It is probably less than ideal to begin my first official blog post with an apology, but I didn’t expect to fall behind on posting so soon. Chronic procrastination aside, my primary excuse is that my first week and a half in London has been extremely busy! I’ll do my best to recap now
Logically, the best place to start is from the beginning: the flight and arrival in the UK. The IES program began on January 9th in London, so I left the US the day before to ensure that I’d make it on time. The morning of January 8th I finished packing, said some quick goodbyes to most of my family and then hit the road to Atlanta. When booking tickets I decided that it would be much easier to take one direct flight rather than trying to catch connecting planes and running the risk of losing luggage, missing flights, etc. Plus, the five hour drive from North Carolina gave my mom and I some quality bonding time before I left. After getting through security and waving goodbye to my mom at the airport I headed to the gate to meet Caroline, Lauren, Kaitlin, Masuma and Julia. There are about 10 Wofford students in my program, but the six of us had planned to fly together. Our flight didn’t leave until 10:35pm, so ideally we were meant to sleep on the plane. I was lucky enough to get at least a few hours of sleep on the plane, but I was still exhausted when we landed around at Heathrow around noon.
Obligatory Airplane Picture I guess they weren’t lying when they said London was cloudy.
As we gathered our luggage and left the airport, we were so excited to be in London and to see the sights, we may have neglected to think through how we were actually going to get to our living accommodations. All six of us chose to live in the IES recommended student housing: a massive 33-story sort-of-dorm building called Nido Spitalfields. And that’s pretty much the extent of what we knew about where we were meant to go. Due to the massive amounts of luggage six girls require for a semester abroad, all of us couldn’t fit into one cab together and we had to split up. Caroline, Julia and Masuma went in one cab while the rest of us squeezed into another. Between Lauren, Kaitlin and I, I was chosen as most qualified to direct the cab driver (solely based on the fact that I looked our building up on google maps once). None of us had ever been to London before, but fortunately I had saved the address on my phone. With feigned confidence I tell the cab driver, “Number 9 Frying Pan Alley.” He nods at me and the car pulls away from the curb. Just as I lean back in my seat, relieved and ready to enjoy my first glimpses of the city he casually mentions, “Actually, I haven’t got a clue where that is.” Needless to say, our trek to Nido was not exactly easy. Obviously we knew it was in the Spitalfields neighborhood so we headed that direction, hoping to recognize the building from the promotional photos we had been shown.
About 40 minutes later we arrive in front of the Spitalfields market, now with an ₤80 cab fare and still no idea where to go. At the time, all I could remember about the building was that it looked modern and out of place surrounded by seventeenth and eighteenth century row houses. That knowledge in tow, I directed us towards the first steel and plate glass building I saw. Keep in mind, the three of us are now towing with us every single possession we’ll have for the next four months. Even worse, poor Kaitlin’s luggage was damaged during the flight and she couldn’t even roll her 50lb suitcase! Despite the fact that I repetitively assured Lauren and Kaitlin that we were doing the right thing, I was, ultimately, dead wrong. I imagine we looked quite stupid: three American girls with an excessive number of bags and suitcases, struggling to get through a revolving door into what was, quite obviously, an office building. A stranger finally took pity on us when we asked her for directions. She admitted that she didn’t know where Nido was, but she pointed and said “I’ve seen quite a lot of students with large bags going down that street.” After a significant amount of effort we made our way to the right building, finally arriving with mild confusion and very weary arms.
As much as I just wanted to get into my room and sleep off my exhaustion, there were a number of administrative things we had to accomplish before being given our rooming assignment. We officially checked in with our IES administrator, signed the arrival forms and contracts for the Nido building, and had our picture taken for security and our Nido ids received (I’m not sure how they expected us to look good for a picture after traveling for over 12 hours). By the time we finally got to our rooms and put our bags down there was no time to unpack or nap– it was time for an IES guided tour of the neighborhood. Though the tour was helpful in terms of helping orient us to the area, I think it was mostly planned to help us overcome jetlag. By the time it was over we were all starving and grabbed a quick dinner at Chilango (essentially a British version of Moe’s or Chipotle). By this point it was around 8pm and, as far as I was concerned, time for bed.
Song of the Blog: Lost In My Mind by The Head and the Heart