I’ll start out by saying that basically everything I was told about studying abroad and London was wrong. The people are not rude, the fashion is not drastically different, the food is not gross and I do not need $5,000 a month to live. I have weekly homework, I do have to attend class each week and I do not have an absurd amount of free time. Also, I’m almost positive people never sleep around here and the Mondays really are messy. Oh, and people are more obsessed with William and Kate than you could even imagine…
But some things, I suppose, you just have to dive into head first and figure everything out on your own. This is what you would call growing up.
So I’ve been here about three weeks now, and I’ve got to say it feels like two months. I don’t mean this negatively, I just mean my days have been filled and I hardly even have time to keep my room clean– at the moment it’s looking more like a construction zone. But I’ve gotten myself settled, and that’s the most difficult part I would say. I’ve found the nearest grocery store, I’ve gotten myself a cell phone, I’ve found all my classes and I know how to use the public transportation. (The few times I’ve gotten myself lost or was unsure about what direction I was going, the people here helped me get wherever I was trying to go–they are amazingly nice.)
I’m living just outside Central London (20 minutes to the city by tube) on the Harrow campus, which is where the Media, Arts and Design students live. After much trouble and irritation with the Administration/Registry Offices here, I am finally enrolled in Arts & Entertainment Journalism, Fashion Trends and Contemporary Culture, Fashion Journalism, and Personal and Professional Development. Begrudgingly, I have to take the latter class in order to be enrolled for an internship.
So far, I really love all of my classes (maybe that’s a bit enthusiastic for my internship class), but I am starting to notice how different the education system is here compared to in America. First, I find the students to be pretty rude here. The lectures are three hours long and after about an hour usually, we get a “biscuit break” for 15-20 minutes. Many of the students do not return after the break and the ones who do are chatting and hardly paying attention to the tutor (that’s what they call professors here). Students will also get up and leave whenever they want, even if the tutor is in mid-sentence!
This may be explained by the class lectures, however. My notebook at the moment is pretty much empty, which is an extremely unusual thing for me. I have not taken a single note for two of my classes. In one particular class, we spent almost the entire 3-hour lecture listening to popular music through the decades and how much better Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade” is better than “today’s rubbish”. If any information is useful enough to write down, it’s already on a PowerPoint slide and posted on Blackboard. My assignments list for the entire semester takes up one side of a small piece of notebook paper. I guess I shouldn’t be complaining, it’s just extremely different and unusual for me. On the plus side, my two journalism classes are taking us to visit museums, exhibitions and even to the theatre to write reviews like real critics! I guess I just have to accept that this semester is going to be filled with a lot more fun things than work… I’m not too mad about it.
I also started my internship with Henrietta Ludgate. I was surprised to see that it’s not at an office building, but actually at a mall! It’s a store, office and workshop, all in one space. My first day there, I was already so hands on—literally. We moved furniture around the shop to make it more interactive for the shoppers to see the clothing actually being made. Customers can buy clothing off of the floor or have it specially made for them, having the option to choose their own fabrics and colors. It’s a very small company because Henrietta is an up and coming designer, but I love working so closely with someone who is such a creative entrepreneur.
Because Fashion Week is coming up, I’m working every weekday I don’t have class (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) but each day is a new adventure and something exciting and new. I’ve been cutting out patterns, picking up fabrics and dropping off pieces to customers (I even got to go to Colin Firth’s house to drop off a dress for his wife to wear to see the Queen!). There was a photo shoot in the workshop last week and I even found out that Henrietta was the winner of the Fashion Innovation Award at London Fashion Week last year! I am eager to continue this internship and learn more about the business from someone growing so quickly.
As far as sightseeing is concerned, I have gone to a couple of markets and landmarks which I will talk about in my next blog post. But one really cool thing that I did was go on a night cruise, which was organized by my university for all of the international students to get to know each other more. I actually met a large group of girls from Harrow AND we got to see the Tower Bridge! Simply breathtaking…
Well, I think that’s enough for now! Promise I won’t forget about you all while I am conquering London.
The day had finally come for my trip to England, January 6th 2012. Unfortunately this was also on the day of my mother’s birthday, but I was happy that I got to spend most of the day with her until my 7:40pm departure time.
We celebrated with an early birthday dinner at mom’s favorite restaurant, Atlantic Fish, and headed over to the airport. Naturally, my father got lost, and getting lost in Boston means getting stuck in traffic and going about 30 minutes out of the way… so I didn’t get to the airport until 6:48pm. This was definitely cutting it close, but definitely enough time to get through check-in and security.
Or so I thought.
A (not-so-very-nice) check-in employee named Meghan (not-so-very-nicely) informed me that check-in time closes promptly 1 hour prior to departure time and they gave away my seat to someone on stand by.
January 6th 2012 was the evening I had my very first panic attack. I was 8 minutes late, and there was nothing I could do. Meghan was not being sympathetic and she could care less about the fact that I spent $400.00 on this (apparently pretend) plane ticket, I had to check-in to Westminster in the morning, and I had planned to meet Clara at the airport to take a cab to Harrow together.
After I (sort of) composed myself, I called my ticket distributor, Student Universe, and had a few choice words for them. I managed to get myself another ticket for Sunday evening with only a $100.00 charge. Better than Meghan’s suggestion to buy a whole new ticket because the one I had was “worthless”.
That weekend went by at a snail’s pace. I had been so ready to leave on Friday and it was the biggest buzz-kill ever to have to drive back to my house that night.
But Sunday eventually came, and saying goodbye to my family was as hard as I imagined. It was hard to be excited when I was significantly more scared and terrified of getting homesick, but I had the flight to give myself a pep talk and compose myself. (BTW Virgin Atlantic is the coolest airline ever! But I’m flying First Class next time… reclining chairs with footrests, Champagne, and hot towels!?!) I watched Friends With Benefits and slept on my purple Hippo pillow pet (shout out to my roommate Michelle, best present ever!).
I made it a priority to get a driver with a sign with my name on it, and I was so relieved to see him when I arrived! He helped me with my bags and drove me to school, talking to me along the way about his life and kids. He even let me borrow his phone to call my parents to tell them I had landed! He also gave me his number when I arrived to call him if I needed anything or had any questions. A nice gesture, but I’m a little leery about it.
As much as I wanted to go to sleep, I had to find my room, drop my things, and head to orientation. Thank goodness Clara knew the way, because I was half-asleep and there was no way I would have been able to figure out the tube on my own!
After three long hours, too much information, and too many pamphlets and brochures, I headed back to my dorm, skyped my mom, and went to bed. Day one was VERY long and finally over. Top of my agenda tomorrow: get a phone!