have on my wallet.
SUNDAY, SOUTHWARK Met up with a few people from UNC at a small pub just to see some friendly faces. We all exchanged war stories of how we got to London and our experiences in the first couple of hours in the city. At the pub, I met Arez. Arez was a study abroad student at UNC and is a student at King’s and therefore was able to give the inside scoop on life all while being able to tie in a few basketball references. We ended up grabbing food at Nando’s before heading back to our respective homes.
I think I’m finally starting to figure out this town. It’s been a fun week here and it keeps getting better every day. I’ve met so many wonderful people this week and look forward to getting to know everyone better as the semester goes on. I’m excited about all the classes I have coming up this week and finding out what they’re all like. As always if you want to chat while I’m over here and your wherever you are, just drop me a line at +44 07399501311 or on WhatsApp. If it’s before dinner time in the states, I’ll be up. Well, I need to figure out how the laundry machines work around here, we’ll talk again soon, but until then I’ll see you Sunday.