Tales From Abroad: Tripod Staffer Ventures Across the Pond
Greetings from London! I'm spending the next four months here, enjoying fish and chips (I highly recommend them with vinegar. wipe that look of disgust off of your face, it's very British and DELICIOUS), the Underground, and an overwhelming number of free museums. I live in a dorm, I go to university classes, I speak English to people, I go grocery shopping, I watch Gilmore Girls on my computer (I won't lie, I watch it A LOT), and I go shopping and to pubs and cafes with friends. Sounds just like America, right? I've gotten a lot of, "You're in England; it can't be THAT different. At least you speak the same language." True, thank goodness I speak English because if I couldn't, I cannot imagine even trying to understand the dizzying variety of different accents here that sound nothing like American English. Life here in England, while certainly similar to life in Connecticut, has been quite the entertaining adjustment, and I've been vacillating between rolling on the floor laughing at myself and wanting to slam my head against a wall. Let's start with dorm life. I live in the international students dorm (we are prime targets for planned fire drills at eight in the morning, because evidently none of us get the concept that electrical plugs here are different from our home countries', and we start fires trying to make our hairdryers work - who knew). In my flat, there are nine single rooms, each with their own niftily compact single bathrooms. We share a hallway and a kitchen. And that is about all we share. I've met all but one of them by now (it's only taken three weeks) and they're all entertaining in their own right. Some of my favorites are the Polish girl who lives next to me and listens to traditional Polish folk music (this is actually really interesting and I've downloaded a few songs because I really like them). There's the German guy who I can't really understand, though he's very chatty when we're both in the kitchen cooking. Then there's my favorite - the jumper. There's this one kid from India who literally looks terrified EVERY time he sees me in the hallway and jumps about a foot into the air if I make any noise when he sees me. You'd think he was expecting that all the other eight rooms in the flat were empty. Unlike at Trinity, I basically don't see my roommates. Ever. However, having my own bathroom is a luxury and my room is very cute and everything is very new - on the whole, different, but not better or worse (my motto for my time here, thank you Study Abroad Orientation pamphlet, I'm swiping that phrase from you).
University classes. I'm at Queen Mary, which is a part of the University of London. We only have two hours of class a week and only two assignments per class for the entire time I'm here. I also have all of April off to "work on my final papers" (yeah, sure, I'll be working on my tan in Italy thank you very much), and then they dedicate the entire month of May to final exams. Luckily I only have final papers, because the exams sound pretty intimidating - they lock you in this really big room with a bunch of other students not taking the same exam as you and don't let you leave your seat for three hours. No, thank you, I will stick with my final essays. My classes rather randomly all turned out to be taught in either Middle English or Old English, with the exception of my Virginia Woolf class, which has proved to be just as confusing as the Medieval play I just finished reading about the Nativity. My professors are absolutely wonderful, though of course no professor could ever hold a candle to a Trinity professor (cough, don't mind me while I grease the wheels for some good grades next semester).
Shopping here is amazing - there are really cheap open-air markets everywhere and everyone here dresses much more nicely to go to class (this puts a lot of pressure on me at 8 a.m., but has been a great excuse to go buy a few new dresses).
My favorite experience so far, without question, was getting to see Obama's inauguration amongst an international crowd. Here's a little excerpt from my blog - it may be a tad sappy, but I think the occasion called for it.
"I watched the speech in the Chapel here on campus with a bunch of other international students who don't have access to a television. First of all, I should add that there were only three or four Americans in the room, so it was really touching that there were a pretty good number of other students excited about today. We listened to Obama speak and heard the poet and the preacher speak as well. Then our national anthem came on.
I questioned for a second whether I should stand or not, as in the past I've been careful not to single myself out as an American. But I decided to stand and as I did, so did the other Americans ... and so did the Muslim woman in the back of the room .and so did the Australian Reverend of Queen Mary ... and so did the woman from Kenya, the British students in front of me, the woman from Poland on my left, and the man from China on my right. Everyone stood for OUR national anthem. I have never in my entire life been so proud to be an American and suffice it to say, that as I (quietly, because I didn't want to ruin the moment with my completely inept singing) sang along with our national anthem, there were a few tears."
Well, in the interest of word count, I'd better leave it at that. While I miss Trinity, Connecticut, and most of all, each one of my friends, I am really enjoying getting to see a different way of life, all the while laughing at my mistakes and remembering my mantra: "It's different, but not better or worse. It's just different.
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