It took three hours to get to the Toronto Airport, three more hours to eat, say my goodbyes, and make it through customs. Then it was a one hour wait by my terminal and then another half hour in the plane before I was in the sky en route to London. By the time the Boeing 747 finally took flight, it was around 7 p.m. eastern time. It was roughly a six-hour flight so with the five-hour time difference I reached Heathrow Airport in London at about 6:30 a.m. London time.
Talk about a long day … I was exhausted. It is 3 a.m. in London as I write this, so yes, the infamous jet lag can and will creep up on you. With only my first day in the books, I can tell that my four-month stay here in London is going to be an incredible experience. I am lucky to have two roommates with whom I get along seamlessly and are just as excited and curious as I am.
Although I have not even gotten my feet wet, I wanted to share a few first impressions, surprises, and observations I’ve had so far. The first and most obvious is the weather. Most people assume, based on American pop culture, that the UK and gloomy weather go hand-in-hand. Well, sure enough, when I arrived it had just finished raining and dark clouds continued to hang over the city on and off all day. Luckily, growing up in Western New York has prepared me — because depending on the minute (literally), I may need a coat, scarf, and gloves or one shirt and sunglasses.
My residence hall (or “flat” as the Brits call it) is in one of the most upscale neighborhoods in London, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. If you’ve ever been to New York City, it would be the equivalent of the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Young, well-to-do men and women walk the streets in fashionable clothing and flood the local pubs late at night for fish, chips, and a cold pint. Whole foods, trendy cafes, and luxury car dealerships line the sidewalks.
I already had to suffer through the shame of being asked about Donald Trump and beg a Brit not to think all Americans are like him. Similarly, I learned that not all British men have the snark and wit of Piers Morgan or Simon Cowell and there aren’t actually secret agents like James Bond running around London fighting crime (this has been the biggest surprise thus far).
Be sure to checkout the JCC blog page regularly to follow my travels (if you’re interested) and all the other entries from many great students at JCC.