I left for O’Hare International Airport in Chicago at four in the afternoon on Tuesday for my flight to London, England. Thereby beginning the longest day of my life.
Before getting to O’Hare, my parents and I stopped for my final meal in the U.S. and where else to stop than Culvers? After that, it was on to the airport.
As we walked into Terminal 5, the international terminal at O’Hare, I lugged in my two very (very very) heavy suitcases, anxiously anticipating placing them on the airport scale. Luckily, both were (somehow) underweight.
I went through security no problem, but as I was going to swing on my backpack, my Wisconsin tumblr cup flew out of my backpack and cracked. I was off to a great start…Luckily I took two water bottles with me and had a backup.
My flight boarded at 8 p.m., ahead of schedule as it was set to take off at 8:45 p.m. When booking my plane ticket, I had the opportunity to upgrade my seat for a rather cheap price and therefore was sitting in one of the nicer sections and had a large chair with extra room to recline. It was super nice. They also served a full three-course meal in my section, but I had eaten before and was attempting to sleep by the time they were serving food at around 9:45 p.m.
I was not able to get much sleep during the flight, I managed maybe about an hour. I can never get comfortable enough to sleep on plane flights.
After circling Heathrow for about 15 minutes, we were finally cleared to land and we touched down in London! It was a little confusing at first making my way from where we landed in Terminal 5 to where I got my passport and visa checked, (I had to take a short shuttle to get there), but then I quickly found my bags and there was no one at customs so I was able to walk right through!
I then met up with a girl that I had talked to on the UW in London Facebook page and we took a car that I had reserved online to the Metrogate building in Kensington to pick up our keys. Between the two of us, we each only paid about £20 for the trip. Much cheaper than taking the Heathrow Express, the Tube or a Black Cab Taxi! And much more convenient!
After checking in at Metrogate, I lugged my two large suitcases just over a half of a mile south to Manson Place where I am staying for the next four months. My flat is up on the third floor (so in the UK, this means the ground floor plus three floors aka the fourth floor). The building we are living in is over 300 years old and is a converted town house so it conveniently has NO elevator. I lugged both of my near 50 lbs. suitcases up the stairs. I needed a break after. No joke.
As I was the last of my roommates to arrive, I was lucky enough to get the top bunk of the quad room that I am in. Thankfully I slept on a lofted bed all last semester so am used to climbing up into bed. We also each got a large wardrobe and a small nightstand.
There are twelve of us in the flat, four guys and eight girls. We have three bathrooms and a nice common area with a large couch, tv, breakfast bar, kitchen and three fridges and freezers. It was recently renovated and is a pretty nice set up!
After settling in and partially unpacking (I still have a lot to do as they only provided about 10 hangers, so Amazon Prime UK to the rescue), we walked over to Foundation House where our classes are held. There, they took pictures of our passports and visas and then we picked up some of our course materials.
One of the Residence Life Supervisors took us on a very quick walking tour of the part of Kensington where we would be living and studying.
After that, I went out to dinner with a few of my flatmates to one of the most popular restaurants in the U.K., Nando’s. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to eat dinner at a place that Ed Sheeran has written a song about (Nando’s Skank).
Apart from forgetting to tell the woman taking my order to not put mayo on it, (no worries, I scrapped it off), Nando’s was pretty good and not too expensive so I will for sure be going back in the future.
After dinner, we made our way to Sainsburys to do a little grocery shopping. While rather large, Sainsburys is not my favorite grocery store. They are relatively cheap, but don’t have the best produce or meat sections. I plan on shopping there for dry food and goods only.
While I should have been exhausted by this point, I could not bring myself to sleep and stayed up until about 3 a.m. London time. I then finally fell asleep until about 10:30 a.m. the next morning.
After waking up, I had some more time to finish unpacking, shower and get ready for the day. We had our first day of orientation at 2 p.m. It was held at Imperial College, just a few short blocks away from Manson Place.
This part of our orientation mainly covered what life in the “residence halls” would be like as well as helpful hints for adjusting to life in London. We were able to meet our Residence Life Supervisors and learn about programs offered in the residence halls and at the Foundation House where our classes are held.
Later in the afternoon, we walked to High Street, an area filled with different places to shop. A few of us still needed switch out our SIM cards for U.K. cards, and we ended up going to the provider “Three” for our SIM cards as they had the best coverage and deals for international individuals in the U.K.
In our welcome packets, we were given tickets to a play in the West End titled “The Play That Goes Wrong.” It was at 7:30 p.m. and we had to take the tube to get there. It was my first time taking the tube and I was relatively nervous to do so, but after riding there, I discovered how easy it was to do and I am slowly beginning to understand the big map and where the different lines go. This will help with getting to different parts of the city that are way too far to walk to.
The play…in my opinion, was not great. It was a lot of physical comedy and “dumb humor” as I like to refer to it as. The rest of the audience seemed to enjoy it though. Supposedly J.J. Abrams saw it and liked it so much he is paying for it to be brought to Broadway in New York…I don’t understand this but to each their own.
After the play, I rode the tube back to Gloucester Station with some of the girls from my flat and then enjoyed a quiet night in.
My next post should be up tomorrow and will talk about my day today exploring Hyde Park!