Last time I blogged I was getting ready to depart for London..and now I’ve finally made it!
I have a really awful habit of not being able to sleep sitting up, so I was awake for over 24 hours last Tuesday. My first flight from O’Hare to JFK was quite unadventurous, but my flight from JFK to Heathrow was quite different. I arrived in terminal 3 at JFK and had to make my way to terminal 4 for the group flight. If you’ve ever been to JFK before, please agree with me when I say it’s extremely confusing changing terminals. Like most busy airports you have to take a train around, but at JFK you also have to go through security again. This was quite hectic for me and made me a little irritated, however once I arrived at the right terminal I met so many college students, who were going to be in London with me.
We took a Virgin Atlantic flight, so we had our own personal TVs. I watched the first 3 episodes of Nashville and The Internship during the flight. Regardless of my lack of sleep, I was entertained the entire time. When we landed we were met by IFSA staff at baggage claim who directed us to a bus that took us to the St. Giles Hotel.
Unfortunately, the St. Giles does not have wifi, and it costs an arm and a leg to buy it, so many people were not able to contact their parents that they had made it safely. The first stop for many people, including myself, was the phone store across the street. Luckily, I have a Verizon iPhone 5, so I was able to get an international sim card with unlimited data and a certain number of texts and minutes. Trust me when I say that apps like Viber will become your best friend for staying in contact with loved ones at home. With my unlimited data I was able to call my parents and text my best friends. If you don’t have an unlocked phone don’t worry, the phone store also sells pay as you go phones, which you can top up at basically any grocery store or drug store in London.
The information we received at orientation is kind of a blur for me now. One thing that was preached to us was that British people are shyer than Americans. This has been proven wrong by my flatmates, who are beyond friendly and love Americans. Besides the information there are a couple of other interesting things that happened on orientation.
- You are placed with a roommate upon arriving at the hotel. I would advise you not to change roommates even if you have a close friend on the program with you. My roommate, Sydney, and I became friends fast and have been in contact ever since despite the fact she is studying abroad at University of Sussex.
- You meet so many people at orientation. I met a great group of girls while I was there. One of them even lives 20 minutes away from where I live in Illinois. So don’t be afraid to go out of your box and hang out with people besides those who come from your home institution.
- IFSA gives you the option to attend a play on Thursday night. Even if you don’t grasp the concept of British humour, go! The play we went to was entitled Spamalot. I haven’t seen Monty Python, but I found the play hilarious. Another plus is that the bridge across from the theatre has incredible views of the city.
- On the last day there is a walking tour. We didn’t get to see anything very touristy, but it was still fun seeing some famous sites. My favorites were China Town, the place where Elton John composed “Your Song”, and the Australia House aka Gringotts in the Harry Potter films.
- IFSA allows you a lot of free time. My friends and I took this as an opportunity to check out the various pubs in central London. Each has its own “feel” to it. My favorite was The Court, which is located on Tottenham Court (pronounced Tottnam). It had great music, young people, and cool artwork in the ladies room.
All these pictures can be viewed below:
All in all, this past week has been filled with activities. I’m still adjusting to the time zone, so I will update you with move in, Queen Mary, and my flatmates in my next post.