Now that I’m two weeks older and wiser, I can reflect back on those first four days in London with so much more clarity and perspective…who are we kidding there’s no way people say things like that. I just wanted to see how pretentious I could sound. I DO go to Cambridge after all ;) The truth is I’m absolutely horrendous at blogging or journaling or basically keeping track of what I’ve done in any way. I’ll probably forget to keep updating this let’s be honest. But while I’m procrastinating studying for my impending finals (I know, after two weeks I’ve already got to start thinking about finals) I suppose I’ll let future me delve into the memories of those amazing first four days in London. But before we get ahead of ourselves (ok because I don’t know how to write briefly), here is day one.
In order for this to make any sense to anyone who isn’t on the programme with me, I’ll begin with a little bit of context. My home university, Santa Clara University, is a rather small Jesuit college in Silicon Valley. Therefore, most of the study abroad programmes it offers are in coordination with schools with much more established programs. So, when I applied to the Pembroke-Kings Summer Programme, I applied first through Santa Clara, and then through Arcadia University who forwarded my application to Cambridge. It’s a long winded way of saying that my school is small, but it’s got GREAT connections. Each and every day I thank my lucky stars for Arcadia, but more on that later.
Arcadia requires that each student attend an orientation session in London, prior to the start of the actual PKP Programme. This session began on June 28 and ended when they dropped us off on the cobblestoned streets of Cambridge, less jet lagged and a little less shaky at remembering which coin meant what (tbh I’m still not quite sure about all of them).
So, when I got off the 13 hour flight at Heathrow, I lugged my 48-lb suitcase around until found the people in the red Arcadia shirts and the huddle of exhausted, yet exhilarated students. An hour’s coach ride and a wrestling match with a few crammed “fire doors” later (if you’ve EVER been to a tiny London hotel, you’ll get it), I was officially in London. Okay…I’d been in London since I got off the plane, but you know what I mean.
Thankfully, I had made friends at the airport with some of the kids in the programme and therefore would not have to spend my first day wandering alone through the city, guarding my purse, and getting lost on the tube all by my lonesome. The first trip was with Trevor and Stephanie, two other Santa Clara kids who were on the same coach (bus for all ya Americans out there) as me on the way over. We went to…the Vodafone store to get Trevor a sim card!!! Ok not the most exciting outing ever but it ended at a pub getting our very first beers in the U.K. so I guess you can say all’s well that ends well.
We met up with the rest of the group for a very quick orientation session basically with emergency/immediate need-to-know information at the Arcadia headquarters and then we went to dinner at Wagamama, a pan-Asian fusion chain restaurant. The irony was not lost on any of us. But good food, good company, and the creeping threat of jet lag in the air surrounded us all, making for a great first meal.
After dinner, about 15 of us took the advice of one of the Arcadia staff members, James, and headed out to walk across Waterloo Bridge to get a view of the city. Leah, a fellow Bronco, my roommate, and a stellar human being and I got stranded by the group when we stopped to take a couple photos. Despite the fact that during the photo-taking process I got exhaust in my eye and proceeded to cry like a baby for a hot second, it was a pretty good decision to stop on that bridge because wow that view was incredible. It was everything I had ever seen in Instagram photos, movies, and the like. In that moment, I fell in love with London.
Post bridge, we wandered over to the Southbank area and then back over the bridge to West End, through Covent Gardens, and then back to Holburn where we stopped at a little pub called Princess Louise for a beer for me and a glass of wine for Leah and some sticky toffee pudding to share. We were in bed by 10pm and I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect start to the adventure.