Mastering Public Transportation

Bridget Bradshaw Queen Mary University of London, England


March 6, 2019
Bridget Bradshaw, Student Blogger, Queen Mary University of London, England

Growing up, I never needed to use public transportation. In Baltimore, where I’m from, we had a light rail and a bus system, but it was just easier for me to have a car. When I got to Glenside, my car came with me; this meant that I got to avoid the horrors of SEPTA (of which, I have heard many stories), apart from the limited amount of times that I took the train into Philly with people much more knowledgeable than I was.

What that meant was, when I arrived in London, I was wholly uninitiated into how to deal with public transport. Lucky for me, London’s tube system is known for being one of the best and easiest underground systems to learn and use. I won’t say I wasn’t terrified at first, because I was; my first trip by myself I must’ve checked the directions about fifty times. And it wasn’t without its mishaps, I have gotten on the wrong train multiple times going the opposite direction of my destination, or missed my stop because I wasn’t paying attention. But once I got used to it, it gave me confidence that helped me believe I could go anywhere and everywhere. Next up was mastering the bus system, which was equally, if not more terrifying, but I knew that I would be fine even if I did mess up, and I did, but each time helped me learn something.

Knowing London’s system even helped in different countries. When I took a trip to Paris, I was only there for four days, but by the end of the first one I was as confident with their Metro as I was the tube, and it felt great. Learning the underground system was not something I expected to be one of the biggest takeaways from my time so far, but it has opened up the city to me in a big way.

Here is a short list of what I learned for anyone else in the same boat as me:

  • No one is looking at you: One of my biggest worries in my travels was that everyone was going to know exactly how inexperienced I was, but that wasn’t the case. Everyone else there is just trying to get from point A to point B, just like you. It was something that I truly understood once it was no longer a big deal to me.
  • Be prepared: Know where you’re going, at least the stop and the direction, anything else is incidental. If you know that, you can breathe a bit easier.
  • It’s ok to get lost: I know I just said to be prepared, but sometimes even with all the preparation you do, you still mess up, and that’s okay. Take a deep breath, and you'll figure it out. Chances are there is a station or stop nearby that you can just go back the way you came, or even someone to ask for directions. And hey, sometimes letting yourself get lost is the best way to explore a city.

Happy travels!