Today marks the one month point of my study abroad experience and I figured there would be no better time to actually start blogging. From day one this journey has been beyond anything I could have hoped for.
I’m traveling through a program called AIFS (American Institute for Foreign Study) and I highly recommend them to any first time student travelers out there. My first stop was in London for 3 days and it was easy to see why it is one of the largest cities/cultural meccas in the world. One would think that being in London for the first time would be slightly overwhelming, and don’t get me wrong it had it’s moments, but after the few days I spent there I felt an extreme sense of security and pride in my self. It had mainly to do with conquering the massive tube system and navigating the maze of streets and back alleys that really helped me to gain my travelers legs. What may seem like a small victory gave me the the boost I needed to go from doe-eyed tourist to someone who felt confident in the decision to leave home for four months to study on another continent.
Our first day in London was completely spontaneous. And it couldn’t have gone any better! We arrived at Heathrow International at about 8am on the 20th of January, and although many fell prey to the lure of a comfy hotel bed and jetlag, I was able to find a group just as excited to take on this snow covered city as I was. We started our day with only one goal in mind, to visit Platform 9 3/4’s (aka the portal Harry Potter goes through to get to Hogwarts) at Kings Cross Station. Being the huge nerd that I am I couldn’t wait. After much trekking through the sludge, I say sludge because snow in London isn’t really snow it’s more like watery patches of icy death, and a few spills on said sludge we made our way to the Station. From there we honestly had no clue what to do. Thinking back now I could have planned my time there more efficiently in order to see the things I really wanted but I’m glad I didn’t. It would have taken away from the excitement. So being the brave group we were, we hopped on the tube going to some unknown destination and ended up in one of the largest (and most expensive) shopping areas in London!
Piccadilly Circus! Since clearly we are all broke college kids and couldn’t buy anything we decided to have a look around at all the shops and dream of the day when a 200 euro jumper was chump change. They were all amazing, massive, and reminiscent of a mini times square. On our journey we just so happened to stumble into a filming for Britains Got Talent. Unforutunely the call to explore was to strong and we weren’t able to stay to see any of the judges arrive. Not gonna lie I was kinda bummed I didn’t get to see Simon Cowell.
The next day we went on a bus tour of the entire city and my tourist bone was pleased. We visited everything from The Buckingham Palace, to The London Eye, to The London Bridge, to my personal favorite Big Ben! Not quite sure why I love that building so much, maybe something to do with V for Vendetta and Doctor Who but either way it was a highlight.
And if the thrills of the day weren’t enough to satisfy anyone, the nightlife in London is sure to do the job. The first night I went out with my friends from the AIFS program Alexia, Laura, and Hilary after a large portion of our group oped to go back to the hotel for a goods nights rest. I must say I would take the night we had in London over a good nights sleep anyday. After navigating our way out of several dead bars, and several more gay bars, we made our way to the “Chinatown” area of London right off of SoHo and were given free admission to what at the time seemed like a shady club with not many people in it, but quickly turned in to the best decision we made all night. Not long after arriving at the club we were getting drinks bought for us and dancing the night away. We met several interesting characters from all over. The French guys with bad tastes in scarfs, the dancing Swedish machine and his girlfriend, and my personal favorite Jasper from Holland, who told me I had to recite a limerick for him since that is where I am going to school. Not only did we get in for free we got a little peice of paper that at the time only added to our excitement. Could we have possibly gotten access to a VIP part of the club? After our first drink at the upstairs bar we made our way down the stairs full of excitement thinking we were about to get the exclusive treatment! Turns out the exclusive treatment consisted of a little middle eastern man, and a coat check, but hey can’t knock a free coat check!
The rest of the night passed in waves of dancing, flirting, and drinking, and I thought it couldn’t get any better. That was until a couple from London walked in and turned our little night club into a movie moment. They were wearing matching colors, the girl in a belly top and silver genie pants, and the boy in slick hip hop wear and a fitted. They started dancing and it was like something out of the Step Up movies. I’ve never seen anything like it in real life and I’m pretty sure they even did the chest pump move actually from the movie. These two had skill, enough so to make the entire club stop and circle around them cheering them on and dancing with them. After the club we made our way back to our hotel some how figuring out the confusing city streets at 2am.
The next night was no disappointment either! We went to see Spamalot in the famous theater district of London at the Playhouse Theater. It was the perfect way to end our stay. A weekend full of laughs, dancing, and new adventures!