Back with “Things I Wish I Knew Before Studying Abroad” I’m a week in to my London trip and mostly feeling pretty comfortable even though I’m sure I stick out like a sore thumb as “those Americans.”
Top Thoughts about Being in England
- Buy a SIM. For £15 a month you can have unlimited data – which means you can iMessage and Google Maps as much as you want. And 3 has had fast, reliable service for me. In fact, the wifi in my flat doesn’t reach my room, so it’s better for FaceTiming even!
- Take the tube. Walking a lot sucks, and if you’ve been in big cities you’re probably used to this concept. But otherwise be brave and “figure out” the tube and always see if your destinations are near stations so you can save both time and energy. Also, don’t talk on the tube. At all. It’s a thing. Trust me.
- “Right, left, right.” Crossing the street is, to be honest, slightly more difficult – I just can’t seem to figure out when to go if there isn’t a clear signal. But the biggest thing to remember is that you look right first. I’m always looking the wrong way and stepping in front of cars.
- Figure out the shops.
- Waitrose – Grocery (cheaper than Whole Foods)
- Whole Foods – Grocery (they deliver orders over £50 for free)
- Tesco – Some store that’s supposed to be inexpensive but convenient. (So far all I’ve been in are “express”s and they are like useless grocery stores.)
- Argos – Inexpensive items. You look through a catalog for what you want, give a staff your list of items, and they retrieve it from behind the check-out desk. (two towels and two hand towels for £5.99)
- Sainesbury’s – Think Target.
- Marks & Spencer – Clothing, Home, and Food Departments. Quite fancy. (Check out their Simply Foods section. So many delicious items, especially in/around the deli and bakery)
- Boots – Pharmacy, like Walgreens. (Pro-tip: avoid stores right at tube stops. Obviously they are over-priced.)
- Top Shop – London appropriate wear, in my opinion. (Also H&M.)
- Take advantage of deals
- Time Out Magazine (Such interesting reads and events!)
- Time Out Offers (Do that email subscription.)
- Groupon.co.uk (Getaways)
- Time Out Magazine (Such interesting reads and events!)
Personal Thoughts about Studying Abroad
General pre-conceived ideas that have been shattered in my first week:
- I would be the only person who over packed. Actually, a couple of us have two suitcases, and one girl brought three, so I pretty much love her.
- It would be awkward being the oldest here. Again, nobody notices/cares. Also, I turn 23 in a few weeks but another girl is already 24. So I also love her.
- London fashion would be really intimidating. I hope this isn’t somehow offensive, but so far the general fashion in London is pretty much the equivalent of fashion in NYC or so. You see lots of different styles and various levels of dress, but you pretty much don’t see anyone in hoodies or sweatpants. But weather has been just perfect so far, so maybe this is everyone’s less edgy summer wear!
- The weather would be dreadful. This is probably still coming, in reality. I suspect we are just being lulled into a false sense of security.
General expectations that have been on-par:
- Shopping is kind-of a pain. Obviously you’re in the city (even if it is super residential) and you have to walk/take public transportation everywhere. So shopping trips need to have well-thought-out plans that consider amount of items to purchase, weight of items to carry, and length of return trip.
- Living spaces are tight and organization options are minimal. It’s like any dorm style housing, but probably even less than you’re used to. If you can, think about organization before-hand and pack what you can to accommodate for it.
I was lucky enough to get a single room, but not all rooms are like this. We have 6 rooms housing 13 students and share 3 bathrooms. We also have a single table in our common room & a teeny kitchen where we split 3 fridges/freezers.
One of the Teeny Bathrooms
I hear some of the other flats in the building have better bathrooms – this one is honestly pretty terrible for me solely because I just cannot move inside this shower!
View from just outside the bathroom. I bought that nice mat for us!
We store all our shower items on those three shelves and are allotted 4 rolls of toilet paper a week. (Which is not working out for us. TMI?)
Small little shower sink, essentially useless for beautifying.
And the worst part: this tiny shower. If I turn around I bump into something. Usually the control, which makes the water steaming hot in about a fraction of a section.
Other Sights in London I’ve Seen
America’s representation at “Big Albert” – Albert Memorial. It’s the top-left corder if you look at the Albert Memorial on Google Maps.
Don’t worry if you can’t quite focus on this photo. I’m pretty sure everything in it is blurry! But I just love it because this German Shepard puppy is only 4 months old and he’s chasing all the birds by the lake. D’aww! (Kensington Gardens = Kensington Dogs)
Here are the Princess Diana Gates. The morning after she died someone decorated them beautifully and ever since they have held love notes for Diana. It is very romantic in a tragic sort-of-way.
Went to see the guards at the Buckingham Palace. They are far behind gates but at 11 you can watch the changing which I hear is actually a really long ordeal!
I totally lost ALL of the context when I took this photo! Imagine, large scale, there is a huge square (we’ll just call it “Trafalgar” for this exercise) and at each corner are large stone figures. Then you can imagine that the last corner is actually a huge blue rooster! It caught me totally off guard and I had a good chuckle at it… then learned that this fourth spot has the statue changed each year and the blue rooster is actually a French emblem.
And my favorite photo: Big Ben through the London Eye. Classic!
I have no idea what I’ll write about next week. I could go in-depth on figuring out the roads in London (there are not street signs as we are used to it, and even street lights seem to confuse me with their location) but I’m thinking that really isn’t interesting at all!
In the next week, I would like to:
- Book a trip, or two.
- Buy those leather pants, tan boots, and black boots I was eyeing when I went shopping today.
- Figure out my routine more: gym, school, web design
- Organize more? Room, kitchen.
- Go or, at least, sign-up for some sort of photography workshop!