Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Rain, knight buses and crinkly old bags.

Day Six:

I'm sitting in my bed, looking out of my window at the beautiful view of London on this dreary day, and I'm still full from my breakfast of Frosties (Frosted Flakes), a buttered roll and orange juice. I do not have anything planned for today so I slept in (not really, unless you consider 9:15am sleeping in). I'm still feeling a bit overwhelmed by the transition to a new country and all of the stresses that come with it, but I also feel much better now that I have my room set up and all of my kitchen supplies are purchased. I think that I've been having a good time but it's so hard to tell how I feel because every day so far has been planned and filled with sight-seeing, shopping, walking, meeting people, etc. I think I'll be more content when the first week of classes is over. I start them on Monday, Jan. 13th. I'm sure some of you are wondering what I've been up to since arriving last Thursday, so I'll write a little about each day.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014 (Departure)

I packed up, said my goodbyes and left for JFK around 4:30pm. We arrived with plenty of time to spare so my dad and Maggie sat with me for an hour or so once we checked my bag. After we said goodbye, I went through security without any problems at all and waved to them one last time as I walked towards the gate. So here's where it gets interesting...

I was sitting at the gate writing in my journal and thinking about how easy the whole pre-departure process had been when I realized that it was getting really close to 9:10pm, which was final boarding call for my flight. I looked around and thought it was strange that not many people were sitting near my gate. All of a sudden people started to exit from the gate that I was at. I sat there confused and all of sudden it hit me- I was at the wrong gate. I jumped up and grabbed my bags and ran as quickly as I could from gate 7 to gate 4 at about 9:09pm. I had mixed up the numbers because I was in terminal 7 and leaving from gate 4. I got to the flight attendant who asked me if I was Sheila Bogan and I said yes and told her what happened. She laughed and told me that it was fine and I proceeded to the plane. I was in row 30 and I was supposed to have a window seat. When I got to my row there was a woman sitting in my seat. I was so flustered from my mishap that I just wanted to sit so I took the middle seat. On the other side of me was a senior in college named Brad who was going to study abroad in Ireland and we ended up talking a lot during the flight. He helped me with my bag and it was nice getting to know someone instead of worrying about silly things the whole flight over to England. Plus, the window seat wasn't that great. The wing blocked our view.

Thursday, January 2nd (Arrival/First Day)

My first pint! (Princess Louise Pub)
We stayed at the St. Gile's Hotel.
I arrived at Heathrow around 9:15am and had to make my way from terminal 5 to terminal 3 with all of my luggage. It was really easy to find but my bags were really heavy and frustrating to maneuver around. After about twenty minutes or so of lugging my bags through hallways and lifts, I met up with the Arcadia staff in terminal 3. I left my bags with them and took a seat while we waited for the shuttle to the hotel to arrive. It didn't take long, and the ride to the hotel was really fun. I didn't see any massive tourist attractions on our route, but I got to see a lot of interesting buildings and shops.

When I arrived at the hotel, I received my room key and went to the 3rd floor to settle in. I was the first one to arrive in the room so I put my stuff down and looked around a bit. It was quite small but not too dirty or unkempt. I was only there for about 15 minutes when my roommate, Anna, came in and introduced herself. It turned out that we had already spoken on Facebook prior to the trip. We both took naps and around 4pm we made our way to the lobby to meet the Arcadia staff. They had bumped the time to 5pm so a few of us walked around near the hotel to kill time. Once we met with the staff back at the hotel, we headed to the Arcadia center in Holborn and had a brief meeting about our first few days. After that, we all went to Wagamama (a Japanese restaurant) for dinner. It was very different from I expected. It was more like a fast food place and the design was very simplistic. The waiters were all English and the tables were long and thin like a cafeteria. After dinner, the girls I sat with and I headed to the Princess Louise pub nearby. I got a cider and Anna and I went upstairs to get out of the crowded atmosphere down by the bar. We found a table with some comfy chairs and stayed there for about an hour drinking our cider and getting to know one another. When we got back to the hotel we were pretty exhausted so we went right to sleep.

Friday, January 3rd (Orientation/The 39 Steps)
On Friday morning we went back to the Arcadia center in Holborn for our orientation. We learned about Britishness, what to expect from our classes here, traveling, shopping, budgeting, health and so on. It was pretty interesting but towards the end we were all yawning and getting restless, especially because of our jet lag.

After orientation a bunch of us grabbed cell phones at the Carphone Warehouse and then took the tube to Piccadilly Circus. We had about 45 minutes until we had to be at The Criterion theater to see The 39 Steps so we rushed to find a place to eat. We ended up at Nonna's Kitchen which was absolutely delicious and we had a really friendly waiter. He made sure we were served quickly so that we would make it to the show on time. He also told us to come back for some cake sometime. When we left the restaurant I realized that there was a show called Mojo right across the street. Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley from Harry Potter) was one of the actors in the show and now I definitely want to try to see it!

The 39 Steps was really funny and definitely different than shows I've seen in America. The theater was really pretty too! When we got back to the hotel I bought an hours worth of wifi and struggled to make contact with my dad and Maggie because they were both getting ready to go out. I was just happy to be able to check Facebook and update some people on what I was up to.

Saturday, January 4th (Tower of London/Move-In)

The Tower of London was really fun to go to!
We woke up and headed to breakfast downstairs on Saturday morning. I had a bowl of chocolate cereal and then a little bit of eggs and toast. When we finished eating we met up with some others and went to the tube station. We had to get to Tower Hill and meet up with Arcadia to get our tickets for the Tower of London. It was raining most of the way there and while we approached the Tower. Once we were inside, we all split up and roamed around for a few hours. Anna and I stuck together and saw everything from the Bloody Tower to the Crown Jewels. I was really excited to see everything and I took a bunch of pictures (you can see them all on Facebook).

When we arrived back at the hotel, we packed our bags, rested for a bit, and then headed down to the lobby to check out and meet the coaches that were to take us to our respective residence halls. I boarded the bus to Marylebone and said goodbye to Anna and my other friends who are living at Alexander Fleming about fifteen minutes away. When we arrived at Marylebone, we got our room keys and waited about half an hour for the lift since only one was working. The building is twenty floors and there are normally two lifts. Each goes to different floors, one to mostly odd and one to mostly even. The one that goes to my floor, 16, was still working so I'm really lucky. When I got out of the lift I walked a few feet and then followed the sign for rooms G-L. I swiped my room key into the slot next to the door and proceeded into my hallway. My room, L, is to the right all the way at the end of the hall. I keyed in, and opened my door.

When I saw the view of London outside of my window I literally gasped and ran into my room to get a better look. All of my exhaustion and frustration faded because I absolutely loved the set-up and breathtaking view I have. Soon after I moved into my room I headed back out to get sheets and a duvet. I walked with Sam and Tori (both Arcadia students as well) to Primark on Oxford Street. It was about a twenty minute walk and when we arrived the place was swamped with shoppers. Everywhere I turned there was a person blocking an aisle or bumping into me. I felt really overwhelmed and cranky. I just wanted to get out of there. Finally, after about an hour of shopping and waiting in line, we left the store and started to walk back towards Baker Street. But nothing is easy when you're tired and frustrated so of course my bag ripped at the bottom and all of my items fell onto the muddy sidewalk. Sam and Tori helped me gather all of the things that fell and put them into their bags. I still had one big bag so I swung it over my back for more support. We walked home and I was so happy to shower and lay down after such a long few days. Unfortunately, I had nothing to distract me from my homesickness and stress because I had no wifi! I asked the receptionist about it and she said that there actually is no wifi in this building and that won't be changing anytime soon. When I was out earlier with Sam and Tori I purchased a router because the receptionist also said that many students do that to get their own wifi. When I got back I tried to set it up for a long time but the ADSL light was not going on. I was so stressed that I eventually gave up and started decorating and listening to music instead. My cheap UK phone started ringing around 9pm, just seconds after the shelf in my closet collapsed. I was sitting on the floor staring at the heap of my clothes and the stupid shelf when the phone rang. I got up to see who it was and my heart jumped when I saw it was my home phone in New York! I answered and my dad was on the line. He told me that under their Optimum plan they could talk to me for 4 cents per minute. Incoming calls are free for me so it was perfect! I slept a lot better that night knowing that I got to talk to my family.



Sunday, January 5th (Self-Guided Tour/WIFI/Dinner with Britt)

On Sunday morning I took the tube from Baker Street to Old Street to meet up with Anna, Megan, Matt, and Noelle for a self-guided tour of London's main tourist attractions. I grabbed a blueberry cheesecake muffin at Sainsbury's and we all headed back to the tube to start our day. We went to the Monument, the London Bridge (which had a beautiful view of the Tower Bridge), Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, and Buckingham Palace. My favorites were probably Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. Both were so gorgeous and amazing to see in person after years of reading about them in books. I was really tired after the tour and grocery shopping so I went back to my room and Sam and I attempted to set up the router. I had no silverware yet so I sat on my floor and buttered a roll with my finger (don't worry, I washed my hands first). I figured that would be my dinner so I continued to try to sort out the router with Sam. We spent a long time on it and eventually we gave up for the night. I had met my neighbors, Britt and Bryan, during a trip to the kitchen (which is right down the hall) and they were setting up a router too. They offered me their password for 12 pounds and I told them I'd think about it. Right when Sam and I gave up for the night, Bryan came to my room and told me he got his router working. I was clearly frustrated about having no wifi so he felt really bad and gave me his password. I was so nice of him to do and I ended up paying him the 12 pounds anyway. If this works out the whole semester that would be great and 12 pounds was a good investment. I now have wifi on my computer and phone in my room. I was so relieved! I got to Skype home and it was really nice to see my family. While I was Skyping, Britt knocked on my door and asked if I wanted to grab some dinner with her. I finished talking to my family and then met her at her door. We walked to Baker Street and stopped at a little Italian restaurant. I got margherita pizza which was so delicious and we got to know each other better. I found out that she's from California and she's a journalism major too! It was so nice knowing that my next door neighbor has things in common with me and is super nice as well.
Buckingham Palace was really nice and the guards were wearing blue/gray coats instead of red because of the season.


Photo courtesy of Anna Alexander: (From right to left) Noelle, Anna, Matt, Megan, and me.

Monday, January 6th (Westminster Orientation, Shopping, Rest)

I got a Crinkly Old Bag at Pret!
Monday morning was Westminster's orientation so Sam, Tori, and I headed out around 9am and walked to Little Titchfield St. which is about 15 minutes away. We stopped for some Starbucks and got to the orientation a few minutes early. We received big pink folders with our ID's, info booklets, and tons of other things that we will need this semester. The auditorium filled up and we all sat through a presentation that must have lasted at least two hours. I'm not going to lie, I was really bored towards the end, but I'm glad I got all of the information I'll need to live here for five months.

After orientation, a group of us walked to the Regent Street campus and then headed to Oxford Street to get some things at Boots (like Walgreens and CVS). After we got what we needed, we went to lunch at a Panera-like place called Pret a Manger and they are located just about everywhere I've been in London. When we finished eating we went to the tube station and some of us went to Argos for home goods. Argos is a catalog store, so you go in and order on iPads and they can deliver to your home or you can collect it there at the store. I got everything I needed, including plates, bowls, and a set of pots and pans so I had a lot to carry. I didn't know how big everything would be so I asked an employee before buying everything. I said "Will I be able to carry all of this on the tube?" and he said "Oh yes, definitely." I took his word for it and paid for my items, and then he went into the back to pull them for me. When he loaded up the bag and double bagged it, I was a little nervous but figured I'd be fine on the tube with what I got. Then he got ANOTHER sizable, heavy box out and before I knew it I was standing outside on the curb with two huge Argos bags and a Boots bag. Thank God Sam was there to help me because getting back to Marylebone was horrible. We took a bus to Oxford Circus and then a taxi to our building. It was a nightmare trying to find the right transportation and carrying around such heavy things. The bags were ripping and I was so nervous! The taxi driver we got was really nice and since we only needed to go a few blocks the fare was about 6 pounds. I was just relieved to have arrived at my building safely and in one piece. It was also really nice knowing that I had silverware and plates to eat off of finally.

I took a shower right away, set up my new hamper and unloaded my boxes and bags. I did some dishes in the kitchen and re-heated my leftover pizza from the night before. I watched one episode of Dexter and Skyped Stephanie for a long time. After we hung up I talked to my family on the phone and I spent a while on Facebook. I was really tired so I fell asleep around midnight. That was definitely the best sleep I've gotten yet.



______________________________________________________________________

Anyway, that was a lot of information and I won't always blog like that, but now you know what I've been up to! If you have any questions or want to keep in touch, these are the best ways to reach me:

Address:

Sheila Bogan
Room 16L
Marylebone Hall of Residence
35 Marylebone Road
London, NW1 5LS

UK Number: (US dial 011+44+ drop first 0 before number that follows) 077-4699-7661

E-mail: sbogan@mail.smcvt.edu

Skype: sheila.bogan

Instagram and Twitter: imjustsheila

Facebook Messenger and Viber App work really well too!

(I only really have wifi in my room so I'll answer whenever I can!)

The best time to Skype is usually between 2pm and 8pm U.S time. That's about 7pm-midnight for me.

I'll definitely be blogging again soon. I think today I'll rest some more and maybe walk around on my own for a bit. Cheerio!

-Sheila

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