My mom raised me on a schedule. School, snack time, extracurricular, dinner time, bed time was the routine. As an adult, I find myself more comfortable being early instead of on time and on a routine rather than making fluke plans. Americans embrace this quality about me. Everyone is early, and expects you to be on time. I balance my school schedule and my personal life accordingly.
So when I was running late for my monday morning class – I panicked. I was rushing on the tube to make it fifteen minutes late to class. At my home university this would have been unacceptable. Those classes are much bigger than the eight person class that I was not sitting in. The tube was delayed. I sat in a stressed silence. I was twenty minutes late to class as I ran through the halls and up the four flights of stairs (it is on the third floor but the UK has a 0 first floor which is an irrelevant detail but I find a very big cultural difference). I bust into the classroom with a quiet hurry to find it completely empty. I check my email and realize that this was a field trip day. My rush was not over. Flying down flights of stairs and back to the tube, I realize that I am about to be 45 minutes late. Surely this would not be accepted by the professor. I type an email and then retype it. My excuses that I had been traveling over the weekend and overslept felt insignificant. Three tube stops to go. Then the doors open at the next stop. My professor strolls onto the train and takes a seat. We ride the three stops and both get off. The class waits at the meeting point, a full 45 minutes into the appointed class time. The professor does not seem phased by his or my tardiness and begins the trip, running over an hour after class is supposed to be finished.
The concept of a schedule and time is much different in europe. A class time start is a suggestion to the professor. Everything is much more relaxed than any other class that I have been to in the United States. The professor continued to be late very often in the semester but never seemed bothered. He is Italian and once complained when he was an hour late to lecture, about how prompt we all were. A schedule is a good thing, but so is realizing that if you are running behind no amount of stress will change this. I have developed a “on time when possible” mindset about classes, leaving early when possible but realizing that in the city there are things that you cannot control. Bus and tube strikes that leave you at the whim of the city. This was a big cultural adaptation for me, but I think it has made my travel times more scheduled and my stress levels decrease significantly.