I have now been settled in England for about two weeks and it’s been amazing. I’m convinced I live in the best city in the country.
The day after my initial arrival at London Heathrow, Joe drove me to stay with my friend, Adam, outside Worthing, a town about half an hour west of Brighton. I spent a few days relaxing there with Adam and his roommate, Clare, (both of whom I’ve become close with) and exploring the town. After my Dublin and Copenhagen trips, I returned there for one last night before heading to Brighton.
Upon my arrival in Brighton, Emily, another exchange student from Arizona State, was waiting at a hotel we’d both share that night before moving in the next morning. Together, we explored Brighton. It was a beautiful day, so we walked around the pier and went on the Brighton Wheel. I can best describe Brighton as a downsized mix between Santa Monica with its lively beach scene (well, as lively as you can get in England) and San Francisco with its liberal attitude and unique architecture.
I didn’t spend a lot of time in Brighton before heading up to London to see Brand New at Alexandra Palace. If that band name sounds familiar, it’s because it is; I saw them in upstate New York with Nick at the beginning of my travels. Alexandra Palace is in north London, so it took a bit of time (and quite a bit of money) to get there. But it was worth it; the venue was historic and the views of London were breathtaking. I soon met up with Joe and a few of his friends and rocked out. It goes without saying I love seeing them live and the fact that I saw them on my first day of travel and my last day before I settled down was especially extraordinary.
I moved in to my university hall early the next morning. I originally wanted to live in a stand-alone house to be shared between five people, but I got stuck with my second choice: a more dorm-like layout with a shared kitchen and bathrooms between twelve people. Yes, twelve people. I was the first to move in, but I didn’t have much time to socialize before my dad came to visit me. He was on a business trip to Norway and Scotland and made time to visit me on his layover in London. I showed him my new room and a bit of my campus before we went into town for dinner. At first, I was a little sour about not being able to mingle with my roommates, but it was nice to have a taste of home in the midst of all this madness.
With that, Fresher’s Week began. Fresher’s Week is a British university tradition where students (particularly first years) attend a lot of social events, both in town and through the school. I’m really proud of myself for breaking out of my shell and going to these events, including a pier party, club night, pub quiz and more. I had a great time participating in Fresher’s Week and I enjoyed going out with my roommates. Although twelve people was a little daunting at first, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I finished my last week of freedom with a proper trip to London. I met up with my friend, Tom, in Kingston, where we walked around and went record shopping. After that, we headed to South Bank, where we got beautiful views of the city before relaxing in a small park on the other side of the river. We were blessed with a beautiful, sunny day. After that, we headed to Camden, an up-and-coming town with a large rock scene with countless street vendors and niche shops. It was really vibrant and interesting. We were both pretty tired, so we scratched Covent Garden and explored Hyde Park instead. To end our day, we went on the London Eye, where we got incredible views of the city lights.
I started classes on Monday and I’m feeling optimistic about the semester. Although I don’t have a lot of class time, most of the learning is done independently, but I’m nowhere near as intimidated as I was before courses began. The international advisors have made themselves really available and I feel comfortable coming to them if I have any concerns.
So far, the hardest parts about adjusting to life here and the things you take for granted or would be considered knowledge like counting change and tipping etiquette. It’s also hard not being familiar with any food brands, restaurants or stores. Finally, I don’t think I’ll ever get the hang of looking the correct way before I cross the street or what side of the road to wait for the bus. I’m glad I have my roommates and other English friends to answer my slough of stupid questions.
Despite these challenges, I’m really loving it here. I’m looking forward to the rest of my year living in this beautiful city.