Thursday, September 17, 2009

London and "Freshers Week"

It has been another great week in England! Over the weekend I met up with my good friend Meggie Mapes and two of her friends who are involved in the St Cloud State University study away program in England. After a 5.5 hour bus ride I arrived at the gates of the Victoria Coach Station Underground stop to navigate my way to a “Pizza Express” in an unknown location. There I was, a girl from “unconsolidated Greene County, Missouri” in the middle of London trying to figure out where to go. I was surprised to find myself unafraid. When I look back on my trip to London, I feel that if I can plan a trip to the largest city in Europe by myself… maybe I am capable of more than I ever imagined. Thus far, this semester has been a game of discovering my fears and beating them; fear of being in a new place, fear of knowing no one, fear of isolation, fear of leaving Missouri State. And through the London Underground sometimes I made a wrong turn, or I got on the wrong train, but in the end these mistakes didn’t matter.

On Friday Meggie, Jamie, Kristen, and I went to a nice dinner together and went back to the hostel to get ready for the evening. We hadn’t made any plans and decided to take the Underground and see what we could find. At random, we decided to get off at the Piccadilly Circus stop. WOW! As we came out from the underground station Times Square-like lights and ornate London buildings surrounded us. We got tickets to see a comedy show where we met several groups of interesting people that wanted to show us around London. I had been told that London wasn’t a friendly city but I was surprised that we were treated so kindly. I believe London was far more friendly than any city I have ever experienced. Saturday afternoon we went on a walking tour of the city with views of Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, St. James Garden, Cabinet War Room, Parliament, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey. Toward the early evening we parted ways so that I could attend a tour of East London highlighting the history of plague, death, overcrowding, poverty, and Jack the Ripper murders of the city. Later that night we went back to Piccadilly Circus to find something to do and saw pedicycles which are bikes with a open area where passengers can sit. Meggie described riding the Pedicycles as being, “her dream!” The Polish pedicycle drivers drove us around London racing our two bikes. Almost everyone on the street high-fived us! I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as hard or had as much fun as I had on that stupid little bike. Sunday morning I said goodbye to the St. Cloud girls and went to church services at Westminster Abbey. The cathedral was breathtaking, I struggled to pay attention to the service as my eyes feasted upon the mosaics and arches. We sang the familiar hymm, “O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come!” Anytime I have missed home while abroad, I have turned to the church. Hymns, and favorite Bible verses create a sense of comfort in me like nothing else. Regardless of where I am God will be my “hope for years to come.” Wherever I go I feel that God is truly with me. After church I wandered through a London street festival, saw the Globe Theater, and spent several hours in the Tate Modern art museum.

It was great to get to reconnect with Meggie in such a wonderful city. It’s hard having friends move away and I’m consistently afraid that I will lose touch with the people that I love, but standing together in front of Trafalgar square was just like old times. We may not have seen each other in a year but our friendship is still there. Every once in a while Meggie would say to us, “Hey… we’re in London!” Living in England has become so natural to me that I forget that I am not at home.

This week is Freshers Week which is a week long orientation and celebration for new students. Because I am an exchange student and not enrolled in a program at the University, I have absolutely nothing official to do. I’ve been a bit stir crazy! I feel kind of like this whole week has been wasted, that nothing productive has been accomplished. I’ve been sitting in my room on facebook or studying for the LSAT everyday and then spending time with my roommates at night. Orientation week here is far different than orientation week at Missouri State! At Missouri State there are events to get to know Greek organizations, clubs and activities, and to listen to music in the student union. Here, the University sponsors parties every night that students are expected to attend. Each campus group also hosts a party or event that new students must attend to get to know the organization. New students bounce between the various events to meet other students and get to know the city. Orientation today was accompanied by free liquor on campus… in the middle of the day. It is a bit ridiculous to me how much focus is placed on these events, but on the other hand students are excited to learn more about the school because it is done in a fun way.

1 comment:

  1. Judith, even though our European experiences are many years apart, I keep finding common ground. I, too, was amazed at easy it was to get around Europe. I, a little girl from Leander, TX, who had never ridden a city bus, much less an underground, found myself riding undergrounds, trolleys in Amsterday, busses in Edinboros,and trains everywhere. I came away frustrated by the lack of really reliable public transportation in the U.S. I know distance has something to do with it but we could do so much more!