My life in London (and all over Europe!) began September 1st, after a night of lost sleep (time change!) and very hard goodbyes. Traveling with a group of St. Norbert students, we made our way to the arrivals hall of the VERY large Heathrow Airport. We met a sweet British lady named Angie who held a sign that said “St. Norbert” on it! I always wanted someone to be holding a sign with my name on it in an airport, so it was a great start to the trip!
Angie had the cutest accent and on the bus ride home warned us of a lot of word and phrase mix-ups we would run into while being in London. Some were ones that we already knew like “the check” vs. “the bill”, but others were hilarious and unexpected! She had us all laughing, and made the transition to our new home for the next semester a smooth one. Arriving in South Kensington was so exciting! After looking forward to this for so long, it was surreal we were actually there. Our “flat” or apartment is in one of the nicest areas of London, and I can see why it is one of the most expensive. The buildings are all white and well kept and the people are trendy and fun. I am in LOVE with the area. I think that one of the really awesome things about London is that every neighborhood and “borough” is so different and makes for an exciting time in each area. South Kensington is posh and rich, while Camden is more punky and hip. Each area has something fun to see or do!
The culture shock didn’t hit me until living here for a couple of weeks. I didn’t realize that going to a country that spoke the SAME language would be so entirely different. Getting used to the different words and phrases used, the extremely different foods, styles and everyday interaction was difficult. The biggest difference in culture was shown on the tube the first time the large group of us took it. We were loud and talking to each other, while all the British kept to themselves and gave us looks like we were doing something wrong! That was the first time I noticed a difference in culture. Now that I have taken the tube a ton, I realize it is just in their culture to read the paper and not talk. They don’t really even acknowledge you’re there!
I have never craved American food more in my life. I did not think I would miss some of the things that I do. My Mom splurged and sent me 6 boxes of Velveeta Mac and Cheese, which I was DYING for! She was not happy when the post office told her a 7-pound box was 80 dollars though! Although the food is a lot better for you with less preservatives it has been really hard to buy food to last you longer than a couple of days. Splitting groceries with someone definitely saves a lot of money and trips to the grocery store! A lot different than the states for sure.
I think I was warned about culture shock so much before leaving that it did not hit me too hard. Although there are lots of differences, many were easy to adapt to. On the other hand, my 10 day trip to Italy was a MAJOR difference in culture and adapting to the language difference was HARD! I give so much credit to students who study abroad in non-English speaking countries. I will talk more about Italy in my next blog
Off to a Masquerade Ball at a famous club in London for Halloween! Life is London is VERY hard
Olivia Sievert is studying abroad in London, England, with the Foundation for International Education (FIE).