While driving to the airport on my departure date, I began thinking there was a problem with my visa. London dates are written out as date, month and then year instead of the traditional American order. This caused me to believe I had to leave on Dec. 12 instead of Dec. 15. Anyone who has dealt with visas knows that you must leave the country by or before the date written, so this caused a short, unnecessary panic attack.
After about 15 minutes of hyperventilating for no reason, I moved on to face the real problem: my luggage seemed to be over the weight limit. Two suitcases, a carry-on and pocketbook didn’t exactly make the cut. My mother, brother and I ended up playing a game I like to call, “Do You Even Wear This Item Of Clothing At School?” If the answer was no, then that item came out of the bag. I put my brother to good use and threw clothes at him to fold. Unfortunately, he didn’t obtain my mother’s packing gene and I had to re-roll after him. With all the commotion of repacking my possessions, we arrived at JFK Airport.
After a long check-in and an hour spent at Starbucks, it was time to go through security. That’s when it all hit me that I was actually leaving the country. I didn’t want my mother to see me cry as I went through security, so I waved once without looking back. A million things were running through my mind, until I received a text that said, “You’ll be fine, and I know that because I believe in you. So stop being a punk and get on that plane.”
With butterflies still fluttering in my stomach, I got on my Tuesday night flight and slept the whole way to London.
At 10 a.m. London time, I arrived at Heathrow Airport. After struggling to find a friend I planned to meet, I felt the nerves set in again. Luckily, we found each other after an hour and headed off to the Tube, the British name for the subway.
Naturally, we got lost on our way home and were the last Temple students to check in. As much as it pained me to separate with three months’ worth of clothes, it was definitely a good thing I had scaled back on luggage. Carrying heavy objects is not easy to manage in London’s small streets.
The next day, all of the students went to an orientation with Foundation for International Education, the program Temple uses to send students abroad. I got to meet people studying abroad in other programs, from places like Panama and Puerto Rico.
It’s been a chaotic trip so far, but it helps that the legal age to drink in London is 16. One night, some of us decided to take advantage of this by visiting a pub. We took a late bus and visited Westminster Abbey, home to Big Ben and the London Eye. Unfortunately, we also learned that all pubs close at 11 p.m. with limited bathroom availability at night.
Even though our rooms are smaller than Johnson & Hardwick, I’m determined to make this an experience of a lifetime. No matter where I’ve gone, I’m still amongst “those Americans,” talking loudly and looking lost while buying groceries. Even though some things seem cheap, I have to keep the pounds to dollars conversion in mind Thankfully, I found a cheap grocery store called Sainsbury’s.
It’s clear that this is not going to be a smooth transition, but I’m officially along for the ride. It turns out Princess Kate and Prince William live in our neighborhood, and we’ve heard rumors that Prince Harry goes to TJ Maxx like any ordinary person. Needless to say, I will be on the lookout for members of the Royal Family. Unfortunately, I think the Queen pretty much keeps to herself.
Christasia Wilson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.