Photo Dump & Update

Hey, y’all! (I wrote this on October 1st, but didn’t finish with it until October 2nd)

While I have yet to meet anyone in my department, today I met a bunch of new PhDs and attended an introductory Postgrad Research talk. I met PGRs studying Chemistry, Electronic Engineering, Environmental Science, and a few other subjects I can’t recall at the moment. Folks from Cyprus, Vietnam, Austria, Africa, and good ole England, too. Guess what? Our campus has a space center! I met two PhDs who will be researching there (and who will eventually be presenting their work to hundreds of NASA employees — Yowza o.0)! The talk this morning was led by a member of the Engineering faculty, and supplemented by current student researchers (in departments that include Translation, Medical Science, and Engineering) & program directors who sat in a panel up front and fielded questions from us n00bs. It was super encouraging to hear about their experiences on the road to receiving their doctorates. They advised us to set our own goals (because you can’t always rely on your supervisor to give you anything concrete to work toward), start writing our ideas down as soon as possible, but also not to let our research bog us down and keep us from living. I really appreciated their advice and was bolstered by everyone’s enthusiasm. Tomorrow is the day I get introduced to the faculty and students in my department. I am so ready to get started 🙂

I had lunch in the library with an Engineering student from Cyprus I met during the welcome talk. I poked around the library afterwards and left with 6 books (they told us to get started early!). I also bought one book at the campus bookstore titled, How Novels Work (hoping for some nuggets of wisdom). I found like 80 books at the bookstore (including graphic novels!!!!) that I really, REALLY wanted…but I was good. I will be back though, oh yes…::insertmaniacallaughter[here]::

Tonight I went to my first quiz! I sat at a table by myself and eventually amassed some teammates. I was the only girl and the only Arts & Humanities kid at the table. We ate some curry, drank some booze, and threw ourselves into the competition headfirst. We ended up coming in 7th (oof) but I had a great time joking around with the guys on my team. Besides, I don’t feel too bad about our score b/c it wasn’t far below the teams above us — a few of them actually ended up tying and only placed much higher than us in sequence b/c their answers to the tie-breaker question (“How many rooms are in Buckingham Palace?”) were closer to correct than ours. We ended up with 37 points and 2 or 3 teams above us scored 42 points. Not a huge gap.

I have my appointment to open a bank account at Barclays next Monday, and hopefully my loan money will be put in immediately b/c I am running lowwww on funds (shout-out to the airlines I had to cancel and re-book with… 😡 ). I’m enjoying myself already, but I know I’ll have even more fun once I’m able to spread my wings (read: wallet) and do some traveling. One of my flatmates and I are dead set on seeing The Book of Mormon, so that will probably be my first show in London this time around (I saw Wicked in London in 2008… amazing). I look forward to every day here. I know this year is going to be a good one.

P.S.
I binge-watched seasons 1 and 2 of Orphan Black. If you haven’t seen it yet, drop (or utilize) your computer and go watch it. NOW! Cosima is my favorite 😀

Now, photos! (Disclaimer: these photos are NOT good. A proper camera is on my list of future buys.)

A quiet spot on campus.

A quiet spot on campus.

A bit of sculpture.

A bit of sculpture.

The Rik Medlik Building (with Alan Turing taking a permanent stroll in front of it, and another abstract sculture).

The Rik Medlik Building (with Alan Turing taking a permanent stroll in front of it, and another abstract sculture).

A tile mural on the OAK House building.

A tile mural on the OAK House building.

My sweet set-up.

My sweet set-up.

Thinking about getting in on this...

Thinking about getting in on this…

Neatly laid grave markers at Brookwood Military Cemetery.

Neatly laid grave markers at Brookwood Military Cemetery.

Brookwood Military Cemetery. The inscription reads "Perpetual light upon them shines"

Brookwood Military Cemetery. The inscription reads “Perpetual light upon them shines”

Brookwood Military Cemetery. Giant trees.

Brookwood Military Cemetery. Giant trees.

BMC. North Carolina soldier.

BMC. North Carolina soldier.

Advertisements

So Stinkin’ Wonderful

I had a freak-out on the plane ride over.

I was somehow convinced for a little while that living and studying in England wouldn’t be what I wanted it to. That every past failure would absolutely follow me, and being in a new environment would do nothing to improve my mind or my life. I’d be my old self in a new place, bringing nothing of value with me. I’d watch everyone around me follow their dreams while sitting stuck in the mud. I wouldn’t make any friends. I wouldn’t write anything worth reading. I’d be forced to go back to America defeated.

giphy-1

Wrong, wrong, WRONG.

I didn’t realize until that moment on the plane how frightening and important removing yourself from a comfortable routine to begin building a life elsewhere truly is. Probably because I was distracted by doing all I could up until the very last second to make that flight. So finally, sitting thousands of feet above ground, my brain caught up with what I was doing and the anxiety-palooza began. I’m sure you’ve had (and will continue to have) similar moments of insecurity right before taking a giant risk. It happens; we’re human. Luckily, I was proven wrong pretty quickly 🙂

After an otherwise pleasant flight with a seatmate from Bristol (a lovely, older woman who was visiting her expat sister in Asheville, NC), I made my way to campus without the aid of a student ambassador. I took a bus to London Victoria station, waited a few hours, then caught another bus into Guildford. My giant suitcases and I wandered around for a bit, unsure what direction my room was in (I live in a dorm that’s about 20 minutes or so walking distance from the main campus). I called the International Student Office and a very helpful woman on the other end directed me to the nearest bus stop. I waited, and soon a bus to my part of campus showed up. The driver was patient with me as I fumbled for the correct change. When the bumpy ride knocked my suitcase over for the 30th time, a fellow student smiled and righted it for me. When we’d made it and were about to disembark, another student helped me carry one of my suitcases off the bus (my luggage was pretty awkward to walk with, haha). I got my key from reception, found my awesome room, and took it all in for a while (I also found a giant spider that I hit with 3 different shoes and a small box just to make sure it was dead).

giphy-2

I went to Tesco, bought bedding and food, had a fun chat with the cashier, then walked back to my dorm. Along the way, each of my grocery bags broke open in turn, the cup I bought smashed into a billion pieces, and I had to stop every few minutes to rearrange things (carrying groceries and a duvet/pillows is kinda tough!). Along the way, some very nice people picked up the items I dropped and placed them carefully atop the swaying pile of stuff in my arms. When I’d made it to the building housing reception, more stuff fell, and I heard someone say “Need some help?” A new undergraduate and her mom helped me carry my banged up groceries all the way to my room! After I put them away, I walked back to the store to check for outlet adapters, but duh, British people don’t need an adapter that makes American plugs usable in England. So I walked back empty-handed. When I got back to my room, my ankles were the size of grapefruits.

giphy-3

And I couldn’t have been happier.

I’d had a long day, but I’d met some super friendly people. I’d made it to campus and my room safely. I’d done my shopping. I’d organized my belongings. …And nothing went irreparably wrong. I felt — I feel — at home here.

The next day was even better. I attended orientation events, took a coach tour of Surrey (where I had cream tea, learned some interesting facts about the county’s history, and saw sweeping, gorgeous views of the countryside), and made a few friends who I have plans with tonight. I even showed a new friend from Hong Kong how to wish on a dandelion 😀

I’m really loving it here, and not because everything has immediately fallen into place and I’m a wealthy, baroness with a slew of servants, 5 best-sellers to my name, and everything I could ever want at my feet. I love it here because it feels good and normal and right. Because I already know it wasn’t a mistake.

I’ll post actual photos as soon as I find some wi-fi and can get them off my phone!

6 Things I’m Looking Forward To

A shot of my beloved Harrods, circa 2008, during a weekend break from Glasgow.

A shot of my beloved Harrods, circa 2008, during a weekend break from Glasgow.

My CAS still hasn’t been issued, so I’m unable to deliver a post giving a play-by-play of the visa application process, or any other useful tips/insight about getting ready to make the move from the US to England. I don’t even feel allowed to be excited about the move yet because so much still hangs in the balance. This post is my remedy.

Here are 6 things about my imminent move that I’m really looking forward to:

1) Getting through border control.
Perhaps it’s because I still don’t have even the means to apply for my visa (PLEASEISSUEMYCASNOOOOOWWWW), but I’m a little anxious about having everything I need in proper order and on time. I hate the stress of hang-ups, especially those that are completely out of my control. I am living for the moment after landing when the Border Force officer looks down at the visa sticker on my passport and my offer letter, nods, and waves me through. I may just be so elated that I slap down some cardboard and start popping, locking, and breaking (to the utter horror of anyone within view).

2) Sleeping FOREVER and waking up in Surrey.
I know from previous experience that after all the initial hello’s and nice-to-meet-you’s, I’ll probably be exhausted upon arriving in my room. Too exhausted to do ANYTHING but fall into bed and not wake up until the next day. And when I do, I’m sure I’ll have that brief moment of forgetting — I’ll think I’m still in North Carolina, barely existing. Then an electric surge will prickle my spine and I’ll open my eyes as wide as they can go. I’ll think, “No, I’m here. I’m in England. Holy f*#%.” And then I’ll lay there in a horrified daze until someone knocks on the door to remind me that orientation starts soon.

3) Making my first friend in England.
Yes, you read the last sentence of that last paragraph correctly. I did in fact use the word “horrified” on purpose. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m a shy, introverted person. I live on the edge of insanity when I get to know someone, but until then, I keep all the weird inside until I know it’s safe to let it out. As such, meeting people can be difficult for me, and building an actual friendship even more-so. The prospect of ice-breaker events terrifies me, and I expect I’ll have to deal with them as part of the International Student Orientation program. But there’s nothing more gratifying than making a genuine connection with someone. So I’ll suck it up and deal with the awkward in-between of being in a new place without your old friends with the hope of making new ones. I know the pay-off will totally be worth it.

4) Decorating my space.
I. Can’t. WAIT to put my own stamp on my room. There isn’t much I am able to do to prepare for my move at this point (I’m still in the waiting zone), but I do have the prints and photographs I plan to put up packed and ready to go. What you love (and why you love it) says so much about you. It’s so much fun for me to walk into someone’s place and try to guess things about them based on what I see on their walls and shelves. It’s even better when you’re getting to know someone and start making definite connections between their personality/history and their interests. Decorating is a way to talk about yourself without saying a word. My new friends will have a LOT to look at/figure out when they enter my space 🙂

5) FOOD.
I have a running list of bookmarked websites. Afternoon tea. Doughnuts. Cupcakes. Japanese. Indian. Italian. Burger joints. Gastropubs. EVERYTHING. One of my favorite things about traveling to a new place is trying new restaurants (especially those celebrated by the locals). Also, UK junk food wins. I just drooled on my keyboard. Moving on…

6) Making it mine.
Whenever I move somewhere new, the thing I look forward to most is becoming part of the fabric of where I live. Finding the spots I love and becoming a regular. Not needing to use a gps or ask for directions. Introducing the friends and family who visit to the things I’ve discovered and love most about where I live. My mom is planning to visit during Christmastime, and I can’t wait to take her for afternoon tea at Harrods (a place we both luuuurve), to the Tate Modern and the British Museum, and to show her around my campus and Surrey in general.

England is calling my name!