Hi lovely people! It's been a whirlwind of a week and I just now got unpacked and settled in a bit. I wanted to share how my first week in London (or Surrey rather) has been! I know that this is a good way for family and friends to keep up with my travels and I'm excited to share with you what the first week abroad has been like.
First thing is first, Virgin Atlantic is great! If you're in first class or premium economy..... I knew that I was in for it when the first flight from Birmingham to Atlanta I got sat in the middle of two randoms BUT I had plenty of leg room? I thought "this is too good to be true and I'll probably not be so lucky on my next flight". Needless to say, the next flight was horrendous. Not the plane itself or the staff - they were fabulous!! But, I got sat next to a guy who wore a doctors mask? I guess because he was sick and he nudged me the entire flight. Luckily, the seat next to me was empty so I tried to commandeer it for my legs! That didn't work out too well because my head was super uncomfortable. I knew I should have bought one of those pillows that goes around your head...but I was already way overpacked so I figured I would be okay. No, it was rough and my neck was hurting as soon as I landed but I landed in London so who can beat that??
I happened to get sick on the plane. I already have severe motion sickness anyways and I thought I should try to eat something to calm my nerves a bit - big mistake. I ended up throwing up around 2am but thankfully felt better after that and got a decent 4 hours of solid sleep.
Once we landed, I ended up waiting for a girl that is also from the states to arrive. We both had registered for airport pickup from the University and her flight landed at 8 (mine @7) so I thought why not wait for her? We ended up being at the airport until around 11:30 and then we FINALLY headed to Kingston which is where are university is. It's about a 25 minute drive from the airport. I was so exhausted but they say don't go to sleep right after, walk around a bit and then sleep at a normal time. So, we did just that. We hit the city center with her flat mate who had been here already for about a week. She took us on some roundabout tour of Kingston (which come to find out there is a much more efficient way to get there) and we had walked a total of almost 8,000 steps. Ridiculous. I will never walk that again and have since gotten used to the bus system here.
That's another thing...I came into the UK thinking that the double-decker bus was a tourist attraction but no, it's actually how they get around. The bus, train & tube are the most popular ways to navigate the cities. You have to have an oyster card, which we quickly realized and bought, and then you can get on any of them.
The university has had us busy ever since we arrived. We had to go to orientation, to collect the rest of our visas from the post office, set up a bank account (which is another story on it's own) and enroll with the university. That's a weird thing about being a student over here...you aren't technically a "student" until after you enroll with them and you have to have several documents proving the fact. ONLY after you enroll can you go set up a bank account in the UK but make sure (if you aren't from the states) that you have a letter from the university confirming that you are in fact a student...gets a little tricky there.
The bank account, by the way, is such a joke. We visited four different banks and they all told us we had to make an appointment. Well, I have funds that need to go in that bank account within two weeks and all of their appointments were guess when? Two weeks from now. So we had to ride a bus, for 20 minutes, to the following town just to meet some nice lady who set all three of us up with a bank account. Took her about 20-30 minutes each. Thank GOD for her because after that we were able to go back to the school and drop off our account information *which the financial guy said we were ahead of everyone else because it was SO hard for internationals to get an appointment this quick* *hairflip*.
Thursday, after we enrolled, I was waiting with my roommate for her friend and I thought she was just going to show us the train station and point us in the right direction (because my roommate is in Paris right now with her cousin and then Italy *how weird that I can just say that like it's states away*) Little did either of us know....we were going to London! I didn't expect it...it was totally on the whim...and I think I thrive like that. I was hesitant at first but then I thought why am I? I've been dying to see Big Ben, the Eye, and London my whole life! JUST GO. So we went and it was magic.
I've never seen anything like it. There were at least a million people out the night we went and it seems like no one hits anyone when they walk. Oh and they walk FAST. Like super fast!!! I'm actually starting to keep up though ha! A few things though that I have noticed over here so far/learned would be:
-Everyone is actually super nice
-Depending on which way you cross, you look left first and then right..I also learned that the reason they drive on that side is because in history when the men would fight with horses and swords, they would hold the horse with the left hand and the sword with the right...so they found it appropriate to drive the way they do now. What happened America?
-The food is fabulous. There is nothing wrong with the food over here.
-The busses are full all of the time and you will probably have to either stand or sit up top
-Bikers have no fear and I wish I could be them
-The kids actually go to grammar school and then I believe separate schools for boys/girls? They also know how to work the bus/train system like nobody's business. 10 year olds - I'm jealous!
-YOU HAVE TO HAVE AN APPOINTMENT TO GET A BANK ACCOUNT
-Volvo's are everywhere (Shout out to my car)
-You will walk. You will walk ALOT.
This hasn't been easy though. I came here all by myself, no family or boyfriend, and am starting school in a foreign place where I don't know how things work yet. It's daunting. The first night here I had a slight panic attack because the app Viber was being stupid and I couldn't hold a phone call ( I have now switched to What's App PRAISE!!), I missed my family/boyfriend, the room was so empty (or so I thought) and I was just alone. Literally alone & exhausted. Little did I know I had a flat mate, that I met the day after, and she's from Atlanta (originally Brazil) and she was JUST AS homesick as I was!! So I think we've been a good support system for each other - except that she's in Paris right now - NO BIG DEAL.
I watched Eat, Pray, Love yesterday and while I'm not running from a divorce or family I got a little inspired. She goes to all these countries to find herself and while I know that at the root of my being I love my family and I love my boyfriend and America is home - it's also a very overwhelming and awesome feeling to know that I'm independent enough to take on studying abroad for a year and traveling Europe. It's cool to know that I can do this and I can figure things out for myself. I was never the type to depend on a whole lot of people anyways but I had a huge support system at home and I don't know why I thought they weren't still there? It's not like they went anywhere? I DID. I went somewhere and I left but so far everyone has been super supportive and we are just trying to navigate the communication/time difference one day at a time. I'm sure soon we will all be used to it but for now it's a learning curve.
So, if you are studying abroad or even thinking about it - just do it! Don't think about it. If you think about it you will never go. I know life back home is easy and you have a routine and all of your people are there sharing your day-to-days but trust me when I say there is no feeling like walking through a city you've been dying to walk through your whole life and knowing that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all" Helen Keller.
I'm going to do a series of posts like this so I can keep everyone updated on what I've been doing and such. I plan on coming home for Christmas, which really isn't that far away, but before I do I want to visit:
These weekend trips will keep me going and give me stuff to look forward to because this master's program looks HARD. So positive vibes, prayers, whatever you got would be greatly appreciated not only for me but also my family, friends, & boyfriend who are back home in the states!
Until next time,