Monday, January 20, 2014

Breathe and Adjust


A stroll through Regent's Park is a great cure for too much time in the city.
So I've now been in London for nearly three weeks and I'm starting to adjust to the differences more and more each day. When people talk about study abroad, they rave about the landmarks they see, the friends they make, the food they eat, the classes they take, and all of the traveling they do. Now, there is definitely a lot to say about those things, and so many positive things can come of being abroad, but not many people talk about the negative things... Well, not even necessarily "negative," but the things that no one tells you when they're describing their glamorous life abroad. (Some of these might pertain to London more than other places)

1) Smaller showers, bigger drinks: I think this one is pretty self-explanatory, but basically showering is like getting an MRI and ordering a cider or beer is expensive, but really sizable. The alcohol is stronger as well so I'm always good with one or two drinks per night out. Plus, drinking is expensive, which leads me to my next point.

2) Everything is expensive: Traveling from place to place- even getting to class- can cost a fortune. I feel like I'm constantly running low on funds between grocery shopping, laundry, sight-seeing, the tube, drinks, and other miscellaneous things.

3) Everything sells out: You need to get tickets for plays, movies, comedy nights, etc. far in advance or it's pretty much guaranteed it will sell out. It's hard to just see a movie on a whim unless you want to pay over 10 pounds.

4) Life without a meal plan is tough in a foreign country: I'm always struggling to come up with creative, healthy meals that don't cost too much. Grocery shopping is harder here because they arrange their stores differently and I never know what I want to cook before I go shopping for the ingredients. I'm probably going to be hungry and dehydrated a lot more than I'm used to at home. Pasta every night used to be a dream of mine...

5) Crowds, noise, and fast-paced living: It's weird being away in a foreign place but especially being in a huge city. I've never been a fan of crowds so going shopping, riding the tube, and going to pubs on the weekends has really tested my patience. It's hard to feel safe and calm when people around you are rushing to wherever they're going. I often feel lost and nervous when I'm out. I guess that's something I need to embrace and eventually get over.

6) Public transportation: It's literally the only way to get around here in London so I've been learning to use it as effectively as possible. It's expensive to take the tube so I got myself a student oyster card. That takes about 30% off of all my tube rides. The tube is usually pretty fast, easy to navigate, and there are stops everywhere. The downside is that it's hot as hell down in the platforms and there are mice running about the tracks in most stations. Sometimes I feel claustrophobic when I'm walking through the winding tunnels to get to the right platform. It's fun people watching and seeing the occasional performer though. Buses are another beast altogether. They're nice if you want to see more sights and they're less expensive than the tube, but it's been confusing trying to figure out which buses stop where and every time I've stepped foot on a bus it has taken off super fast and I've nearly fallen on my butt.

7) You're going to have down-time, so how are you going to spend it?: It's weird not having a class everyday of the week. My schedule is Tuesday and Thursday classes only so I'm off the majority of the week. There's a lot of independent studying required of us but for the first few weeks there is a lot of time to kill when I don't have classes. I'm basically alone in Marylebone so I find myself watching more Netflix than I ever planned on doing while in London. I know it sounds bad, but if I walk out of my door I'm bound to spend money on something and I don't always feel comfortable going places alone so it's probably necessary to spend a few days being lazy here and there. Today I had some down time so I headed to the British Museum by myself. It was a beautiful day and I really enjoyed it a lot, but the museum was HUGE and I'm definitely going to need to go back. At least admittance was free!

8) Lack of communication: So maybe it's just me, but since I've been here I've felt like I'm constantly struggling to communicate with those around me. Whether it's trying to make plans with my friends on the other campus, attempting to text on my crappy UK phone, or leaving a note on the fridge in hopes of meeting some of my hallmates and receiving basically no responses. I'm often feeling lonely and trust me, I love my alone time just as much as the next person, but being stranded in my room or even walking the streets alone all of the time will get old really quickly.

9) Independence: This is such a double-edged sword. I love being independent and taking care of myself. That's why I wanted to go abroad. I want to work on loving myself more and I want to leave here being able to live independently in any given setting. But it's also hard to be away from home. I know that it's only temporary and I'd be going nuts if I were home 24/7 but it's weird knowing that I can't just call up my dad or drive to a friend's house. All of the people I love and care about are scattered across the globe. Life goes on for us all and we will be reunited soon enough, but it's definitely not going to be easy living without seeing friends and family every day. As lame as it sounds, I need some more hugs! I also need to find someone who will be sarcastic with me and laugh as much as I do. Liz came for her orientation last week and I had a blast being with her. I felt so comfortable and happy because she waited for me at the ATM and laughed at all of my jokes. She asked me how I was and actually cared when I told her. I just want to feel that more often. I'm sure it's just because I don't know anyone well enough yet to have those connections but the fact that I'm lacking that is making me anxious and uncomfortable.

10) Sometimes you're going to make mistakes: For example, I got on the wrong tube the other day even though I had taken the tube to the same place at least three times prior to that day. Also, I tried to pay with coins at a Pret the other day to practice and the cashier was clearly annoyed. I just kept putting coins on the counter and looking up at him for approval. I got it eventually. I guess the funniest mistake of all happened in my sleep two nights ago... I totally fell out of my bed. That was the first time I've done that since... maybe ever.

Don't think I'm depressed or hating my time here in London, because that's definitely not the case. I'm learning to overcome and adapt to these little frustrations and differences each and every day and even the bad things make for great stories. I can't wait to go home in May with a whole new perspective on this place and all that it has to offer. I'm sure I'll be missing the tube and the crowded streets the moment I step foot on the plane.

That's it for now, but you'll be hearing from me at least once a week from here on out. I'll leave you with some pictures I've taken recently around London.

(PS: I booked a trip to Ireland with my friends Megan and Anna for the last weekend of February. So excited!)

Regent's Park is really close to my building and it's so beautiful.
The flowers in Regent's Park are definitely not in their prime but I spotted a few on my walk.
I went to the British Museum today and the sun was shining which made for some nice pictures!
The British Museum is home to the Rosetta Stone and other amazing artifacts.

The gates to the museum were really pretty and reminded me of Buckingham Palace.

The inside of the museum was beautiful!
The light coming through the window near the stairs was incredible. I had to take a photo!
I love watching the sunset from my window.

Hope you're all doing well! I'd love to hear from you and if you would like to know about anything specific regarding my life in London, I'd be happy to address those things in future posts!

-Sheila

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