On January 5th, I landed in Heathrow Airport. It was pretty seamless getting through, and after nearly 24 hours of travelling, I was happy to be in my destination. I met up with another American from my program in my terminal, and we walked together to the meeting point. The two of us were the last to arrive, so our group of 8 hopped on a bus with our ISA resident staff. I stared out the window of our bus, which was driving on the left side of the road, and took in the sights on our hour drive to our dorms. I had scheduled a COVID-19 test in central London, so my ISA resident staff helped me through the public transport. I needed to quarantine until I got my result, so I did my best to soak in the sights on the train back home. By bed time I already had my result, so I planned for an exciting day tomorrow.
The next morning, I made my way to the train station and rode to central London. I am really into aquariums, so I booked tickets to Sea Life. I arrived very early and walked around the London Eye. I was amazed when I saw Big Ben and Parliament, and I found a stall selling crepes. I ordered a Belgian chocolate, and it was the best crepe I’ve ever had. I leaned up against the wall looking out over the Thames as I ate my food. That’s when a seagull landed next to me. I grew up on Whidbey Island on the West Coast, and seagulls are one of my favorite animals. He slowly approached closer…and closer…I began to think, “Wow, I don’t think one has ever gotten this close to me before! How cute.”
That’s when he suddenly launched at me, wings flapping! I tucked my food under my chest and flung my elbow up at the bird, but he was relentless. I ran away from the riverside and he finally left. I noticed a small bite had been taken from my crepe. Quickly after, he returned with a friend and attacked again. I was prepared this time and protected my food. I found a safer place to sit, peeled off the contaminated area, and finished my food. It turns out that European animals are much more *brave* than I am used to. I finally entered Sea Life, and it was the best aquarium I have ever been in. I spent over an hour wandering through, and my personal favorite was the jellyfish section. After the aquarium, I wandered around the streets a little longer, picked up a London hoodie, and returned home. While walking home from the train station, I admired my surroundings. I live in Surbiton, and nearly every townhouse, shop, and restaurant embodies amazing architecture. It doesn’t feel real.
Throughout the rest of the week I went in and out of London, struggled to figure out how to shop (I still can’t find where to buy wall tacks), and prepared for my classes. Over the weekend I also visited the British Museum with a group of American students, but we went through a bit faster than I would have liked. Luckily admission is free, so I know I will return.
At Kingston University, instead of each semester being like a fresh start, it is all one continuous school year. I am kind of just jumping in, so I’m going to have to work hard to figure things out quickly. I started classes on Monday and to my relief, my professors were very welcoming and helpful. So far I am the only American in my classes, so the other students were interested in talking to me and asking what it is like being here. I’ve noticed there is a lot more liveliness and energy compared to the University of Idaho. Students stay on task, but as soon as they are finished they are eager to talk and joke with each other. In a way it reminded me of high school and what my pre-pandemic life was like. During my last Monday class I made a friend, and we both live in the same dorm complex so we walked home together. I’m excited to get to know her more, and to make more British friends! I have more classes to look forward to today, and I am planning to join a couple of clubs.
Overall, I feel I am adjusting very well to my new environment. I have been making an effort to explore my surroundings, I have been beginning to learn some differences between American and British language (I spent days looking for dish soap, only to find out it’s called “washing up liquid”), and enjoying the big city. I feel good about my ability to adapt and face challenge, and I anticipate having a fun, memorable, and academically successful time abroad.
(Pictures: A look at the Surbiton suburbs; Me by the London Eye at night)