I finally made it! After weeks, okay, who am I kidding? MONTHS of stressing and preparing for this journey, I am finally in London! Originally, I thought the moment of clarity and relaxation would come when I stepped off the plane at Heathrow. Not so, actually. Instead of “stepping” I more like stumbled off the plane because I had the brilliant idea of taking a Tylenol PM before boarding. It seemed like the effects were still with me 8 hours later. Who knew? I landed at 8am London time which so it happens is 2am Madison time. I honestly felt like abandoning my suitcases and taking a snooze on the less-than-comfortable airport seating. I somehow overcame my overwhelming feeling of exhaustion and maneuvered my way to Border Control. Time to prove that I’m not a terrorist, idiot, nincompoop, or any of the above. As I saw a fellow student getting stopped for an obscene amount of time, I started to get that shaky-sweaty hand, dry mouth, tears welling up kind of feeling. That coupled with my semi-zombie state was a sight to see I’m sure. When it was finally my turn to present my case, I couldn’t help but stutter and, most likely, sweat profusely in front of the Border Control man who clearly could care less whether I was admitted into his country or sent straight back to the States. Thankfully, this process was a breeze compared to what I had worked up in my mind. Within minutes, he ushered me through while kindly wishing me, “have a good stay,” while I stupidly replied, “same to you.” I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure he lives in or around London. So, I was off to a great start to the trip. Next stop, the ATM. I knew I wasn’t looking forward to this. With a limit on my debit, service charge, and intense airport fees I knew I was going to end up shelling out more cash than necessary. I eventually found an ATM with free cash withdrawals and got a relatively good rate and after spending anywhere from 5-10 minutes standing in front of the machine like only a true American would, I was on my way to baggage claim. Luckily, I found my first bag quite easily, but as for my second and much larger bag, I waited for 5, 10…15 minutes with no success. This was not happening. I forced myself to walk around the baggage claim once before rushing to the service counter and, to my surprise, I found it lying next to the turnabout a near 20 feet from me. Thankfully, I only had one minor heart attack… I think.
The next hours were filled with hauling my luggage around, meeting new people, walking from point A to point B… and back to point A again, and yawning. After a lengthy bus ride, I finally arrived at my apartment. The location and view are superb (see attached picture) with views of King’s Cross and St. Pancras Stations. The building itself is surprisingly modern for the borough I am living in. Islington is a northeast of the city and is chock full of old London-style buildings. I think mine sticks out like a sore thumb but hey, at least I’ll always be able to find it! Islington is known to be a very liberal area of town where you can spot anyone from an accountant or lawyer to a college student or a market stand owner. I really feel like I fit in.
Orientation week as a whole went really well. We had a couple crash courses on surviving in London, traveling about Europe, and my favorite, getting lost in London. The lady presenting said that it was simply impossible to get lost in London. Well, I have not only gotten lost, but I have gotten lost around five times since I’ve been here. Maybe there is a cultural difference in the term, “lost.” Who knows? Anyway, getting lost is a great way to see bits of the city that you’ll never get to see otherwise so, to me, it’s really not a bad thing. Which is a good bit of luck because I seem to be really, really good at it!
What I really appreciated from Orientation Week was the advisor’s attention to getting us involved in our communities and in the greater London area. Tours around the city were scheduled and we even got to take a boat from Westminster Pier to Greenwich last Saturday (which was glorious). I feel like, even though I’ve been here for a week, I’ve seen a lot but there’s still so much more to see. I felt like I had the whole, “big city” thing down when I lived in Chicago for the summer. Turns out, London is four times larger than Chicago. So, if there was a class for Culture Shock, I’d definitely be getting an A. Good thing is, I feel really safe and that I’m actually getting accustomed to London very well. I feel comfortable using the bus and tube and walking from point A to B which is generally more pleasant as of now because it’s been a bit unseasonably warm in the city. I’m not complaining!
I just got back from my first day of work at TRAID. TRAID is a textile recycling company that collects the UK public’s unwanted clothes for reuse and resale in our charity shops. Our work has powerful environmental and social returns. In the UK, reusing textiles rather than throwing them away shrinks waste, our carbon footprint and consumption. In the developing world, funds raised support projects fighting global poverty, exploitation and environmental degradation across the textile supply chain. It’s a charity to wear poverty out. And, I love it. It is the perfect fit for my degree in Consumer Affairs and Global Cultures and I’m really thankful to the Arcadia London Program for setting this internship up for me!
As far as class goes, I’ll be taking them at the Arcadia campus here in London which is just a block away from the British Museum. Score. I am taking 16 credits worth of class but only meet two days a week (Wednesday and Thursday) which is great for giving me time to work at TRAID and to do a bit of sightseeing around London, visiting a few pubs on the weekends, and travel around Europe as much as my schedule will allow. I feel like this semester is going to fly by if it’s any reflection as to this past week. Can’t wait to tackle the next 3 months! I’ll keep in touch as much as possible.
Thanks for your time!
p.s. Here are some of my favorite pictures thus far. Enjoy!