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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Playing Tour Guide, Stonehenge & Bath

Its been just over a week since I last wrote a blog post, but so much has happened in that span of time! With only eight full days left in London, everything seems to be going at lighting speed around here. Let me catch you up.

First off, my family came to visit last week! I picked them up from Heathrow on Friday morning and threw them right into the mix as we took the tube into the center of London. They brought four suitcases with them, but we were able to “easily” manage lugging them up the tube stairs! (Really, we did!)

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With them here, I was back in tour-guide mode. Soon after dropping their bags at the hotel, we headed outside (literally out the back door as the hotel was on the London Eye Pier) to the London Eye! Luckily, we had pre-booked tickets and the line was pretty short so we were on the Eye in no time!

While the London Eye is definitely a really cool experience to take advantage of while in London, I’ve learned its not the only place to get great views of the city. For much less, or for free, you can visit other locations in London to get a sky high view. Two of my favorite vantage points include the top floor of the Switch House at the Tate Modern and the Sky Garden. Both are free to the public and great alternatives to the London Eye. If you are interested in going to the Sky Garden though, be sure to keep checking their website up to two weeks in advance in order to reserve spots.

After the London Eye, we walked around the South Bank for a while and then made our way over to Covent Garden. There, we went to a Three Phone store to get SIM cards for my mom and brother. For only 20 pounds, they were able to get a SIM card with 12 gigabytes of data on it to use for their week here. Later in the week, my family was leaving to travel to Ireland where their phone would also be usable. If you are staying in London for longer than a week or will be traveling in surrounding cities, getting an international SIM card is a great option rather than paying the outrageous data packages offered in the states for international travel.

On Saturday, I took my family on one of my favorite walking trips to see my favorite part of London! We took the tube from Westminster to Ladbroke Grove in Notting Hill. We started at the end of Portobello Road Market (my absolute favorite market London has to offer), and made our way all the way down until we reached Notting Hill High Street. From there we walked to the north entrance to Holland Park, a new favorite park of mine. In Holland Park, you can find the Kyoto Gardens, a Japanese garden complete with koi fish and peacocks! What more could you ask for?

We then made a pit stop at the Design Museum on Kensington High Street. This is my favorite museum in all of London as it focuses on both old and modern design of all types including furniture, electronics and logos just to name a few topics. The stop at the Design Museum was also a good break from all the walking we had already done.

From there, we walked to Hyde Park and visited Kensington Palace and the Kensington Gardens which were in full bloom. Everyone was getting hungry, so we made our way to Nando’s in South Ken for lunch!

Post lunch, we made a stop at Harrod’s, the worlds largest and most expensive department store, for my dad. It was quite the interesting place, with a large food court (fancy!), and tons of boutique stores inside (fancy! think Dolce Gabbana and Versace). Quite the day.

On Sunday morning, we got up early to take a train from Waterloo Station to Windsor. We were visiting one of Her Majesty the Queen’s royal residence’s, Windsor Castle. We were able to get there right as they began letting people in and didn’t have to wait in line for long. We toured the grounds, which were beautiful, and then went inside the State Apartments. The coolest part about the visit was that the Queen was actually there at the same time as we were! She spends Easter at Windsor Castle every year, so it was really cool to see her “standard,” aka her flag, outside signaling she was there!

On Tuesday after class, I took my family to Victoria Train Station where they took the Gatwick Express to the airport. They were off for Ireland for the next few days! It was so great to finally see them after being apart for almost four months! Only a week till I see them again, this time at home!

Today (Friday), I took a day trip to both Stonehenge and Bath with two friends from the flat across from mine. Abby, Brooke and I enjoyed having a photo shoot in front of the infamous rocks. They were big. Apart from that, there wasn’t much to Stonehenge apart from the beautiful rolling green and yellow hills. SO PRETTY. The English countryside is stunning in the spring!

We then boarded our bus again and traveled to the Roman City of Bath. Because it was a Bank Holiday, Bath was incredibly crowded. We had about three and a half hours in the city, but an hour and a half was devoted to touring the ancient Roman Baths. The Baths were really cool, but also really gross. The water was a bright green color and you could see filth floating around in it. We were specifically told not to touch the water as you were highly likely to get sick if you did. It was amazing how many people you could see ignoring these simple instructions and touching the hot, germ-infested, bath water. Why people, why?

As I write this post, I’m currently waiting for my laundry to be done so I can pack for my final trip abroad. Tomorrow I leave bright and early for Glasgow, Scotland! I’m taking the train and can’t wait to see Scotland! Apart from that, I also can’t wait to see Ed (again)! Until then!

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Because I had to include this photo.

A Stroll through Notting Hill & Camden

30 January 2017

Day 24 in London

As we had to stay in London this weekend for our day trip to Oxford on Saturday, I had my Friday off and decided to do some more exploring in London. The next borough to explore was Notting Hill and I went with a bunch of girls from my flat.

We took the tube to Notting Hill and decided to walk to Portobello Road which also just so happens to be where the Portobello Market is. I’m not usually one for markets as they tend to be way too crowded, but Portobello Market was quite cute and not too busy!

We came from Notting Hill Gate tube station, so we worked our way north up Portobello Road. There were both little permanent shops on the street with tables set up in front of them, as well as pop-up carts set up on the streets. There were little shops with books, jewelry, antiques, fruit, crepes, basically anything you could want.

We stopped in a little bakery where everything smelled amazing and then continued on our walk. It was so cool to stop and look at everything.

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I was so surprised at how bright and colorful Notting Hill was. Very different from the pristine white buildings I’m used to in Kensington.

We walked up almost the entire street and then decided to go back to the tube station and make our way to Camden for the last few hours of daylight we had.

Camden was…very very different and not quite what I had expected it to be. It was mainly full of young people with tattoos, piercings and individuals who looked pretty goth. There were open shops lining the main street, and once we crossed over a bridge, we entered a covered market area.

The one thing we had planned on doing in Camden was going to Chin Chin Lab. Prior to coming to London, someone had posted in our UW Facebook group page about Chin Chin Lab. They are known for their hot chocolate that has marshmallow fluff on the top.

The shop was packed, but we waited in line and made our way to the front. I’m not the biggest fan of marshmallow as it tends to give me sugar headaches, so I decided to go with their warm brownie-cookie with ice cream on it. It was amazing.

After Chin Chin Lab, we continued to walk through the covered market and wandered through different shops. I had read about the Cereal Killer Cafe online, and we stopped in just to take a couple cool pics of the cereal box lined walls. Its about 2.75 for one small bowl of cereal, so we weren’t interested in buying a bowl as you could get almost a whole box for the same amount.

We were exhausted at this point as it had been a long day of walking and exploring so we decided to head home. We didn’t spend much time in Camden, so I will definitely have to go back in the future and explore some more!

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.