This is London

So, ever since I arrived in London, I’ve been having these recurring nightmares—and no, I’m not crazy, I swear.

But I keep dreaming that I’m on the plane back to America,and I cannot remember anything that happened during my time here in London. Not one thing. When I told my mom about this, she gave me the simplest answer and was surprised that I hadn’t already done this myself.

Keep a journal.

Nowadays, most people keep a blog when they travel. So I decided to jump on the bandwagon. And call me crazy, but I plan to recount each day of my journey, whether it be detailed or brief.

So I guess I’ll consider this my initial post, based on my first couple of days here in London. If you’re reading this, enjoy =)

May 5—Departure

When I was packing for my 8-week stay in London, United Kingdom, none of it seemed real. For three years, I had been wondering what the days leading up to this trip would feel like, and I assumed I would be ecstatic and relieved.

I was wrong. I felt numb, more than anything else.

I finished my final exams and still felt nothing. My dad spent my last day in the U.S. with me, packing my stuff up to send home and taking me out to dinner, and though I teared up when we said goodbye, it still didn’t seem that the next day I’d be leaving the country. Even lugging my overstuffed suitcase across campus with a friend of mine the morning of our departure didn’t make it feel real.

I got on the first plane to Minneapolis with 19 other students bubbling with excitement—nothing. Spent a5-hour layover playing silly games and goofing around to pass the time before the journey across the pond. Watched my favorite movie. Squirmed around in my seat to get comfortable enough to sleep. Stared intently at an interactive map displaying how close the plane was to our destination. Nothing, nothing and more nothing.

I wish I could explain where my excitement and yearning for the trip from the past three years had disappeared to, but I’m not sure how to possibly do so. All I know is the entire departure process felt completely unreal, but perhaps that’s the way moving to another place for an extended period of time is supposed to feel—it left me unsure of what to expect, which was essentially what I wanted all along.

May 6—Arriving in London

We arrived in London around noon that Sunday, utterly exhausted from the flight and relieved to be free from the confines of the plane. After queuing in customs for what felt like hours, collecting our luggage and finally boarding our coach to take us to the flats, the majority of us were too tired to pay attention to our surroundings out the windows, myself included.

Until we reached our flat, which was to be our home for the next eight weeks.

We entered our respective apartments and each of us was speechless. At first glance, everything seemed phenomenal (little did we know that these “phenomenal” apartments would end up having some downsides—but that’s a story for a different post). I was to share an apartment with four other girls, my roommate being my very best friend, and I couldn’t imagine a space more perfect to do so. The kitchen was huge. There weren’t bunk beds in my room like I feared there would be. We had a heated towel rack. What could be better?

Oh, yeah. Having some of my closest friends in apartments on the same floor, living in London. Duh.

Anyway, followinga brief apartment orientation session, my professor led us down the street to a phone store to get us situated with pay-as-you-go plans and show us where the nearest grocery store is located. And let me just tell you, walking down that road from our apartments to the Angel tube stop area .was completely surreal. Everything seemed so strange, so unfamiliar, so foreign. This pack of IU students stood out like a sore thumb, and I felt as though I would never be able to find my way around. I was overwhelmed by my surroundings, to say the least.

And, of course, what first day in Europe would be complete without a pint at a pub? Luckily our professor brought us to very unique place along a canal near our flats and treated us—the perfect setting and the perfect ending to a whirlwind of a day.

May 7—Orientation

Waking up in a different country is hardly different than waking up anywhere else.

With jet lag leaving us all terribly groggy, my group woke up quite early and trudged through the unexplored streets of London to Anglo American, the site where our class was to be held as well as that of our UK liaisons. Here, we were introduced to some safety measures we should be sure to take as well as a brief introduction to the city itself. It was long, it was informative—typical study abroad measures.

We then boarded a coach to take a bus tour of the city—something we had all been looking forward to. We saw some sites that were not on the beaten track, such as the location where George Orwell once lived/wrote (can’t quite remember), and of course we saw the typical London staples—Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s. It was at this point that many of us began to note the places we would like to return throughout the course of our trip to get a closer look.

When the tour ended (which, by the way, lasted more than three hours, proof of the vastness of the city), we were told it would be a good idea to practice with the public transportation system to our internship sites, so that the next morning, on the first day of work, we wouldn’t get lost. So Jackie and I did our dry runs and made our first attempt at grocery shopping—and to be honest, I’d rather not talk about my grocery shopping trips, they scar me every time.

So, frankly, not much exciting or life changing to report, given the day’s situation. Jet lag got the best of us, and we fell asleep fairly early so that we were well rested for our first day.

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“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”