It’s hard to believe that my plane touched down in London only a week ago, almost to the minute actually. The past week has been full of amazing sights, tons of new faces and friends and so much fun!
My flight over was long, uncomfortable and restless. Every time I started to doze off, the man sitting next to me would start snoring in my ear. The one time I went to the restroom while aboard the flight, the seatbelt sign turned on due to the turbulence.... got some weird looks from the flight attendants when I finally made it out alive. However, the good selection of movies and the attractive British boy in my row balanced out the bad parts of the flight.
Traffic from the airport to our hotel in downtown London was horrific and by that time we had been awake for way too long. Luckily, they didn't have much planned for us on that first day so I got in a good nap and a much needed shower after the flight. All of the students studying at Queen Mary through Arcadia (the study abroad program) stayed at the same hotel together from Wednesday through to Saturday.
Thursday was jam packed with so many sights to be seen. We had some information sessions in the morning and then they gave us a tube pass and a list of places to visit and sent us out to explore the beautiful city of London! In just one afternoon, we made it to Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, the Monument (which was just about as exciting as its name), the London Eye, Big Ben, Covent Gardens, the Houses of Parliament. Let's just say, I don't need to go to the gym for the next week after all of the walking we did last week.
The public transport here is extremely easy to use and also very clean. The tube is so quick and has almost 300 stations about London! The only downside is that it closes at midnight but then the night buses are still running and can usually get you to where you want to go.
On Thursday night, we went and saw Stomp at the Ambassadors Theatre. It was fabulous! If it had been any other show, I definitely would have fallen asleep but the banging on trashcans and brooms made that quite difficult.
Friday was similar, although our day started at 9am. We learned more about academics in the UK, one thing I refuse to admit is actually going to happen. Why can't we just travel and socialize everyday?? On Friday we made it to more parts of the city and attempted to get our phones working in the UK. Still hasn't happened for me. Hopefully today.
Finally on Saturday, we packed up our bags at the hotel and took a coach over to the Mile End campus on the East side of London. I was afraid we were going to be very removed from central London but we are only in Zone 2 on the tube, which looks like concentric circles on the map, with central London being zone 1. It was a good feeling arriving to campus with a bunch of new friends that I got to know quite well while we were staying at the hotel. Getting my things moved in and pictures hung up on the walls truly made it feel like my new home.
My room is fabulous, equipped with a huge desk, tons of shelves, a wardrobe, a huge window, plenty of plugs (sometimes its the little things), and my very own bathroom!! Although the shower is about 2 square feet, it is amazing to not have to go down the hall and use communal bathrooms just to wash up before bed. The only downside to my room is the train tracks right outside my window that sound like a small earthquake about every 30 seconds. With the window closed, I have still been able to sleep, so all is well.
The past couple of days have involved a lot of shopping for bed linens and food. I also signed up for the gym on campus which is much nicer than the one back home at Stonehill (hopefully that won't be true come next September when they finish the renovations). I had my first Primark experience and it was quite the experience. If you have never heard of Primark, just imagine a 3 story building with 2 floors of clothes and 1 with home goods, all at Macy's quality but Walmart prices. We didn't even have a chance to shop for clothes after we filled our bags with pillows and blankets for our rooms.
Still trying to sort out my modules (classes). The administration here is quite disorganized compared to back home. Luckily, we don't actually start classes until Monday which is nice but I wish I had known that sooner so we could have planned a trip somewhere.
Last night was the boat cruise on the River Themes for international students at Queen Mary. The weather could not have been any better and the sights from the boat were fabulous. We also got to see briefly the Tower of London, which was absolutely breathtaking. I would like to go back there and tour the inside, which is also home to the crown jewels.
Tomorrow, some friends and I are taking the train down to Brighton, in Southern England. It is a little beach town with some other sightseeing. I am looking forward to seeing another part of the country. Also on the schedule for tomorrow is the latest development in the Scotland scandal. If they vote to secede from the UK, the pound is going to drop a great deal. Selfishly, I hope we can say adios to Scotland so I can save some money and hopefully be the one to redesign the union jack!!
As much as I am enjoying the free time we have to explore, I am ready to start classes and get in a normal routine, which will begin on Monday. The other kids in my flat are awesome and from all over the world, but I am ready to meet some attractive British men! Crossing my fingers that joining the (field) hockey club will help in that :)
Can't wait to see what the next week brings in this fabulous city. Only a week in and I already know it is going to be extremely difficult to leave. That's all for now. Cheers!!