When I entered college in 2020, my home university was restricted from having a proper, in-person orientation. I will always commend our administration for putting safety above the fun, typical college freshman experience; however, I quickly learned that one-minute Zoom introductions and speedy exchanges in line for takeaway dinners, were no way to make lifelong friends.
As a third-year college student, I’ve spent years working towards solid friendships that I deeply cherish. From mocktail nights to How I Met Your Mother marathons, my friends are undoubtedly the bedrock of my college experience. So naturally, after finally finding my footing at my home university, I decided to pack my bags and move to a different continent for the semester.
While I knew it would be extremely difficult for me to basically start over at a new university, the idea of experiencing life in a different country was too exciting to pass up. As an English major specifically, the idea of reading classic novels in the places that inspired them seemed almost magical. So I put on my big girl pants and got on a plane to London, where I was greeted with meal deals, Primark, pub culture, and not one, but two proper, in-person orientations. To tell you I was excited would be an understatement.
For Arcadia’s London Orientation, students attending King’s College, Queen Mary University of London (me!), and other London-based universities all got together in central London to learn about the city and explore, before heading off to our respective programs. During these three days we got to know the Arcadia London Center, took walking tours of the area, and went on a group trip to see Six the Musical on the West End! Between sessions, we made groupchats, checked out the pub scenes, and all of a sudden, over a plate of Dutch pancakes, I quickly found that I had made some very good friends.
Since arriving at Queen Mary’s Campus, I have quickly learned that British universities, or unis, as they call them, take orientations very seriously. At my university, the first week on campus is called ‘Freshers’ Week. During this week the Student Union hosts many events for students to meet new people. Trying to take it all in, I scheduled myself for Drag Bingo, postcard making, and one too many walking tours.
While my feet hurt and I have found myself in need of a year-long nap, I know I will never regret all of the exploring I did during Freshers’ Week with my new friends. Since arriving on campus we have taken the tube to Chinatown for amazing dumplings, explored the many clothing and food stalls of Camden Market, gone bird watching in Kensington Gardens, photographed the beautiful colored houses in Notting Hill, and discovered our new favorite chocolate drinks shop, Knoops.
After two incredibly successful orientations here in London, I have started my classes but I have not stopped adventuring. In the little time I have been here, I feel as though I have started to take more time to enjoy my surroundings during the quieter moments and I have begun saying ‘yes’ more often to spontaneous plans.
After beginning college during the lockdown, I can’t help but feel like the exploring I have done in one week here is more than I have done in three years living at my home university. While I would never fast forward my time here, I hope that I can bring the sense of wanderlust I feel in London all the way back to Massachusetts. That… and a milkshake from Knoops.
Until next time, here’s to the many adventures to come!