Updated: Jan 15, 2019
Today has been one of the most exciting and terrifying days of my life. I left the country and I won’t be coming home for almost 4 months. I had to say goodbye to all of my friends and family as I start this new adventure in London. It has been an incredibly long day, but it has been full of so many new adventures.
Today was the first time I had ever flown by myself, let alone the first time flying internationally. I honestly thought it would be a lot harder than it was. Going through security was a breeze and I had over an hour to wait around before I could board. The nerves kept bubbling up as I paced waiting for the boarding announcement. SKY boarding was called over the P.A. system and it was my turn. Walking down the boarding bridge, excitement boiled up and suppressed the nerves. I did it; I was on the plane! I found my seat quickly and hunkered down for the flight. After everyone had boarded, the bridge pulled away in front of a beautiful sunset. My thoughts clamored in my head as I shouted at myself. “YOU ARE GOING TO A DIFFERENT COUNTRY. ALONE. AND THERE
IS NOW BACKING OUT NOW!"
Awestruck, my face was glued to the window like a kid during his first flight. I watched the runway disappear beneath my feet and once again I was reminded why Minnesota was called the land of 10,000 lakes. The view was breathtaking; the sun slipped behind the horizon and the city lights reflected back from the lakes below. Higher and higher we climbed until the clouds washed away the lights below.
The flight ended as quickly as it had begun. On the plane, I had my first on-flight meal which included marinated chicken in a lemon sauce, green beans, and a pretzel roll. Honestly for how much people rip on airplane food it exceeded my expectations. With the help of a glass of Chardonnay, I slept for several hours so I wasn't completely jet-lagged when I landed. I slept until breakfast was served as we crossed over Ireland. The sun had begun to rise over the clouds and the sight was absolutely beautiful. From the darkness, the sun rose over a sea of clouds. I couldn't help myself from grinning. We dropped below the cloud line and there it was, my new home, London.
Once we landed, everyone was in a mad dash to get off the plane and through the terminal. I wasn't quite sure why everyone was so hurried, but I followed along regardless. Once we hit customs I realized why everyone was in a rush. Lines on lines of people were funneled through a sea of bodies waiting for their passports to be stamped. The room that held the crowd was uncomfortably hot and loud; everyone inside was cranky and shuffling along through the lines. I was surprised by the contrast of Americans to Europeans. The Americans, in their dingy sweatpants, kicked their luggage through the lines rather than hold it. Waiting for my turn in line with my passport ready, I watched person after person get pulled aside for having issues with their visas or passports. Panic bubbled up inside me as I began to check off the papers I needed to enter the country. I knew I had proper documentation but I doubted it none the less. Surprisingly, the customs officer was nice and friendly for 7:00 am. He stamped my passport and ushered me along without any trouble.
I found my driver holding a sign with my name written in Expo marker. I knew that cars drive on the left in the U.K. but once we left the airport, it was still hard not to flinch as cars drove past us on the right side of the road. Every time we turned I cringed as I felt as if we were going to get hit by oncoming traffic. My driver was incredibly nice and friendly; he was Polish and German with a thick accent. Our conversation turned very personal really fast as we talked about his daughter, his divorce, how we both love the city but prefer to live outside of the noise and chaos, and we discussed political views and Brexit. Once again my face was practically glued to the window the whole time with my jaw dropped watching the contrast of beautiful, old brick buildings to massive skyscrapers. I soon realized that the double-decker red buses are not just a stereotype but they were everywhere!
Once we reached my apartment, I said goodbye to my driver and I got my keys at the front desk. I found my room easily which was on the first floor with a majority of the study abroad students. Inside, I realized my package with my bedding, pots and pans, towels, etc. had yet to arrive but the university had provided me with a bedroll of cheap sheets and a duvet so I could make due until my package came. After unpacking, I wanted to explore but my phone was almost dead. I decided to take a nap while it charged but accidentally slept past my alarm and woke up a couple hours later...and it was completely dark out. Oops!
My Housing Accommodation:
Although this is a stock photo snagged from the university website, this is Will Wyatt Court where I will be living until the end of April.
My stomach rumbled as I tried to gain my bearings and figure out the time. It was only 5:00 pm, but I was incredibly hungry. I didn't care where I would go for dinner besides it had to be close because I was starving. The closest restaurant was McDonald's so I set out onto the streets of Shorditch, an area of the Hackney Borough. Within a half mile walk, I got lost 4 times as Apple Maps took me though parking-lots, side alleys, and sidewalks through apartment complexes. I realized quickly enough that I would no longer be using Apple Maps for navigation.
Once I was back to my room, I was more than ready for sleep. It was still early but I was completely exhausted from my trip. I decided to call it an early night and slept for the first time in my new home away from home.
Here are some tips when you visit London.
Don't sleep in because the sun sets at 4:00 pm.
Everyone walks on the left side of the sidewalk.
The sidewalk is actually called the "pavement."
Don't use Apple Maps; its horrible and eats away your data.
Walk everywhere; London is a beautiful city.