September 17th – Take off is exciting.
It is difficult to believe this is really happening. The realization that I am about to go to Europe for the first time and living and studying in the United Kingdom for five months is only just starting to hit me now. I am sitting in an airport window sill near the departure gate, pressed up against the glass, and waiting to board. From where I am sitting, the 747 plane I’ll be boarding is clearly visible. I arrived quite early at the airport. Since doing so, my body is pumped with adrenaline as I am thrilled and nervous at the same time.
It has been difficult to prepare to move somewhere I have never been before. I completed piles of paperwork. My passport, boarding pass, and other essentials are stowed in my carry-on. I already changed some money into pound sterling. I even checked my bicycle so that I’ll have a way to explore campus once I am there. My need to reassure myself that I’ve prepared as much as I can is beginning to wear off. It will be morning in England by the time I get there.
September 18th – I woke up in London today.
I have only been here a short time, but I am amazed with this country already. Quaint houses, green fields, and small cars driving on the opposite side of the road surrounded me soon after the bus departed from the airport. I was quite jet lagged as it was difficult to sleep on the plane and I lost five hours due to the time zone difference. The thrill of being in a new place, of exchanging my remaining dollars for pounds, of the introducing myself to the other international students, and of getting the keys to my “flat” however kept me awake.
September 19th – Tea and crumpets is not my thing.
I gave them a shot at the welcome reception the “uni” had for us, but afterwards went shopping at a nearby mall for a coffee machine. I want to give their customs a chance, but I will not be adopting that one anytime soon. Some of my flatmates and I decided to buy other kitchenware together as well since there are no meal plans here, just a kitchen I will have to learn to use.
More and more people are moving into the on-campus housing. I am meeting so many people from all over the world in such a short time span. The experience is quite exciting. There are no British people in my building yet, just a Canadian, a Cyprian, an Italian, a Spaniard, a German, and two other Americans.
Today, I got a chance to explore a bit more. The scenery is most obvious difference. There are wind turbines and lush green grass all over campus. Houses look just like Privet Drive. In fact, quite a bit of the area looks like a Harry Potter sets. The infrastructure is different than back home. Instead of intersections there are circle loops that the cars drive around. I believe they’re called roundabouts. Along the same directions as the roads and roundabouts are separate bicycle and pedestrian pathways. After getting over some initial confusion, I’ve found the set up rather appealing. It seems convenient for the drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. In addition, the center of the circle is usually a well landscaped area that improve the appearance of everything. Bike and walking paths that are better planned, separated from roads, and therefore safer are something I have wanted to see and advocated for back in the States. I’m so glad that the airline let me take my bicycle free of charge. There are also plenty of covered shelters for bikes and paths that go under roads. When you do have to cross a road, there are signals and better defined crossings for both bikes and pedestrians. I really am so psyched to pedal around getting to know all the unfamiliar spaces. I’ve heard that in central London, you can rent a bike off the racks station all over the street for something like a £1 per hour. New York only just passed its first transportation bill that included these kinds of complete street provisions. I would like to see more of this aspect of England back home. Maybe we could trade for New York bagels? I certainly am going to miss them. None the less, this trip is working out to be well worth the sacrifice. I think I’m really going to enjoy my stay here!