I’m here! The past five days have gone by in a blur of meeting people, getting settled, and listening joyfully to British accents. I tried not to go to London with any prior expectations—I’ve never been here before and we all know that expectations never measure up with reality. But of course, it turns out that I did have a few expectations, and they all seemed to involve me immediately doing everything as touristy and British as possible. I think a very small part of me actually thought that I would get off the plane at Heathrow and immediately walk across London Bridge while drinking tea, eating scones, and waving hi to Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, and Dame Maggie Smith. (In some versions of this fantasy, I was wearing that iconic Spice Girls dress with the Union Jack on it.)
However, I have yet to really set foot in Central London. Most of my time so far has been spent on Queen Mary’s campus in East London, getting settled, buying groceries and room supplies, attending orientation, and meeting other students. And of course, drinking at room parties, drinking in the on-campus bar, and drinking at the International Student boat party. It’s all been very college-y. Not that that’s a bad thing, just not what I expected. Colleges in the UK celebrate “Freshers Week” before classes start, which is basically a chance for freshers (freshmen) to meet each other while attending crazy parties put on by the university. Most of the parties are at Drapers, which is the nearby on-campus bar. (Northeastern friends: picture Afterhours, if it were three times bigger, sold drinks, and had the atmosphere of a BGE party.) It’s definitely a lot of fun, and such a huge contrast from schools in the US! Tonight is the first night I’ve stayed in, due to a combination of party-fatigue and jetlag catching up with me. I got back from shopping around 10 and immediately snuggled into my pajamas. (I’m lame! Sorry!)
Me and some American friends at Drapers.
I’m living on-campus in Pooley House, where I have my own room and bathroom, and a kitchen I share with 5 other students. The only people who live on campus are freshers and study-abroad students, and they mix the British students with the foreign ones. I have two roommates from England, one from Scotland, one from Romania, one from Chicago, and one from San Diego. It’s definitely a cool mix of people, and so far we’ve gotten along great. The second night we were playing the game Kings when someone made a rule that the Americans had to speak in British accents. It was pretty funny, but got funnier when we retaliated and made the Brits speak in American accents. (No one could do it.) It’s been a lot of fun getting to know British students and comparing all kinds of cultural differences, accents, slang, and fashion. Everyone dresses so nice here! Every single British person looks like they’ve stepped out of an Urban Outfitters catalogue, and I’m realizing that wearing yoga pants to an early morning class is not an option. I also found out that the English have their own version of the show Jersey Shore, called “Geordie Shore.” You can check it out here, and you should, because it’s hilarious:
Yesterday we finished up our orientation and finalized our classes, which don’t start until Monday. I’m pretty sure that all 200-ish American students were fairly hungover at those early morning orientation meetings, but we got through them! The British staff leading orientation made quite a few funny jabs at Fox News, and said that we had to show the British that we aren’t all ultra-conservative people who love guns, Wal-Mart, and Kim Kardashian. Actually, one of my UK roommates asked me “Don’t you have Wal-Mart instead of supermarkets? Can’t you buy guns there?”
And finally, last night was the International Student Boat Party (read: booze cruise) down the Thames River. It was a LOT of fun, and we actually got to stand on the deck and watch the famous Tower Bridge go up over our heads—it was unreal.
Us on the boat with the O2 Arena (concert venue/sports stadium) in the background.
I feel like I have so much to say, but this is all I have time for tonight! Tomorrow I’m heading to the campus gym in the morning (it’s usually almost empty because Europeans never work out) and then going on a panoramic bus tour of London. Cheers!