The Beginnings of Life in London

‘Ello mates!

I’m happy to report that I’ve arrived safely in London! I’ve only been here a few days, but they’ve been an absolute whirlwind. I left on Tuesday night and experienced my first international flight. The plane was a Boeing 777 ( I incorrectly typed airbus the first time), as is to be expected, and SO much bigger than I’d imagined. The flight was pretty smooth, but even that couldn’t help me to sleep. I dozed in and out of sleep while watching The Perks of Being a Wallflower (they didn’t have Pride and Prejudice, so this was the next best thing) and listening to the free radio. The coolest part was the “Map” feature, which showed our location as we flew across the Atlantic. It also showed our estimated time of arrival, which was helpful for an impatient person such as myself.

Once I arrived at Heathrow, customs was surprisingly very easy to get through! The line went fairly quickly and I went to baggage claim to get my bags. (I’m mentioning all of this detail because there’s something important coming, I promise). I brought two black suitcases, so I really had to pay attention to which one was mine so I wouldn’t take the wrong one. It was then that someone started talking to me. “Do you need help?” he asked. “No thank you, I’m fine.” I told him. I looked over and saw a man in his 20s with curly blonde hair in a ponytail. He asked me why I was in London and how long I’d be in London for, to which I gave him very vague answers. Then, Gustav (the dude) wrote down his number and asked me to text him when I got settled so he could show me around London. So at least I know I have a friend here! (Kidding. Sorry, Gustav).

I then took a shuttle to my flat, which is in Camden. It’s right across from Sainsbury’s, which is the main grocery store here. I’m living with my friends Jessica and Claire, and so far it’s been great! Our flat is very nice and modern, though small. We all share one bedroom, which has one bed and a bunk bed, one closet and three small drawer units with three tiny drawers each. Luckily I had enough room in my suitcase to bring my pillow pet :)

We have our own kitchen, which has both an oven and stove (and also a washer/dryer combo thingy). I personally love our living room because it has the most space and a big couch with a TV. The bathroom is European-style (but don’t get too excited…there isn’t a bidet) because the glass for the shower only goes halfway across. We haven’t quite mastered how to take control of the showerhead yet, so our bathroom is always flooded. We’ll work on it.

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After we unpacked, we went on a walking tour of Camden, which is a very young area known for its live music and for the Camden Market, which we’ll be visiting this weekend. The area is full of shops with open doors selling everything from clothes, to phones to food. There are also a ton of off-license liquor stores. My favorite is Booty liquor, which I haven’t visited. I just like the name. There are also an abundance of tattoo parlors and piercings, so I’m at no loss for where to get a cheap, new, permanent physical reminder of London! (Don’t worry, mom).

After our tour, Jessica, Claire and I had lunch in Camden and then went to the grocery store where we were soon overwhelmed by all of the British brands. We tended to buy the bargain grocery store brand and made out pretty well! One very disappointing part of England is that Diet Coke is SO expensive. It’s nearly twice the price of Diet Coke in the U.S. Because of this, I’ve only had one bottle in the time I’ve been here. I know; I can’t believe it either. I’ve never lived on my own before with the responsibility of making my own food, but I’m proud to say we heated up a pre-made pizza without burning anything down! Score!

We went to bed pretty early Wednesday night because we were all dozing off every time we sat down. We slept on our very springy beds, but on the bright side, we’ll all have very good posture at the end of this semester!

On Thursday we started orientation. We took to tube for the first time (successfully, might I add). I was very surprised at how quiet the tube is, even in the middle of the day. People keep to themselves and if they are talking, it’s in very low voices. So if you want to look like a tourist, yell very loudly on the tube!

In between our orientation sessions, we walked around Kensington, which is where our classes will be. The area is incredibly beautiful. It looks like traditional England, with row houses, fine architecture and expertly pruned greenery. We planned on walking to Kensington Palace but took a wrong turn and ended up filling the time by taking pictures with the scenery.

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That night we went to the South Bank for an orientation reception where we were promised traditional pub food. There wasn’t any fish n’ chips (which I have yet to try), but there was fried brie and potatoes, as well as barbecue chicken and hamburgers. It was a great mix of American and English food to ease us into London. I also got to drink cider legally. Haaay!

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The wifi doesn’t work too well here, which takes some getting used to for someone who is very used to being connected at all times. As the semester goes on, I’ll have to learn to embrace moments of disconnectedness and be patient when my free calling apps repeatedly hang up on my parents.

Today we had more orientation sessions and another chance to walk around Kensington. We went to the palace and asked for Will and Kate, but they were already engaged for the day :) The palace is beautiful (from the outside) and we’re eager to see more, so we might venture inside soon!

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Tonight all of the people in my program are going on a pub-crawl around Camden, so it should be a lot of fun! Tomorrow we’re taking a 3-hour bus tour around London and Sunday we’re visiting the markets.

I’m looking forward to getting into a routine and discovering more of the city. London has so much to offer and I know these next few months will fly by!

From London with Love (shout-out to Bethany Christo for this sign-off),

Allison

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