Day 1 – London, Here I Come!

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I left Newark, NJ on September 12th in the evening to arrive in London //Heathrow on September 13th, early in the morning. Between the excitement of the adventure, the sadness of leaving my family, the nausea from the turbulence that refused to cease, and the amazing selection of movies in the airplane roster, it is obvious I didn’t get much valuable sleep. The sleep I did receive (about 2 hours’ worth… 3 if we’re lucky) was fitful and frequently interrupted, most often by the constant reclining of the wonderfully considerate man in front of me. A word to the wise: even if you spring for premium economy (one below upper class, one above economy), you’ll still get that guy who believes it is his divine right to recline completely into your lap. I proceeded to watch movies even with his hairs up my nose, thank you very much (what is true and what is exaggerated is almost indiscernible at this point).

But, let’s back up a smidgen. The family and I left our house about 6 hours before my flight was scheduled to leave in order to accommodate for any possible traffic delays. The day was looking promising; no backups or accidents to be seen for miles! Surely everything would be going my way. My largest concerns entering this flight were my bags or, more accurately described, the weight of my bags. I toted around one large suitcase and a carryon, each with weight limits as designated by Virgin Atlantic. The checked bag couldn’t be more than 50 pounds while the carryon could be no more than 22 pounds. Despite the pound-and-a-half overweight ridiculousness that wanted to be my downfall so close to the finish line, the flight attendant deemed the carryon able to fly. Again, things were going my way!

Not all that glitters is gold, unfortunately.

Even though parting with my family made me quite the sad and unhappy camper, everything began to slowly spiral during security. I hadn’t flown in quite some time before this flight, but I’m pretty certain security should be able to point you in the right direction to keep things moving. But, NO, they stared at me like a cat stares at a mouse in a trap: bored. Unamused. Unwilling to help because you got yourself into this mess, sucker. So, instead, I turned to the lovely woman behind me and asked for assistance on what to do. The spiral slowed to a stop! She answered my questions patiently and I couldn’t have felt better. You just don’t see those type of people as often anymore.

My time on the plane felt like an eternity because of how little sleep I got, but in truth I certainly felt lucky despite that glaring disadvantage. The person sitting next to me was nice and helped me load my carryon into the overhead storage and proceeded to not bother me the entire length of the ride. I’m not sure whether I’m grateful for the silence or sad that I didn’t get to know him at all.

At 7:10 a.m. British time, the plane landed safely at London Heathrow. I was too tired to feel properly excited, but I still felt a rush of energy when I saw the gray clouds and the left-sided driving of London. The only thing about this fantastic city I didn’t appreciate was the customs to get in. The line took about 45 minutes to wade through and the stamping of my passport took another 10 for reasons I’m not quite sure of. When all was sorted out, I found the Queen Mary representatives that would take me to the beginning of this awesome semester! Unfortunately, waiting for the shuttle to get me (and about 25 other students) took another hour and I didn’t leave Heathrow until 9ish. Consequently, I didn’t arrive at Queen Mary’s campus until 11 because of traffic.

Everyone who greeted us at the gates of Queen Mary was accommodating and willing to help, even when I asked the same question more than once in several different ways. They gave everyone care packages with mugs and different things to help chameleon into university life; they were all quite helpful. One of our roommates took us on a walk around campus and beyond, during which I got to see a whole strip of fruit and general wares stands and various food places I would never think to go to. We did a quick walk through (one of??) Queen Mary’s on-campus bars (coming from Marywood that sounds strange) to see what it was like, and I can’t really say I’d want to go back. Kind of intimidating, it is. Maybe I’ll just stick to The Curve or something. Another strange thing is that they sell 6-packs of beer in their on-campus general store, which is probably one of the reasons I had a troupe of drunk (from beer or life?) students outside my window singing “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” at the top of their lungs. Keep in mind, I live on the 7th and top floor of my building.

I successfully cleaned and organized my room after throwing my clothes every which way in an attempt to unpack, Jen and I had dinner at “The Curve” on campus (I had ravioli which was quite good; but how do you screw up ravioli?), and I went on an excursion via London double-decker bus to Oxford Circus, mainly for Primark because I needed home goods. The bus was fun to ride, especially since I bought an Oyster card! Oh, and how could I forget the stop-in at Boots? There’s just an exhilarating air about British convenience stores that American CVS’s don’t have.

But now that I’m here, I’m settled and enjoying it. My flatmates are nice (yes, even that Jennifer girl) and everyone else I’ve met so far seems really nice as well. Even though Jen and I are the only two American international kids in our flat (the rest are all British; 2 Americans vs. 5 British), we don’t really mind. This whole experience is to explore London (for me anyway), so all of the little college parties and things aren’t really what I’m going for. There are a lot of cool places I plan on going to, and today is a day where I’ll get to see a bunch of them! Maybe if I just keep going on field trips, I won’t have to go to class. A girl can dream, can’t she?

P.S. When in England, ALWAYS use Netflix. Let me tell you, they have the best selection of movies.

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