Day 7 – English Induction & Anxiety

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So… today was a rollercoaster of emotions that left me exhausted and (you guessed it) just a bit homesick. However, those feelings did pass and now I just feel exhausted. That’s when you know the school term has begun.

This morning was the final induction I had to attend: the induction for the School of English & Drama. The two women who headed the induction seemed brilliant and nice enough, but the words they were saying seriously worried me. There were a lot of “don’t do this” statements and not enough “do this” ones to balance them out. Overall, the messages they were giving us seemed negative and not at all encouraging, so naturally I had a bit of a breakdown. I had entered the induction with the hopes of switching out my Gothic course for something a little lighter on reading, but then the words they said seemed to tell me that I couldn’t switch. Jen, always the voice of reason, told me to just go ask her anyway because the worst that she could say was no. It was sage (albeit obvious) advice, so I took it.

After waiting in a line of ten students for about forty-five minutes, I finally switched out of my Gothic class without a hassle. The head of the English department (or one of the heads), Dr. Bari, is extremely nice and told me that, despite the stern tone of the induction, they just want us to be happy and comfortable. So switching out of my class was no big deal! Unfortunately the Victorian Fictions class I wanted to replace it with didn’t work in my schedule, so I opted for a Modernism course. Hopefully it isn’t as bad as I’m thinking it will be. -crosses fingers-

After all of the hullabaloo with my classes was sorted out, Jen, Nicole, and I decided to travel to Buckingham Palace for a tour. These plans were thwarted, however, when the random London rain started to arrive. The droplets came slowly at first, but then they picked up speed and fell sideways. Then, as if we were experiencing all of the seasons at once, it started to hail. Shortly after the hail, thunder rumbled through the clouds and cleared up the skies. We were off to Buckingham Palace!

Unfortunately, by the time we arrived, the last tour had already left and we were left with nothing to do. We decided to find Charing Cross Road (home to many amazing bookshops), but I believe we ended up at the wrong place. We walked down a couple streets, our feet throbbing and our legs aching from the extended amount of time we had been walking. Luckily the path we were taking included walks through Green Park and St. James Park, but we didn’t find any bookshops. At long last, we just decided to take the Tube back to campus; we were all exhausted anyhow.

We arrived safely back at campus and went our separate ways. Jen and I made ravioli and watched Memoirs of a Geisha on Netflix (it was quite good, by the way). The flat was uncharacteristically quiet, which was an interesting change, and we were actually able to hear the sound of the movie coming from the iPad. It was a relaxing night and I’m grateful for it!

We then FaceTime’d with my parents because it’s their anniversary (yay! plus I just wanted to talk to them), watched some episodes of Pokemon Indigo League, and that brings us to now. I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep before the exciting events we have planned tomorrow. Classes commence in three days; best to make the most of the next two in preparation! Though, I do have to find some time to complete the preliminary reading for some of my classes… wish me luck.

P.S. – Happy first week in London to me! I’ve been enjoying my time here so far. Hopefully I can continue to enjoy it even as classes begin.

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Day 6 – Broken Buses and American Dining

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Over the past couple days, I haven’t been able to sleep past 7 o’clock due to different engagements in the mornings. Today, however, was a beautiful change as I got to sleep in until 10:30 (GASP). I rolled out of bed, showered, made myself a glass of milk, opened a Poptart, and watched some Youtube videos until it was time to go to the 12 o’clock bus tour me and Jen signed up for. It was promising to be an exciting day!

I will admit I had a rough morning with homesickness (yet again), but I promised myself I wouldn’t ruin this day by being depressed and sad. I hopped on the open-air bus, climbed to the top, and enjoyed the gorgeous weather. Previous weather reports promised rain, but the sky was pure blue with beautiful white clouds. No rain in sight, thank goodness! While on the tour, we passed such iconic sights as Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the London Eye as well as many more. The tour guide was so helpful and informative; I learned so much!

However, once we passed the London Eye, our lovely bus broke down and we were forced to merge with the bus behind us. Obviously the bus behind us was already filled to the brim with QMUL students, so we had to stand in the aisles packed together like sardines and hope that everyone took a shower. Luckily Jen and I broke to the top of the bus and sat three-by-three with some lovely people kind enough to offer, but it was quite uncomfortable. I wasn’t able to walk for a bit after getting off the bus, I was seated so poorly.

Once we returned to campus, Jen and I made an impromptu trip to the Westfield Stratford Mall. Four floors of shops and restaurants greeted our vision once we stepped off of the Stratford Tube stop; I was completely in heaven. In addition to offering the British stores like Primark, America was also well-represented with an American Eagle and various other shops. We sampled face masks at Lush, gawked at expensive clothes in TopShop, and cheered at the sight of a Krispy Kreme (trust me, it felt like a beacon of hope). We stopped to eat at a Chipotle-like place called Tortilla and enjoyed some burritos that claimed to be “Real Californian Burritos.” I’ll take their word for it! Our friend Nicole also joined us for lunch and then we walked about the mall. We bought some delicious cookies from Millie’s, ate them in a Starbucks, and then departed for the Tube station.

We met our friend Danielle and another new girl named McKayla (I’m not sure about the spelling) and headed out for a fun night out. We journeyed to Covent Garden and, although we arrived too late for the markets that close at 6, we found there was plenty to do. The atmosphere was lively and exciting, probably due to the numerous pubs and street performers littering the, well, streets. We found a cute place called “The Diner” that advertised serving American foods. Since all of us were American, we figured we’d test how authentic this American food tasted.

By pretty much all standards, the food was good. I got a chocolate milkshake and gravy fries, both quite up to par. Everyone else seemed to enjoy their food as well! Shortly after paying the bill, we decided to explore more of what Covent Garden had to offer.

We happened upon the London Chinatown and I must say it was amazing. There were so many tantalizing smells wafting from the storefronts that, even though we just ate, I was willing to eat about twenty more meals. While in Chinatown, we came upon a couple theaters for shows we want to see like Les Miserables and The 39 Steps. Both theaters looked gorgeous and beautiful; I can’t wait to return! We made a pact to return on Saturday to see if there are any last-minute discount tickets to see any show. Hopefully we get something good for a decent price!

With Chinatown behind us, we stumbled into Piccadilly Circus and the M&M World London shop. In the shop there were plenty of statues of M&M’s in stereotypical British scenes like the Beetles’ Abbey Road, a double-decker red bus, and others. We took pictures in front of all of them and it was a great time! There were four floors to explore, so there was more than enough to see.

We left the M&M shop and decided to head back to campus; it was getting late. After parting ways with the other girls, Jen and I returned to our flat to see it blissfully empty. It seems like our roommates were able to enjoy themselves as well last night! We turned on Memoirs of a Geisha until about midnight and then I was more than happy to go to sleep. It was overall an exciting and amazing day; I hope to have plenty more of those in the upcoming months. And although the day was exciting and loads of fun, nothing beats a good night’s sleep.

Day 3 – I Wish This Was a 3 Month Vacation

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I hate to make this post already sound depressing, but it was revealed today to us Study Abroad students that life wouldn’t be all fun and games this semester. There are classes to go to, homework to complete, and various other side effects of being a college resident that dampen the experience. It’s not that I didn’t know these things, but life had been so fluid and easygoing the past two days that I assumed and hoped that life would continue being that way. Orientation showed me that that was not the case… obviously! I mean, it is still college, right?

Besides the fact that I made another friend (hey, Danielle!), there was an off-kilter feeling to the whole morning. I knew it was going to be an off day when I couldn’t stay awake for ten minutes during orientation. Every time I blinked I was in danger of falling into a deep slumber in front of Study Abroad students with surnames A-L. The information being given to us was interesting and most definitely helpful, but the lack of caffeine in my life these past days really took its toll on me. I was a zombie in human form, brain dead and unresponsive. Long story short: the morning didn’t go too well.

The afternoon, however, picked up slightly. Jen and I lounged around the flat for a bit, making lunch and watching YouTube videos of the “Apparently Kid” and, of course, some A Very Potter Musical. Lunch consisted of instant oolongmen (think Ramen but with little veggies and large amounts of sodium) for myself and udon for dear old Jen. Flatmates floated in and out of the kitchen; it is unknown whether they like us yet or not. They might just find us weird, which definitely sits between the two extremes.

With nothing on the docket until 4:00 pm, Jen and I decided to head to King’s Cross station and assess the line for the Platform 9 3/4 picture spot. Unfortunately, by the time we decided to get out of the flat and meander down to the Tube, it was already 3:00 and our arrival time was 3:15. The line was a bit too long for a fifteen minute time constraint, so we browsed the shop (of course there was a gift shop; everyone loves a HP gift shop). I saw the most amazing lithograph (pictures made from book text) of the first Harry Potter book in the form of a snitch and Hedwig silhouette to the pretty tune of 30 pounds. I haven’t seen anything like it back home, but there is that pesky question of how I will get it home… so I refrained from buying it. For now.

After browsing the many items I wanted to purchase but had the decency not to, we ditched the station and ran back to the Tube to (hopefully) make it back in time for our walking tour of East End London at 4:00 pm. We made it in record time and met our new friend there as well (how lucky!). Our tour guide was kind and peppy, which definitely made the slightly grueling walk a bit more bearable. It was clear she knew her information and wanted to share it with us, so naturally I wanted to learn. We made a complete square from the campus up and around to a park and back. She gave us helpful tips and tricks for daily living in London as well as pointers as to where to get the cheapest groceries. The only thing she didn’t help us with was how to deal with the “freshers” outside the dorms yelling at the top of their lungs. Of course I didn’t expect her to give any practical advice about living on a campus such as this one, but anything at all would have been extremely welcome.

If you couldn’t guess, the freshers like to party. I don’t mind that–I understand normal college students do such things especially when the drinking age is 18 and above–but I do mind the constant screaming outside my window. Luckily it has been dying down somewhat (maybe because the parties are elsewhere in London), but I can still hear the occasional song or chant drifting up to my room, waking me from a deep sleep. I don’t have to tell you that it’s unpleasant. I say they are freshers, but really it could be anyone from any year. Just the fact that the “fresher events” are this week makes me assume (probably correctly) that the freshers are the most common partyers. Just an educated guess.

The only downside to yesterday was that I had a bout of intense homesickness. I had a feeling this would happen soon enough, considering I hadn’t really thought too hard about home since I got here, but it rushed over me like a tidal wave. I was shopping for groceries when I realized I had no idea what I was doing and it was all I could do not to break down in the store itself. Luckily I held myself together for the ride home, but once I entered my room I was a mess. I am thankful to Jen for being there for me and helping me understand that this, too, shall pass and that we’ll both be home in a shorter time than we would like to admit. I also Facetime’d with my parents which helped in a major way. Just seeing their faces, hearing their voices, and actually talking to them about things helped so much. Sure, I may have shed a tear when I had to say good-bye to them after the call, but they told me the same thing everyone else has: enjoy your time here because it won’t last forever. Three months is shorter than you think.

With that thought in mind, I leave this blog post in your able hands. I miss my family and friends back home so very much, but I must focus on forging new friendships here for the time being. Friends truly help glue the broken pieces back together, especially when no one else is around to do so.