“Ma, I’m in London.”
I sent the text to my mother right after my plane touched down at London Heathrow Airport. As I put away my phone and gathered my things to get off the plane, I struggled to suppress the sense of loneliness welling inside me. I may already be 21 years old but this was the first time I traveled all by myself to another country and I would be lying to say that I was not scared at all.
However, things started picking up when I reached my accommodations at Champion Hill. I remember my awe as I stepped out of the reception area and made my way to the allocated room. Tall beige buildings with glass windows were surrounded by patches of greens and all the blocks were connected by matching sand-coloured pebbled paths. The interior of the building was clean as well, with room doors lining both sides of the corridor. There were also kitchens and each kitchen was shared by 10 residents. It was well-equipped and even had areas for dining and lounging within.
My room was bare bone in contrast to the kitchen. One look at the empty shelves and bed was enough to push my tired feet out of the door to get the necessities. Together with my Study Abroad Singaporean friends at Champion Hill, we stopped by Poundland at Butterfly Walk and Sainsbury’s that was a stone’s throw away from the accommodation, to get items like food, pillows and bedsheets for the night.
The induction programme, otherwise known as Welcome Week in King’s College London, soon started. There were so many activities planned for the new freshmen and Study Abroad students. Spoilt for choice, my friends and I did a quick Google search on some of the locations that stood out to us and settled to go for the pub social event at Penderel’s Oak. The pub occupies the ground-floor and cellar of Penderel House and got its name due to the history of the place back in 1652, at the end of the Civil War. The owner of the house, Richard Penderel, helped King Charles II to escape from Cromwell’s troops by hiding him in an oak tree on his country estate. We thus killed two birds with one stone that night as we checked out the interesting venue while mingling. The more we talked to other students, the clearer it became that everyone was still getting used to things, be it London or university life.
Foreignness soon transformed into familiarity as I explored more of the neighbourhood and London over the next few days. The walk down the slope towards Sainsbury’s became less frightening at night and encounters with the fox at Champion Hill were more pleasant.
Before I knew it, London started to feel at home.
Being in a foreign country was not easy but having friends alongside with me definitely made things easier.