What a whirlwind it has been since I arrived in London and now Cardiff! I’ll try my best to give a good recap in this post and the next. A lazy (/busy) reader’s summary of this post can be found at the very bottom. Cheers.
IFSA Butler Orientation, London: DAY 1
I was lucky on the flight to London in two ways: firstly, I happened to be seated next to another girl who was going abroad to the UK through IFSA Butler, and secondly because we had a very strong tail-wind and got to the UK in only 6 hours! This was especially great because our flight was delayed, but in the end we made up the time so it didn’t matter so much. The flight itself was pretty standard. I dozed in my seat, watched TV shows, and listened to the entirety of the Sweeney Todd Original Broadway soundtrack on my iPod.
When we arrived in London, we waited a bit for our luggage, then breezed through customs and were greeted just beyond by a lovely jolly man named Rob, who was holding an IFSA Butler sign. He took us by coach right to our hotel in London, where Cambria from the IFSA staff met us, and gave us our IFSA Orientation info packets.
My London roommates and I, as well as the girls from another room, immediately went out into London in search of mobile phones–we found a shop fairly quickly and all purchased pay-as-you-go mobiles. I chose to go with Lebara because calls and texts to the US were the cheapest of any of the carriers, and calls/texts within the UK were about the same/a little less than the other carriers. Thus far it has worked out very well! Following the phone purchasing we realized we were all absolutely starving, as it was about 3pm by this point and none of us had really had a proper breakfast (or any at all), so we stopped in a little place called Cafe Aphrodite where we had some very delicious sandwiches–fresh tomato and crumbly, salty feta cheese on hot crusty bread for me.
After our tasty lunch, we headed back to the hotel where my roommates and I took brief naps and freshened up, because that night the IFSA Butler staff took us out to dinner at a dim sum restaurant called Ping Pong! It was such a lovely dinner. The IFSA staff members were so nice and the food was very good! Following that, a small group of us went off to a pub, The Walmer Castle, where we were told Jude Law sometimes goes (though sadly Mr. Law was nowhere in sight during our visit). It was still quite early for pub-going, but we were all pretty jet lagged and after going for a bit of a walk for an hour we headed back to the hotel and turned in. Thus concluded Day 1 of IFSA Butler London Orientation. I should also note that the weather was absolutely beautiful when we arrived–sunny and cool! No rain!
IFSA Orientation, London: DAY 2
Ah, Day 2! What a day it was. This was a rather grey day, but that was to be expected really. At least it didn’t rain! We spent the morning through mid-afternoon at the IFSA Butler office in Notting Hill Gate getting briefed on various aspects of studying abroad–differences in the US and UK academic systems, traveling information, that sort of this. We had a discussion about personal safety with a very interesting man who used to be a cop-he was very informative but also quite funny, and looked rather like a film character when he put on his trench coat and fedora-like hat to leave. Our last speaker of the day was Lord Dick Taverne, a member of the House of Lords, who talked to us about current political, social, and economic concerns in the UK; that, too, was a very interesting talk. While it may sound like spending all day until 4pm cooped up in meetings would be boring, every one of the meetings we had at the IFSA Butler offices was both extremely helpful AND interesting.
That afternoon, we got to go on a walking tour of London! Although we didn’t go into most of these places, we at least got to see and hear a bit about Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, 10 Downing Street, Trafalgar Square, and the Strand, and it was really cool to just be out and about getting to experience the city. The tour also involved my very first trip on the London Underground! Sadly my camera died halfway through the tour, however, so I am without many pictures to show for it. After a quick dinner at Pizza Express, we all hopped over to the Vaudeville Theatre where we saw a play called Broken Glass (by Arthur Miller), which was quite an intense drama about a Brooklyn couple involving issues of race, personal identity, love, tragedy, and issues surrounding Kristallnacht in Germany. All in all, it was quite a fun time, though I was very eager to get to Cardiff! I definitely would like to spend some more time and London and see/do more.
And that was pretty much it for IFSA Butler London Orientation! The next morning we all departed for our respective host universities, each escorted by a member (or two) of the IFSA Butler staff. While I know I could’ve gone abroad without being in a program like this one, I really think it was a good idea to go through a program. Being picked up right at the airport, informed about issues such as safety/security/travel, and being escorted directly to my host University by a knowledgable person made arriving in a new country much less stressful than it could have been, and everyone at IFSA has been so kind and willing to help. It’s nice having that “safety net.”
As it is now getting quite late here I think I must end this post for now. Tomorrow I will try to write another one and talk about what I have been doing during my first three days at Cardiff! Until then!
Lazy Reader Summary (LRS): IFSA Butler made arriving in a foreign country very easy. I had some very good food, met some great people, and learned & saw quite a lot within a very short space of time. I must return to London. Up Next: Cardiff, the first three days.