Two Weeks and a Weekend

Time flies when you’re having fun. It also flies when you’re thrust into a bustling, ever-changing metropolis that stretches over 600 square miles and is home to over eight million people. 

It’s been a little over two weeks since I’ve arrived to London, and it’s incredible how quickly I’ve gotten used to this incredible and sometimes overwhelming city. I’ve started to become accustomed to the slang here – lift instead of elevator, flat instead of apartment, take-away instead of to-go, toilets instead of bathroom – and some of the unspoken Londoner rules – walk on the left, stand on the right, always be polite. 

Before arriving, I had no sense of how London was structured, but now I’m starting to get a sense of the 33 boroughs that make up the city. My student housing is about a three-minute walk from King’s Cross Station in the Islington borough, and the IES Center where I take my classes is in Camden. My classes are both on Monday and Wednesday, and I’ve slipped into a routine of taking the Piccadilly line from King’s Cross to Holborn, then walking the rest of the way to the IES building. The Tube, which I was so nervous to ride when arriving from Heathrow, now is something I see as quick, easy, and reliable.

From orientation tours the first week and exploring on my own, I’ve seen some of the major London sites – Westminster Abbey, Kensington Gardens, Tower of London, Covent Gardens, Millennium Bridge, Platform 9 ¾ and the like. There are still so many places I’m planning to visit, as well the little gems to stumble upon while wandering London’s labyrinthian streets. After a weekend trip to Edinburgh with a few other girls in my program, I feel comfortable with the train system and would like to see the English countryside – maybe Oxford or Stratford-upon-Avon or Kent. 

But in many ways, I’m still learning and constantly adjusting to life in a foreign country. It’s an unusual sense to hear English spoken, but not the kind I’m used to. I find myself more at ease with Americans and find hearing an American accent in public oddly comforting. I feel a kind of homesickness – not for my specific home, but for the familiarity and effortlessness of America. Here in London, I have to think carefully while doing the simplest things, like grocery shopping or ordering at a restaurant. I am constantly aware of my American accent, and how much it sets me apart. 

Yet every day I hear Italian, French, Spanish, Russian, and so many other languages. From the very first day, I’ve seen how London is a mix of nationalities, races, and religions. There is a pulsating, cosmopolitan energy that almost reminds me of New York City.  I have already begun to immerse myself into the city, but there is so much more to see, do, and take in – and I can’t wait to experience it over the next five weeks. 

Rachel Carter standing in front of Platform 9 3/4.