When the Jet-lag Hits & Reverse Culture-Shock

Just over a week ago, I woke up for the last time in Kensington, London. It was the last time I woke up on my terrible bed with the springs sticking out of it. The last time I walked out the doors of Room E in Flat 17 of Manson Place.

I dragged my two 47 pound suitcases, my 26 pound backpack and my relatively light duffel bag down the six flights of stairs to the street. Then I was off to South Kensington station to take my last ride on the tube via the Piccadilly line to Heathrow Terminal 5 and board a flight to Chicago.

Most of the tube stations don’t have elevators and instead have stairs and escalators to get from the street level down to the trains. South Kensington Station is no different. I somehow managed to get both suitcases, my backpack and my duffel bag down the many stairs and onto the tube. I was on my way home!

I had an eight hour flight from London Heathrow to Chicago O’Hare Airport and was stuck in the middle seat. The joys.

 


 

Fast forward 10 days and I am still struggling to readjust to life at home. I never imagined it would have been as difficult for me as it has been. Between my struggle to get back on U.S. time (I continue to wake up at 4 a.m. no matter how hard I try to stay asleep), the various visits to the chiropractor due to the effects left on my body because of my heavy suitcases (“every chiropractor’s worst nightmare” as I was told), the tube stairs and stress, and the mess that is my room after dropping four months of my life on its floor, adjusting back to life at home has not been easy.

Prior to leaving for London, I had read that both transitioning to a new place when studying abroad and then transitioning when coming home can be difficult. The transition for me from home to London was most definitely not easy. I missed my family, friends, familiar foods and stores, as well as the simple things in life such as my bed. For some reason, I believed that it would be a simple transition when coming home. Why I thought I wouldn’t be affected this time, I do not know.

Many call this transition home from being abroad for a while “reverse culture shock” and its something I really didn’t think I would experience. My home is my home, something I’ve known for 20 years. How could it ever be difficult to come back to something I know so well? But, the last four months I spent away from the places, people and culture I knew, and London slowly became a place I allowed myself to call home. I didn’t realize that doing so would make coming home so difficult.

Every day, I still wake up thinking I’ll walk outside, make the short stroll to South Ken Station, and catch the District Line to explore some new place in London. Instead, I’ve traded in my Oyster Card for a set of car keys, the six flights of stairs up to my flat for a treadmill work-out and my raincoat for — oh wait, no, I’ve still been putting my raincoat to good use with all the rainy weather Wisconsin has been having.

One of the biggest things that I have had to adjust to, is how much free time I now have. In London, it was rare that I would have an hour to myself to watch a show on Netflix, take a nap or message friends. Since being home, I suddenly have too much free time than I know what to do with. AKA, I’ve already caught up on this season’s new episodes of Scandal and BOY ARE THEY GOOD. What I haven’t done, is finish unpacking or putting away all of my things from the last four months. I’ll get to it eventually, I swear.

I know that eventually, things will get back to normal, its only a matter of time. It will be easier when the rest of my friends are home from college, I start my summer internship and job and am busy again. Until then, I’m off to finish Gilmore Girls and run some more miles on the treadmill!

Cheers London, and thank you for an amazing four months!

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Finally, a tourist in London

Last Saturday morning, I went to Heathrow to pick up my boyfriend, Ethan, from the airport. I was incredibly excited to see him as it had been just over three months since I had last seen him, but I was also excited to show him the wonderful city I currently call home, London.

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Since arriving in London in January, I have primarily been living life in London as someone who both works and studies here. Personally, I have not felt like a tourist here, someone who is only here for a few days to a week, frantically trying to see all the main attractions and sights. Instead, I’ve found myself seeking out different boroughs in London to explore in order to get a full taste of the area, rather than specific attractions. Because of this, I was actually quite excited to “be a tourist for the week” as I haven’t visited many of the main sites London is famous for.

While Ethan was here, I attempted to balance showing him some of the unique, pretty and eclectic boroughs I have visited and enjoyed with the well-known sites of London such as Big Ben, the London Eye, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace and so on.

The same day that he landed, I was able to combine these two ideas as we headed to Borough Market first thing. Borough Market is on the South Bank of the Thames River and is best known for its diverse food options ranging from fresh fruits and vegetables to delicious pastries and full cooked meals from different parts of the world. Being that it was a Saturday morning, it was quite busy, so I was throwing Ethan into the hustle and bustle of London as he had just gotten off an eight hour plane ride. After walking through Borough Market and sampling some delicious pastries, we headed across Tower Bridge and then past the Tower of London which was also really busy.

As if I hadn’t overwhelmed Ethan enough, I took him to a Fulham vs Wolverhampton football match in the afternoon. It was the first football (soccer) match I had been to while in London and the atmosphere was absolutely amazing. While we couldn’t understand any of the cheers, we shouted along anyways. Our seats were between the corner flag and the goal and only about six rows back, aka fantastic seats.

On Sunday, we took a train out to Cambridge for a day trip. While I had previously been to Oxford, I was more excited to go to Cambridge and just have a relaxing day walking around looking at the pretty old school buildings. We wandered through the main part of town and then went towards the river to watch the punters (the people on the gondola-esque boats with the long poles). We had brunch at a really  cute restaurant and then spent the rest of the day walking around.

Ethan’s birthday is in early April, and  as I will not be home for it, I decided to surprise him by getting tickets to a West End show while he was here. His favorite childhood Disney movie was Aladdin, and they just so happen to have Aladdin playing at the Prince Edward Theatre, so I bought tickets for us to go on Monday night. He absolutely loved the show and I was very happy with how surprised he was when we turned the corner and he saw the Aladdin sign over the theatre entrance!

On Tuesday, we took the classic tourist route. First, we stopped at Buckingham Palace, then walked through St. Jame’s Park and then walked through Westminster. In Westminster, we first stopped outside Westminster Abbey and then Westminster Palace to look at the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. We then made our way over Westminster Bridge to get a different view of Big Ben, then went back across to continue walking down Whitehall Street, stopping at 10 Downing Street where the Prime Minister lives, the Horse Guards Parade and finally, we ended at Trafalgar Square. The National Gallery overlooks Trafalgar Square, so we went inside and wandered around a bit before making the walk east to St. Paul’s Cathedral with our final destination being the Sky Garden.

The Sky Garden is one of the few skyscrapers in London and is uniquely shaped, some call it the walkie talkie. It is best known for its top-floor viewing deck and restaurant that boasts a large indoor green garden. It is quite difficult to get tickets to go up to the top, despite the tickets being free. They sell out weeks in advance. Luckily, I had been watching the website and was able to book two tickets for us at 4:45 p.m. so we were able to see all of London in both the daytime and as the sun was setting. If you ever come to London and are looking for a fantastic view of London and don’t want to spend money to go up in the London Eye, I highly suggest getting tickets to go up to the Sky Garden! (Its the cheaper and better version of its skyscraper neighbor the Shard.)

Throughout the rest of the week, I was able to take Ethan to see the area where I work, in the borough of Shoreditch. I work on Brick Lane, which is known for its Indian Food, the Spitalfields Market and street art. While I wasn’t able to show him around most of the day, we still managed to see the market and some street art. On Thursday after I got out of my internship, we took the tube to Camden town where we wandered through Camden Market. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of Camden, it is quite different from the rest of London. There is more of a hipster and goth influence and is usually quite busy. Ethan had similar feelings about the area, so we didn’t spend much time here and ended up walking to Regents Park and Primrose Hill where we were able to watch the sunset. Primrose Hill also has amazing views of the London skyline and is well worth the climb to the top of the hill.

Saturday morning, we got up bright and early to make it to Portobello Market in Notting Hill. Of all the markets in London that I have been to, Portobello Market tops my list and it ended up being one of Ethan’s favorite places in London as well. We slowly made our way through the crowds of people as we walked down the street. We stopped to get donuts from a street vendor, and they ended up being the best apple and jam (not jelly, that’s not a thing here!) filled donuts we had ever had. Highly suggest! When looking for nice and cheap souvenirs in London, I also suggest going to Portobello Street Market as they have many permanent shops that sell sweatshirts, mugs, t-shirts, etc. and for good prices! After Notting Hill, we made our way back to Westminster and across to the area by the London Eye. We were going to do the London Eye, but had not made reservations and sadly they had sold out for the day. Instead, we decided to do a boat tour of London that actually ended up being really pretty. It was also such a nice day out and I swear I got sunburned as we sat on the top deck of the boat!

The next morning, Sunday, Ethan and I took the tube back out to Heathrow where he was flying out of. We had such a full, fun week and I still cannot believe how much we were able to fit in, despite the fact that I was still in classes and an internship on the weekdays!

The Longest Day of My Life (+Another Day)

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.

file_000-1As 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 file_001one 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! file_003

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.

Day Two

After wakinfile_005-1g 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. file_008

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 opiniofile_005n, 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.

 

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My next post should be up tomorrow and will talk about my day today exploring Hyde Park!

 

London Calling

Tuesday. Tuesday. Tuesday.

That’s the day I leave for a city I’ve been dreaming about for years: London, England.

For the past week, I have procrastinated packing my allotted two suitcases with everything I will need for the next four months. For an over-packer, this is not the easiest task in the world, but I’m getting there (almost, sorta, kinda, not really…).

People have constantly been asking me how I’m feeling about leaving for London for the past month. Am I excited? Am I nervous? Anxious? Ready? Prepared?

My answer? A mix of all of the above.

I’ve never flown on a plan by myself before.

I’m extremely nervous about losing my luggage.

How does one get from Heathrow to Kensington?

I need to get a new phone service and number.

Classes last three hours-what how will I make it through that?

Rumor is they don’t have peanut butter?

Oh, and they talk funny there.

The list goes on.

For a person who hates change, this is a big step. But I’m ready(ish) for it.

I am taking part in the UW in London Study Abroad program and couldn’t be more excited! Over the past month, and especially this week, I have felt a mix of emotions as I’ve said goodbye to friends and family. I’m extremely excited to make the big trip across the pond, but I’m also incredibly sad to have had to say goodbye to so many friends and family that I won’t see for a while.

So, what will I be doing/how does my program work?

My program is split up into two parts. The first seven weeks consist of four classes each worth three UW-Madison credits. Because my program is through the Foundation for International Education and is affiliated with UW-Madison, I don’t have to worry about all of my credits transferring back like I would if I were studying abroad through a different program.

After these first seven weeks, I have a week-long break (which is basically our spring break but is at the end of February.) I hope to do a lot of traveling during this time and would really like to spend a lot of this week in Spain using my Spanish!

For the next seven weeks after this week-long break, I will be enrolled in three classes and then be placed in an internship which will take up three days each week. The internship aspect of this program is what most excited me about this program and was ultimately a deciding factor in choosing this program over the other London programs offered at UW-Madison.

For the internship, I chose between either a service internship or a regular internship. I went with the regular internship and was able to rank my first three internship choices as Music, Communications and Journalism and Media. Once I arrive in London they will inform me where I have been placed and I will have a short interview with the employer to make sure it is a good fit. I cannot wait to find out where I will be placed!

Also upon arriving in London on Wednesday morning, I will find out who my roommates are! I will have either one, two, or three other roommates. Being that I had a single room this past semester, having three or even one roommate will be a big change. I’ll be living in a flat in the borough of Kensington (the same neighborhood as Prince William and Kate OMG), and hope to bump into David Beckham while grocery shopping (one of our academic advisers has actually done this-AMAZING).

While in London, I not only plan to explore the amazing city, it’s history and culture, but also explore surrounding cities and countries. High up on my list include places like Ireland, Spain, Denmark, France and Germany. I’m sure that list will change and expand but I also want to not only be in London but truly live in London for a majority of my time abroad.

I am going to blog about my time abroad as often as possible, so be sure to keep up with the Study Abroad in London tab on mostlymotto to hear about my classes, internship, travels and everything else I do while studying abroad in one of the greatest cities in the world: London.