West Coast to Waterloo: The Journey Begins – Alida White

I always knew that I wanted to study abroad somewhere while I was at university. The thought of traveling halfway across the world didn’t intimidate me–I had already traveled halfway across the country to go to college. I easily narrowed my ideal location down to London because of my English Literature major and interest in early modern theater. I talked to my advisor, filled out an application, and all of a sudden I was accepted to King’s College London and booking plane tickets.

My initial excitement turned into intense nerves the week before I left. It was the usual questions you have before you go somewhere completely new: will I like it there? Will I make friends? Will I enjoy the classes? Will I even do well in my classes? What if I mess everything up and I regret my time abroad? But the moment I got off the plane at Heathrow airport, all of that fear melted away. I had been preparing for this for months, years even, perhaps, and I knew that I was ready.

The man who checked my materials at the UK Border kindly asked me how I was getting to my flat. When I naively answered that I would take a taxi, he slowly looked up and informed me that taking a taxi to Central London from the airport would cost me around $170. I gulped and decided to take the Underground instead. I knew that my university housing was near Waterloo Station, and after getting through customs, I made use of the airport Wi-Fi to figure out the route to my new home. It was a bold decision, perhaps a bit too bold, but I was determined to be independent and figure everything out on my own. Looking back, I should have asked more people for help–I wandered around Waterloo Station for a good 10 minutes trying to find the exit–but successfully making it to my flat by myself was one of my proudest accomplishments, and I rode that high throughout my entire time abroad.

The first few weeks were some of the best weeks I spent in London. I explored as many parks, famous buildings, theaters, and neighborhoods that I could in the weeks before classes started. I met my flat mates, who would become my closest friends while abroad. I made a giant spreadsheet of all of the things I wanted to see in London and quickly set to crossing items out. I wanted to feel settled in the city before I got caught up in the whirlwind of balancing travel with classes and living this “abroad experience” that I had heard so much about. I took London by the horns and dove in as deep as I could.

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