Sunday, January 12, 2014

Toto, I Don't Think We're In Kansas Anymore

So, I meant to write this first entry while I was waiting in the airport for my flight, but somehow I convinced myself to put it off (and continue to do so last night when I had some spare time). But, I know I have to write this now or I'll never start, especially since classes officially begin tomorrow (although I'll be missing classes in order to attend orientation).

Now, for some explanation, I'll be spending the next five months of my life as an exchange student at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom. I'll, hopefully, have lots of exciting experiences and see new places, although I am a little nervous about adapting to a completely new place (but at least everything's in English, if I start having trouble understanding that then we might have some real problems). On a less exciting note, I do still have to study and attend classes, as my calender oh so helpfully reminded me.

About me, I'm a junior studying Marketing at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. My name is Katherine, but I generally only answer to Katie, never ever Kathy though. I love music and books, and I hate truly cold weather. I also love my family; my dad, stepmother and younger sister all live in Virginia with their too cats (my dad still insists that he hates cats, I don't know who he thinks he's fooling). My mother and older brother both live up north, my mom in Connecticut and my brother is studying computer science up in Boston.

There are several reasons I decided to study abroad. I wanted to see a greater portion of the world than I have managed so far. I have traveled abroad before, but definitely not for any stretch of time that even nearly equals this one. I love to travel and there are so many places on my list of places I want to see someday, and you have to start somewhere. I want to see for myself how capable I am of integrating myself into a new place where I know very few people, although I do know a few people from back at William & Mary, but it will be especially interesting to meet people who have completely different backgrounds from my own. I have never ever heard anyone say that they regretted their study abroad experience, and I have heard many people say that they have regretted not having one, so I think that's a pretty strong endorsement.

I flew with two other girls from William & Mary, we bought our plane and bus tickets together so that if we got lost on our way to Exeter, at least we wouldn't be lost alone. I actually flew over here overnight, so we arrived at about 7 in the morning, UK time, at the London Heathrow Airport. It was surprisingly simple getting through customs and getting my visa (I am so relieved that we were considered non-visa nationals and therefor did not have to do the surprisingly, or not, stressful and complicated online application). I got my bags no problem, I restrained myself to only one checked bag, one carry-on small suitcase, and a small purse...in short, I was absolutely ruthless. We then proceeded to the bus station to wait another 3 hours for our National Express bus which was supposed to depart at 10:55. Unfortunately for us, this was not to be. The bus arrived on time and we waited in he queue (yes, that is what they actually call lines here), and waited, and waited. Eventually we were informed that the bus door was not closing so we couldn't take it at all and that they were going to call for another bus, we weren't going t be leaving for another 40 minutes or so. It was about 12:30 by the time this bus showed up, and it turns out they would be taking us to Bristol where another bus would be waiting to take us to our intended destination in Exeter. Despite all the confusion, the bus was actually rather enjoyable. It was much easier to get to sleep on the bus than it had been on the plane and, when I was awake, the views from the windows were gorgeous.

There was some confusion finding the Printworks, the housing complex where I will be spending the next five months, mostly because it was dark and we almost missed the street signs, but we did get there alright. I was very glad that I had decided to purchase a welcome pack of bedding and cookware, because it meant that all I had to do was unpack and set up, rather than going out to buy stuff. I also met two of my flatmates, both of whom are from Australia, and one of their friends who lives in another of the flats upstairs. We played Heads Up Charades and, since all of them are Australian, every time an Americanism popped up they turned to look at me. What does a Michigan accent sound like anyway?

This morning I met up with a group of other people staying here and we walked over to the University campus, so that we would know how to get there for our orientation tomorrow morning. It's actually a really nice walk, although an unfortunate amount of it is uphill. We also walked into the city center and stopped at Wilkinsons for a few necessities, like hand soap and a trash can for me, and duvets and pillows for those of us who did not purchase welcome packs in advance. We didn't end up getting cell phones as we originally intended, but I can definitely do that later, we're only about a five minute walk from all of the shops.

I, surprisingly, can't wait for classes to start so I can see how different they will be from the ones back home, but I'm fairly sure I will be a bit less excited once they actually do start. Wish me luck!



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