A Long Overdue Update

I know, I know, I know…

It’s been forever since I posted a blog. A ridiculous amount of time (39 days to be exact)

In an attempt to make a swift recovery I’m resorting to posting pictures with captions leading up to where I am now. I am sure to leave some things out unintentionally, but I’ll give it a try anyway. Here goes nothing.

January 10&11: IES Orientation

January 12: Daytrip to Windsor and Eton College. Myself, Caroline and Lauren in front of Windsor castle

January 12: Lauren, Kaitlin, Caroline, Masuma and I out to celebrate Kaitlin’s 21st Birthday. We were even able to meet up with a group of Wofford students traveling in the UK for interim!

January 13: Bus tour of London including stops at Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey.

January 13: Lauren, Caroline, Masuma and I at Buckingham Palace.

January 18: Visit to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. Here Masuma, myself, Caroline and Colby stand with the wax figures of Prince Phillip, Queen Elizabeth II, Kate Middleton and Prince William.

January 19: Boat trip to Greenwich.
Myself and Caroline in front of the Queen’s House and the Royal Hospital for Seamen.

January 26: Daytrip to Oxford University and the Cotswalds. Myself, Lauren, Kaitlin, Masuma and Caroline by the river in Barton on the Water.

February 2: Visit to Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain. Masuma and I prove just how windy it was.

February 3: Visit to the Roman Baths and natural hot spring in Bath.

February 7-10: Visit to Amsterdam. Here we saw lots of snow! It was cold, but that didn’t stop us from exploring the beautiful historic city. Some favorites from this trip include the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank house

February 9: Myself at Liedseplein in Amsterdam. One of the hardest things about visiting Holland was the Dutch/English language barrier. Luckily, most people spoke English and we had our very own tour guide to show us around! Dominique, a recent Wofford grad who’s been living in Amsterdam for the past 6 months, showed us around the city and helped us figure out where to go and what to do.

February 16: Visit to Stratford and the Kenilworth Castle ruins

February 22: Visit to the Harry Potter film set

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“It’s the unexpected things you’ll miss the most”

That’s what they said to us on the first day of orientation at IES… and they were right. Today I don’t miss sweet tea or Target or even the sunshine. Right now, what I miss most about Wofford is the laundry.

When I went on my first tour of Wofford the summer before my Junior year of high school, I noticed how much they stressed the free laundry facilities on campus. I’d always done my laundry for free at home and I thought ‘free laundry, what’s the big deal about that?’ Trust me, it is a BIG deal.

The current state of our kitchen/ drying facility

Today was the first day I tried to do laundry at Nido. It was long overdue, since I ran out of clean socks almost a week ago. Let’s just say it was an experience. The building operates on a cashless system, so to pay for laundry you have to put money on your Nido card. What they don’t tell you is that it initially costs two pounds to load money on the card and then an additional 25 pence for each ten pounds you add. And it is super expensive to actually do a load: three pounds to wash and two to dry (that converts to about $8 total). To make matters worse, when I opened the dryer after it had finished my clothes came out sopping wet. Since I am far to stubborn and cheap to fork over two more pounds to dry them a second time, I had to get creative. Luckily, Caroline didn’t mind me taking over our entire kitchen to hang up my clothes. I used to complain when the washers and dryers at Wofford were full, but right about now I’d give anything for access to the laundry room on 3rrd floor Lesesne. I guess this experience has taught me not to take things for granted.

Okay, rant complete. Next blog post will return to normally scheduled programming.

Song of the blog:
Laundry Room by the Avett Brothers

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The First of Many Misadventures

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

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Eight Arbitrary Reasons Why I Chose London

I could give you the standard spiel about how I chose to spend my Semester abroad in London: “it’s a burgeoning metropolis which combines historical significance with all the advantages of modernity… etcetera, etcetera.” While there are countless reasons for my decision which actually hold up to academic scrutiny, that is not the point of this list. What I’m here to provide you with, my lovely reader, is a catalog of eight insignificant, illegitimate and, frankly, dumb reasons which led me to pick London. Most of these factors should have had absolutely no influence on my decision but, if I’m being honest, they definitely did.

#8 Harry Potter
You cannot have a list about England and not include Harry Potter. It just can’t be done. Harry Potter had a huge influence on me growing up (and on almost everyone else in my generation). My ultimate dream job is to work in publishing for young adult fiction, and JK Rowling had a lot to do with that. In some ways, I think spending a semester going to school in London is trying to make up for when that Hogwarts acceptance letter never came on my 11th birthday.

#7 Sweater Weather
Sweaters are arguably my favorite type of clothing, and I’m so excited to go somewhere that stays cold for more than a few weeks out of the year. The only problem with this is that I’m expected to fit all of my clothing for four months into one suitcase. I still haven’t exactly figured out if that is possible (I’m pretty sure it’s not), but I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

#6 Kate Middleton
I’m not one of those girls that is SO obsessed with the new princess that I woke up at 4 am to watch the Royal Wedding, but I do think that Kate is one of the most poised and classy women in pop culture today. Once someone told me I looked like her and, to this day, I think it’s the best compliment I’ve ever received. Plus, with all of the recent baby mania, what better time to live in London?

#5 Charlieissocoollike
I’ve been watching his YouTube videos since Middle School. He has a British accent, he’s adorable, and he lives in London.
Educate yourself:

#4 The English Language
In addition to my love of British accents, there’s more I love about the way they speak: they speak English. I’m a double major studying English and Humanities, so it was really important to me to go somewhere where English is the primary language. I tried my hand at foreign language and let’s just say it was not a gleaming success. I know that Wofford provides tons of study abroad opportunities in a bunch of different places and they’re really good at accommodating students that might not speak the language, but that just wasn’t for me.

#3 Tea and Scones
I spent last interim in Ireland and while I was there I fell in love with these little cranberry scones (I basically ate one every day). Who on earth is going to complain about a culture that embraces afternoon snacktime? Not me.

#2 Paul McCartney
If you like The Beatles or you saw the Olympic Opening Ceremonies you should understand this one.

#1 William Shakespeare
This is perhaps the only legitimate reason on this list. As an English major with some experience in theater, I have a HUGE interest in Shakespeare. Unfortunately, I’ve only gotten the chance to study a few of his plays which is why I was so excited IES Study London offered a class entirely focused on Shakespearean Drama.

Song of the Blog:
English Tea by Paul McCartney

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