It has been almost one month precisely since I left the states and moved to the UK, and yet, somehow, I feel both like I’ve been here much longer and as though I merely left home yesterday. I remember going over my packing list weeks in advance to make sure that I had everything I needed from home. I checked the number of working travel power adapters* multiple times to ensure my own peace of mind. However, somehow, I am still acquiring little things that I either didn’t have time to buy before or simply thought I would never need.
*Small word of advice: When in my situation, do not bring an American power strip to try to save yourself from buying several power adapters. You will blow a fuse… in my case, two.
As well as moving into a flat and adjusting to city life, I have also been actively adjusting to university life. Here I am nearing the end of my second week of classes, exhausted and tired, but excited and quite happy all the same. I attended Freshers’ Fair; it’s the British equivalent to a large orientation event showcasing all of the schools’ groups and clubs available for new students to join. I would be boldly lying if I said that it was not one of the most overwhelming experiences I have had thus far. Picture this: two floors of a convention center absolutely brimming with first year uni students who have no choice in the direction of their movement, but rather are subjected to the whim of the mass at large. Right. Not ideal, but generally very informative. As any college freshman might do, I probably signed up for about ten societies, and I would be thoroughly impressed with myself if I managed to even go to one event held by half of them. So far I have been to a media welcome event, book club at the largest bookshop in Europe (the Waterstones at Piccadilly), and some radio auditions. To me, that is impressive enough for the time being.
I would like to beam for a moment about how absolutely incredible it is to study Ancient History and archaeology in a city like London. Just wow. Sometimes when I have to wake up extra early to commute to the campus for a 9 am lecture, I remind myself of all the perks, and having the British Museum at my veritable fingertips is a perk impossible to ignore. Every Monday afternoon I have a 2 hour art and archaeology lecture, and every class without fail, the professor ends by beseeching us to “Go and see for yourself!”. Because you know, when studying ancient archaeology a 15 minute walk from perhaps one of the best collections in the world, how could you not go to the museum as often as possible? Another huge perk: most museums in London are free to the public. The British Museum just so happens to be one such institution, and already I can see just how much this is going to supplement my studies. A lot can be said for being able to truly visualize and grasp (perhaps even physically) the culture you discussed in lectures. Some days there are volunteers set up throughout the museum at special tables with objects on display. That is not the cool part. The cool part is that you get to touch the ancient objects and handle them yourself. Last week I got to hold an ancient cylinder inscribed with Sumerian writing. Needless to say I was beaming after the kind volunteer with the French accent just placed it into my hands. Of course, there are plenty of other amazing (and free)museums in the city. I have not been to too many yet, but I will confess that the Victoria & Albert is a close second to the British Museum in my book.
Another thing that I have found difficult is adjusting to life outside of coursework, readings, and the foreign country. I have to completely take care of myself. I had to fill out my government health care paper work. I have to commute to school (about 30-40 minutes depending on how busy the tube is). I have to grocery shop. I have to clean. When the lights or hot water are not working, I have to call maintenance. I have to plan meals so that when I come home from an event at 9 in the evening, I know there is food waiting for me. All of that may not sound like much, but I do feel like it’s a tad bit more added on to the typical college freshman’s adjustment period. On the bright side, with all of the walking and stairs ( I live on the 4th floor), the freshman fifteen will not be making an appearance.
A second rather large adjustment in my day-to-day life has been the circumstantial shift in my relationship. I had honestly dreaded the day when we moved apart, even though we knew the core of the relationship would not change. I can fervently say that even with 5,000 kilometers between us, I have never been more confident in a friendship/relationship or my feelings about another person. The only difficult part (aside from not getting that hug or kiss when you really want it) is not allowing myself to dwell on the distance, however with practice that too can be turned around. We quite frequently find ourselves discussing our flights home, late birthday presents, airport greetings, and all the smiles those things promise us.
All in all, I love it here. I love the sense of legitimate independence even with all of the cooking, cleaning, and commuting that might be attached to it. I love my classes. I love that between my classes I can walk less than 15 minutes and see the artifacts from 3,000 years ago up close and in person that we discussed in lectures. I even love taking the tube so long as it isn’t during peak times… there is really nothing to love about being jammed into a carriage like sardines.
London is wonderful. Even on the early, cold, rainy, and windy mornings I am always happy by the time I come back to my flat at night. More so, I am always endlessly happy to answer my classmates when they ask which university I’m from because I’m from here. I don’t just get to have one semester or even a year. I get the whole package and that’s pretty fantastic.