I have quite a bit of catching up to do! So apologies for such a long post, but this is my first free moment where I’ve had time to catch a breath and write.
My mom and I arrived in Leeds Friday morning with no problems. The pastor that I had made contact with was there, with his wife and daughter, to pick us up from the airport and take us to our hotel. It was a great opportunity to get to know them and ask some questions about England. Once we settled in, we decided to take a walk around the city. Leeds is absolutely beautiful…and much larger than I expected! But the public transportation system is wonderful and we either walked or rode buses everywhere.
We walked around the city square some and visited the train station, where we bought our tickets to London. Then we hopped on a bus and rode to the university. We almost missed our stop because the university buildings almost blended in perfectly with the rest of the city. The campus is absolutely gorgeous! It’s more urban than Butler, because it’s connected to downtown, but at the same time it gives off that distinct academic atmosphere.
Since it’s such a large university (35,000 students), I expected there to be lots of roads and for the buildings to be spread far apart. But in reality, everything is catered towards pedestrians, and although there are a lot of buildings and people around, everything is relatively compact and enjoyable to walk around. I found the building where most of my classes will be in, although we did not visit where I will be staying because it is farther off campus.
That night we ate at Bella Italia, which was delicious, and walked through the shopping district. Before long, our lack of sleep caught up with us and we turned in for the night.
We had planned on getting up early to visit the shopping district while shops were open, but ended up sleeping in a little. We did have time to go out, and I was really excited to visit the Leeds City Kirkgate Market. It’s an indoor market with various food and other shops all throughout. I didn’t buy anything, but I am sure I will be back later this semester.
That afternoon we rode the train to London, which ended up taking us most of the evening to arrive at our hotel. We took the tube to Heathrow and from there rode a bus to our hotel.
This was the day I was looking forward to the most…exploring London with my mom!
The night before, we made a list of where we wanted to go and what we wanted to see. Since my mom was only going to be in London for one day, we wanted to make sure we hit most of the big things. After looking at the tube maps and deciding on our time schedule, this was our list of to dos:
- Find the IFSA-England Office (that way I wouldn’t have to do this alone for the first time on Monday)
- Visit the Natural History Museum (mostly to see the architecture, not the exhibits)
- Visit the Victoria & Albert Museum (Mom was really excited to go to an art museum)
- Visit the National Gallery (and see Trafalgar square)
- Visit the British Museum (I was excited to get to see the Rosetta Stone)
- See Big Ben
- See the Houses of Parliament (it was Sunday, so it wasn’t open for us to go in)
- See Westminster Abbey (which also is not open for tours on Sundays)
- See Buckingham Palace (isn’t open during the winter)
My favorite was seeing Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. We saved them for last because it didn’t matter what time of day we saw them since we couldn’t go in. But they were absolutely gorgeous! They just took my breath away!
Mom loved the National Gallery. We went on a free tour there and had a great guide. It was a large group, so our guide had us look at three large paintings. He explained some information about them, but then let us do the “figuring out” and allowed us to ask questions. It was a really fun and interactive experience, and we did learn a lot.
We hadn’t eaten any fish and chips yet, so we ordered them for room service that night…and I must say, they were wonderful!
My mom flew out this morning from Heathrow, which was kind of a hard experience. When I left home, it didn’t quite feel like I was saying goodbye to my family yet, because my mom was still with me. Once she left this time, it really hit home that I was on my own in England, which is a both sad and exciting feeling. I made it to the IFSA office with only a few tube problems. I think I may have built up some muscles though, carry my three bags up all those stairs. Several people were kind enough to stop and lend me a hand. I was really grateful for that!
Once I arrived at the office, Oran explained our schedule and walked me to my hotel accommodations. Being here has really made me appreciate the Marriott and Rennaissance hotels we have stayed in so far. The rooms are very small, but they will do for the next two days.
We had some free time this afternoon, so I walked around with the other Leeds students as they got their cell phones. I had already picked one up in Leeds, but I think we all ended up with very similar ones.
We ate dinner at Pizza Express with the whole IFSA group and had a great time. There are only 11 students here right now for orientation, so everyone is getting to know each other. Afterwards, some of the group went out, but I decided to come back to the hotel and update you all!
So far, I have loved almost everything about England! Things can be a little expensive at times, but everything is so beautiful and people are just everywhere. I am excited to actually be on campus and to get to know Leeds a little better. This next weekend I’m traveling to Glasgow, Scottland with the pastor and his family to attend a youth rally there. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to experience so much in such a little time.
I promise to write more often and add some pictures to this post once I’m in a full internet environment. Right now, I just paid a pound to use 20 minutes, so I’m trying to be wise with my time.