If you haven't been paying much attention to my social media or blog lately, maybe you don't know that I'm finally in England. It's taken nine months in total to make this trip become a reality, but it's finally here. I've finally made my way to the University of Sunderland in Sunderland, England to spend three months studying and traveling Europe.
Today I just wanted to share a few of my initial thoughts and experiences and tell you about my journey across the pond, so I guess we'll just start there:
To get to Sunderland, it took two flights and a bus. This made for a very long travel day. I started my adventure at my house around 10:30 when we left for O'Hare. The driving part wasn't bad, but these were the first few moments when I started to feel some anxiety about going. I have been abroad before, but I had only been to France for two weeks with a group of people I already knew and spent the entirety of my time with. I was willingly sending myself into an uncomfortable situation by going to England—I had absolutely no one with me. I made the journey by myself knowing that I would be faced with complete strangers on the other side. I'm very introverted in nature, so of course, this was the main cause of my anxiety.
My flight was actually not bad. I flew American Airlines from Chicago O'Hare to London Heathrow. It was seven hours, but it didn't feel that long. Much to my mom's dismay, I paid to have a window seat because even though we were above the clouds for 95 percent of our flight, I wanted to see the city I was leaving behind and the country I was going to, even if it was just for a moment. Airplane food isn't great, but it wasn't terrible, and I had the pleasure of sitting next to a nice old man whose granddaughter almost went to North Central and who wished me well on my journey. As the plane descended toward our landing, I got to see one of the most beautiful sights ever. London, even at 5:30 a.m. BST, was lit up. It was kind of like those pictures you see of the Earth from space when a lot of the lights are turned on at night. I think I also caught a glimpse of Big Ben and the London Eye in the dark. No sign of the queen or Kate Middleton yet, but I still have a whole three months left.
Aside from the long line, customs was actually easy. The man was very nice and seemed genuinely excited (at 6:30 in the morning) about my study abroad trip. Everyone in Heathrow actually seemed quite pleasant. It was a little shocking coming from O'Hare where they yelled at me for taking to long to collect all my stuff at security. The actual airport itself is also quite large. It's like a mall inside of an airport, much like at Charles de Gaulle, so I could've shopped 'til I dropped while waiting for my connecting flight, but I didn't have enough time. What I did have time for, though, was losing my boarding pass. This was my first "oh shit" moment, as my grandpa and I have been calling it, of the trip. I called my mom at 2:00 a.m. CST freaking out, but luckily I just left it at a charging station and it was magically still there when I returned.
My connecting flight was only an hour long and let me just say that we got THE BEST snack on the plane. It was a ham & cheese toastie, so basically a toasted ham & cheese sandwich which is a pretty basic thing, but it was delicious. I got another window seat as well (paid for again because I'm extra) and I saw lots of green/sheep/hedges/tiny houses and it was beautiful. The landscape looked like a grid with all of its perfect little squares creating a quilt of British countryside.
Next was the bus ride. We (me and other study abroad students) were taken by a coach bus from Newcastle airport to Clanny House, our place of residence for the duration of our stay. We arrived around 11:00 a.m. BST and by noon, I was getting settled into my room. The first thing I did? Put sheets on my bed and took a frickin' nap because I barely slept more than an hour of that 13+ hours that it took me to get here.
So I'll go into some of my initial thoughts now that I've talked about my traveling adventure:
First off, they drive on the left side of the road. I almost was hit yesterday because I was looking the wrong direction across the street. Look right, not left or you will become the stupid American that is hit by a car. Buses seem to be one of the easiest ways to get around the city. I was under the impression that Sunderland was mostly a college town since I didn't see it in my guide book and it hardly came up on any maps unless I specifically searched for it. In reality, I think it's close to the size of Naperville, maybe larger, but it's definitely not walkable. We walked two miles to get to some clubs on Sunday(??) night for Freshers, the week where all freshman/incoming students are let loose in Sunderland to party for free and get discounted drinks, and I now have a few blisters on my feet. Freshers has been fun so far, with lots of parties each night, but as I said before, I'm an introvert and not really into the party scene, so I said "bye, Felicia," and took a taxi back home because I was NOT walking again.
Another difference that I've noticed is the spellings of basically everything. As a journalism student, the AP Style Guide has become my bible and therefore the one place that spells everything correctly. The most annoying spelling is "tyre" as in "tire" as in the wheels on your car and why is it spelled with a "y?" It's the journalist in me. I'm sure I'll struggle this difference when school starts and I'm having to write papers where everything must be spelled in ye olde English.
So far, the hardest part of this experience has been making friends. This has always been difficult for me. I'm too shy to talk to people myself, so I wait for them to approach me and then get upset when no one talks to me even though I hate talking to new people. It's a little confusing and crazy, but it's my personality, so I can't just "get over it" like people tell me to do. Luckily, I've made friends with fellow Americans in my flat and hope to make friends from other countries as well as we are in classes and activities together. I actually met a really cool German girl yesterday in my first orientation class when we were forced to talk to someone we've never met before for THREE WHOLE MINUTES. I really wanted to melt into the ground and die when they told us we would do this, but Jil was super interesting and actually thought that studying fashion was cool unlike basically everyone else I talked to. She also had great style, so I think we're going to be friends.
I hope you enjoyed a break from the fashion and beauty posts and enjoyed just hearing my experience. I'll try to do more of these as my time progresses and I'm open to any suggestions of things you want to hear about! Even though this wasn't a heavy photo post and didn't involve any of the usual stuff here on my blog, prepare for a bunch of great outfit and beauty posts throughout the next three months. I have a lot in store for you guys!