It’s hard to fathom describing my first week in London. From day to day, hour to hour and minute to minute, my experience changes, just like the weather here. However, the one constant part of my experience so far has been jet lag.
IES had us hit the ground running. In addition to a traditional orientation, I have taken a bus and walking tour of London, visited Hampton Court Palace, and more. I cannot even guess how long I have walked each day. Though it is probably longer than expected considering my embarrassingly frequent tendency to get lost.
I think that this first week in London with IES: Study London has been similar, emotionally, to my first week at Whitman College. Two years ago, I (and every other freshman) faced the daunting task of trying to make new friends and feel at home as quickly as possible. Originally from Maryland, I also had to accept the large distance from my family and friends.
In London, I am faced with the same challenge; however, this time could be considered more difficult because we have so little time to get to know each other. Additionally some students came together, which makes inserting myself into their groups both off-putting and necessary. Oh and this time around, I can’t just call my parents because of the expense and the five-hour time difference.
But that is enough of my difficulties and fears. One of my favorite things about London thus far (other than the accents) is looking at the mix of modern and historical architecture. I find that this combination almost makes my living here feel real. There are beautiful old buildings sitting right next to skyscrapers. In fact, adjacent to one side of Saint Paul’s Cathedral is a rather odd looking sculpture clearly created relatively recently. Another example of this is the posted picture I took that looks at the Millennium Bridge and Saint Paul’s Cathedral. This juxtaposition is not what I typically expect from a European city. However, locals have repeatedly told me that Brits don’t consider themselves part of Europe.
There are quite a few other peculiarities I have stumbled upon. I will only enumerate the ones I did not expect. First of all, the Brits do not seem to use a full set of sheets. Our rooms came only supplied with a fitted sheet and a comforter, no top sheet. Second, in London, the yellow streetlight comes on both before the light turns red and before the light turns green. It becomes a warning to pedestrians and gives cars sufficient time to rev their engines. Some cars even start moving before the green light officially comes on. And this brings me to my third fact: often cyclists are crazier and more dangerous to pedestrians than the vehicles on the roads. I have been told this is because cameras record intersections, fining cars but not cyclists. Though unusual, I hope these tidbits have been enlightening, or at least entertaining.