So here is some big news for you: I'm in LONDON!No, I have not been swept away on a posh weekend and no, I am not a wealthy college student who can travel at will. In fact, I have essentially moved to London. Now I was planning on doing a large blog announcement to tell those of you who are still reading that I was to be leaving for a five month study abroad trip to London, but time escaped me, I had some major freak-outs trying to pack and prepare myself to travel out of the country for the very first time, and so that post never happened. And now here we are, surprise! I'm in London.I arrived on Monday after a somewhat gruelling travel experience and was greeted at the air port by my lovely friend Hannah. She has been a big help and inspiration in this adventure and I really want to thank her for all of her help and kind words of encouragement along the way. Thanks, Hannah!Tuesday I began my orientation process. Boy, had I forgotten how strange it feels to be the new kid again. Although I guess everyone who was in that room with me was also the new kid, I definitely felt like I was an outsider entering the university. I made a point to quickly become acquainted with someone, anyone because feeling and being alone in a foreign country for the first time is a scary thing. Luckily I met some very nice girls, one from California and two from Wisconsin even!
Time was then spent trying to get acclimated to the city. I consider myself very lucky that I have lived in Chicago for these past two and a half years. Although Chicago isn't nearly as big or metropolitan as London, having that time to adjust to city life and the everyday means such as navigating public transit has helped to make this transition so much easier. I've noticed that I'm already beginning to be able to navigate without using too many maps. It is a great feeling to be able to figure out how to get around by yourself. In Chicago my friends and I are always able to tell who the tourists are because they are freaking out in the CTA or they are standing on street corners with maps looking in every possible direction. I do not want to be one of those people! I'd have to say that so far I've played it pretty cool, I haven't had to ask anyone for directions yet. Go me!
The last day of orientation was Thursday. We were given the full tourist experience; we took a coach bus around the city to see the sights with allocated stops at Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, and Canary Wharf. From there we hopped on a boat and traveled back along the Thames to see the sights of Big Ben, the London Eye, and the Houses of Parliament. I'm actually kind of glad that we did this tour. If it hadn't been apart of orientation I don't know if I would have sought out many of these sights myself. I am more interested in getting to know the real London, the London that the real Londoners cherish so I doubt Buckingham Palace would have ranked high on my list of must-sees.
Having said that, the whole experience was kind of bizarre. I think because I have watched so much British movies and television I was a bit underwhelmed with the attractions in real life. I have been seeing these images and picturing what it would be like to be there for so long that once it happened it was what I had expected. I'm not sure if that is a good thing... I haven't found myself getting too excited about anything yet. You may have to call me the apathetic traveler.
I am beginning to feel the pain of being 4,000 miles away from home. Since graduating high school I have been a big opponent of Facebook, but loneliness struck hard this weekend and I reactivated it to have some greater connection to home. I am counting on it getting better once school starts. There will be so many people to meet, so many things to do and places to see, I am sure all will be well. I am experiencing some feelings of guilt right now because I made my dreams come true! I mustered up the courage to travel to London and make things happen for me, yet I am getting bogged down in the first few days with feelings of doubt and regret. I know this will pass and I know this experience will end up being one of the biggest and greatest of my life, but right now London isn't feeling as alive and wonderful as I had anticipated.