Not to sound trite and quote the famous song, “London Calling” by The Clash but as a study abroad student in London, it is inevitable that at least one Facebook photo album or blog post will be labeled as such.
Today is my eleventh day here in London, the Royal Borough of South Kensington to be exact. I boarded the plane at JFK airport in New York not knowing what to expect. Luckily, the seven hour plane ride was not too bad, but when I arrived at Heathrow airport, I was confronted with the fact that I was all alone in another country. It was up to me to retrieve my luggage and get myself to where I would call home for the next ten weeks. I got through customs without too much of a wait, but when I got to the terminal to pick up my luggage, only one of my bags was there. I waited around for a while and thought to myself, “At least the suitcase with all my clothes is here.” This thought was very D&M of me. Then I realized that the bag that was missing had all of my toiletries.
Things that are probably a bit more important than my clothes. After everyone else had already gotten their bags, I went over to the service desk where they very abruptly informed me that my bag had gone to the wrong terminal and I would just have to wait. So I went back over and sat. I sat there thinking about how tired I was and how I still had to find my way to my flat. Finally, my precious bag was sent out on the conveyor belt and once I had it in my possession, I wished that I had more than two arms to wheel both suitcases and carry a duffle bag and backpack with.
I made my way outside of the airport and to my surprise, it was not raining. I found myself a black cab (these cabs are supposedly the most safe and the drivers have to pass a rigorous test and go through years of training before they can become a cab driver) to take me to my destination. There was so much traffic that it felt like I was never going to get where I needed to go but after about an hour and 80 pounds (equivalent to about $122.00) later, I was at my building on Manson Place and ready to get settled into flat 18E. Flat 18 is located on the third floor, so those two suitcases that I absolutely had to bring with me had to then be carried by yours truly up to my room (there is no elevator.)
After I settled into my room, I went out with two of my flat mates to get breakfast. I don’t know if it was because I hadn’t eaten or slept and was delirious, but the ham and cheese croissant that I ordered was the best thing that I have ever eaten. The next few days were extremely jam packed with tours and exploring. We had an orientation where we learned about what our classes would be like and got our schedules. We also received a quick lecture about the difference between the United Kingdom, England and Great Britain. In all honesty, I am still trying to figure it out, but it was enlightening to hear that they are actually all different and referred to in different ways by people here. We took a bus tour that our program set up and got to see great landmarks such as West Minster Abbey, the London Eye, the London Bridge and many more. Although it was a lot to take in, it was nice to get a taste of London culture from real British people. The tour also helped me to understand where everything is in relation to where I am living. Luckily for me, Kensington Palace where Will and Kate live is in walking distance from our flat!
Classes started last Monday, June 24th at 1PM. I was thankful for this late start because I was still adjusting to the time difference. I actually think that I might still be jet lagged. The five hour difference although it doesn’t sound like much is definitely a big change to get used to especially when I am waking up at 9AM and in Philadelphia it is only 4AM. It makes it a lot harder to keep in touch with my friends and family because they are sleeping when I am awake and ready to chat and vice versa. I am waiting to see if I can get into a groove where there are designated times that I can talk to my parents. After that first class, I decided to go to a pub where our professor informed us that David Beckham frequents. Although I didn’t get to see Beckham, it just so happened that Kate Moss was filming a Stuart Weitzman commercial right outside. For everyone that knows me, they know that I am insanely obsessed with celebrities, so at first when I saw the blonde outside the pub, I thought that maybe it was Blake Lively because she had just gotten to London with Ryan Reynolds, but then Kate ever so slightly turned her head and looked in the pub window and with those cheek bones of hers, it was undeniable that it was her. I went outside where there weren’t too many people and was able to walk up and down the street only two times and it was a wrap. To say that I had an eventful first day of classes would be an understatement!
I spent the rest of last week getting used to my class schedule and figuring my way around Kensington. Classes are four hours each, so even though I only have one a day, Monday-Thursday, it is still an adjustment to get used to sitting in a classroom for four hours, especially with so many places that I have yet to see here. On Friday, I decided to explore a little bit on my own and went into the soho area. I took the tube three stops and ended up in the Picadilly area which is much like Times Square in Manhattan in that there are tons of tourists as well as big signs and theaters. It took me a little while to find where I wanted to go which was a bookstore that I had passed on Wednesday night when we were in that area to see a very amusing play called “39 Steps.” First, I came across Carnaby Street which has many stores and cafes. Some stores that lined Carnaby include Diesel, Levis, Libery London and MAC. I stopped into all of these stores along with a few others. Eventually when I did find the bookstore I was looking for, I wandered inside and came to find that it doubled as a sex shop! You can imagine my surprise when I realized that I was the only girl in the store and trying innocently to look at books about Vivienne Westwood and Pucci. Needless to say, I did not stay there long, but I would go back just because the array of fashion books that they do have to offer is quite impressive! I just may have to bring a friend the next time…Overall, I think that my adventure on my own to soho was one of my favorite because I was really able to take in my surroundings and appreciate them. When I become more comfortable here, I definitely see a lot more alone time in my future. On Friday night there was a free event at the Victoria and Albert Museum which is conveniently close to us. The V&A holds these free events on the last Friday and every month and we happened to go to the museum earlier in the week with our British Culture and Media class and heard about the event. There was live music and featured works from Dalston, an area of England. My favorite part of the museum was the fashion exhibit where fashions from as early as the 18th Century where on display right up to some of 2013’s latest fashion pieces. My personal favorite era as of late is the 1920’s and the pieces that were on display from that time looked like something straight out of Gatsby.
On Saturday, my flat mates and I went to the gay pride parade here in London.
Although I am from New York, I have never been to a pride parade before so yet again, it was an all new experience for me. It was amazing to see all the people and their families who are so dedicated to the cause and to see how happy they are to be standing up for what they believe in. The parade started in Oxford Circus and ended in Trafalgar Square, so I was able to take in two more sites that I had only ever heard of before. On Sunday, the weather was absolutely beautiful, a rare 80 degrees so we decided to spend it outside. Four of us went to Kensington Palace for high tea. The garden there was breathtaking! I am tired just thinking about all that I have already done and everything that is left to do! But I look forward to all that is to come during my remaining weeks in jolly old London!