Takeoff

It’s been a week since I touched down in London. I’d like to paint the picture of me, bright-eyed and energized, ready to tackle the amazing city I so luckily ended up in for the summer. But really, at this time last week I was jet lagged, disoriented and falling asleep or waking at odd hours.

After a week of settling in, running around the city, spending way too much money (London is painfully expensive), trying to calm the anxiety of moving to a new city, and feeling like a lost puppy 99% of the time, I’d like to say that I’m finally get into the swing of things. I wouldn’t exactly be accurate if I said that, though. On the flip side, it’s been one helluva week and a whirlwind of culture shock, both good and bad. I honestly don’t think it could’ve gone any smoother, and I can pretty much say I wouldn’t take anything back yet (except maybe thinking that I could get away with a tighter budget than what’s actually feasible here, but I digress…)

The tail end of last week was a mess of teary goodbyes, cleaning, packing and moving things out of my room to accommodate for the subletter coming in June. But even after realizing I had forgotten to pack several items, and even more moments in panic attacks about whether I really had what it takes to make it through this program successfully, I flew painlessly and delay-less-ly from the warm and sunny St. Louis to the equally (albeit surprisingly) sunny but notably less warm London.

The flat where we’re staying used to be a hospital for women and children back in the day. Although the interior is completely renovated, spacious and modern, the front of the building still retains its original architectural style.  In fact, the façade to all the buildings here are gorgeous and seeped in historic value and artistic skill. That’s one thing I’ve noticed around here. In the states, if something is old and a little on the worn side, it’s demolished and rebuilt. Not here in London. Walking down a city block can transport you through several decades.

Our location on the South Bank is also stunning. We’re fortunate to be a stone’s throw from marvels such as the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament and all kinds of attractions along the River Thames. We’re also in the middle of a bustling business district, and a combination of being a walk from Waterloo station and having an unlimited Oyster card (a Tube pass for the city metro system) means that the city is literally our “oyster.” Just remember to mind the gap.

I can say that I’ve so far successfully navigated the Tube on my own twice, although that’s a tiny fraction of how many times I’ve gotten lost walking or riding along even with others in the group. I’ve figured out that I can, in fact, live off of pasta, cereal, bread and Nutella for a week. Not that this will last for the remainder of the summer of course. My next goal is to complete a shopping trip that will actually cover all main food groups.

But of course I have other goals and destinations and hopes for my time here. On Wednesday I finally had the chance to meet the people who were one of the main reasons I wanted to come on this study abroad trip across the pond. I had my first appointment with the folks over at the Radio Times, the weekly entertainment magazine and website that I will be working with over the summer. With circulation of more than 1 million readers per week, it’ll definitely be a step up from the usual Missourian or Business Times readers back at home in the Midwest. I’ve gotten a feel for the office and start my time there on Tuesday after tomorrow’s bank holiday, and I’m thrilled to be working with a grounded and reputable company to try my hand at something new. After all, it was a love for Highlights and National Geographic Kids that got me into the journalism world in the first place. I sometimes still can’t believe that I have the opportunity to work on this platform and shape my outlook on reporting and writing with an organization for the future.

I want to see some of the world’s most amazing and breathtaking sites here in the UK and around Europe. It’s fascinating how places like here, which aren’t separated from my own culture by language, can be so different from home.

I want to get to know the locals, how they feel and what they think. Maybe we’re not so different after all.

This is the first time I’ve spent this much time away from my friends and family back home. And even with the advent of Skype and video messaging, I can’t go without saying that I’ve left some of my favorite things in the world back home. But London is an astonishingly beautiful city that I’m eager to continue exploring and becoming enamored by its details big and small.

It stil hasn’t hit me that London is my place of residence for the next 11 weeks. I feel like in a couple of days I’ll be forced to pack up and high tail it back to good ol’ blistering hot and muggy Columbia, Mo. For all I know, this is just a dream, or worse, a summer camp adventure that will end all too soon.

The few days before I left, I had one looming question that nearly paralyzed me with anxiety: would this all be worth it? The time, the effort, the money. Will this be more than just a story I tell to people who ask “how was your summer?”

It’s taken a little settling, some encouraging words from my favorite people back home and a huge push for me to realize that, yes, this’ll be one for the books.

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