Monday, April 13, 2015

What to Expect

     Hellllllooooooo again. Its been a while (as per usual). The past couple of weeks have been absolutely insane. I've had a ton of projects, papers and presentations to get done seeing as the semester is quickly coming to an end. Its crazy to think that in 17 days I will be on a flight back home. Study abroad has been one of the most amazing things that I have ever experienced and its something that I highly encourage anyone to take advantage of.
     Before coming to London, I was not really sure what to expect. I looked at blogs, asked friends and scoured the internet to find anything that would tell me what it was like to live in a completely different country for 4 months. Sure, I found some things, but I guess its one of those things that you just have to live and experience to really know what it is like. But (being the lovely person that I am) I decided to share some of my top things that you should know before studying abroad, especially in London!

ONE// Its expensive. Trust me on this one. London is pricey. Currently the exchange rate I believe is $1.60 is equal to 1GBP. That's insane. Normally before I buy something, I will double whatever the price in pounds is. That lets me know about how many US dollars I am spending on a particular item.

TWO// Figure out your banking. This goes along with number one and London being expensive. It can be even more expensive if you are taking out money from an ATM and get whacked with a massive withdraw fee. I switched to Bank of America before I came here because they have a partnership with Barclays. Just be sure to look at all of your options before hand. Also, read up on the Travelex Chip debit cards and pin cards. They have that extra safety bonus which is really comforting, especially in a different country.

THREE// Look into cell phone plans. I will be the first to admit that I cannot do anything without my cell phone. It is attached to my hip 24/7. I knew that I would not be able to go without my iPhone while I was here in London, so I got a SIM card while I am here. I pay a certain fee each month which gives me texting, data and minutes. It makes me feel a lot more comfortable in a different country when I know that I can text my friends to tell them where I am or to pull up a map on the internet if I am lost.

FOUR// Buy an adaptor. This is important. Here in England they do not have the same plugs as we do, so an adaptor is necessary. Also make sure you get one with a voltage converter, as some of our US electronics might explode (and you definitely don't want that).

FIVE// Exchange money before. It is nice to have some cash when you arrive. Find places to exchange money before you go at either AAA or your own personal bank.

SIX//Start packing early. I am a chronic over packer, ask anyone. (wanna read my problems with packing? check out my post HERE ) I knew that I would not be able to pack in a night so I started packing about 2 weeks before my flight. When I say packing, I mean throwing things into a bag in our spare bedroom. Then, a few days before my actual trip I went through everything that I had loaded into that bag and went through it all. Keep your things to a minimum. I was talking to my mom the other day and told her how I haven't worn half the clothes that I brought. I probably could have done without a lot of things.

SEVEN// Don't forget and umbrella, batteries or sunglasses. Umbrella is self explanatory, it rains, so be prepared. Batteries are the same everywhere and you never know when you will need them. It also gets really freaking sunny sometimes, so sunglasses are a must!
It has been really sunny and warm lately, so I am so happy that I brought sunglasses with me!
(Picture taken at Camden Lock)

Just like the above picture, spring has officially sprung in London!
(Picture taken near Portobello Rd.)

EIGHT// Skip the rain boots. They take up a TON of space and weight a lot. Plus, most people in London barely ever wear them. Instead, just water proof a pair of boots and you should be all set.

NINE// Mentally prepare yourself for crossing the street. I'm not kidding. Its like a real life version of frogger. The first thing that you will notice here is how they drive on the opposite side of the road, so you must always look in a different direction first. Also, pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way. Trust me, drivers do not care if you are in the road or not, they will keep going. The good thing is that they have letters painted on most crosswalks that remind you what way to look.
London is so kind to give you a little help when trying to figure out what way to look when crossing the road. 

TEN// Go to Primark. This is honestly like heaven in the form of a 4 story shop. They have clothes for everyone and everything is fairly cheap. If you ever find that you have forgotten something or just feel like you need a little retail therapy, head to Primark.

ELEVEN// Don't leave stuff in your pockets. This goes for any large city really, but there are pickpockets. Many people say "it will never happen to me" but don't worry, it probably will. Be aware of your belongings at all times. Also, NEVER take your passport anywhere unless you absolutely need too.

TWELVE// Don't assume winter here is like winter back home. Yes, it got cold. No, it never snowed, but if it did everything would have been shut down. It does get chilly in the winter months so a jacket and scarf are absolutely necessary but I would not suggest bringing a full snowsuit.

THIRTEEN// Don't spend all your money in the first couple of weeks. I sadly spent waaaayyy too much money the first couple of weeks. Looking back, I spent money on stupid things. I could have saved that money to spend later on to treat myself to something in a shop or a nice meal.

FOURTEEN// Spend your money on experiences, not things. Sure, I do love a good day of going into shops and possibly buying a thing or two. And yes, souvenirs are a must and I feel inclined to buy them all the time, but as i said previously, it is expensive here in London. Spend your money on experiences, like traveling. Traveling is a lot cheaper here than it is in the US. I suggest checking out in order to find the cheapest flights to every place imaginable.
I'm probably a huge weirdo, but I LOVE flying. I would much rather fly some place than any other form of transportation. 

FIFTEEN// Enjoy every second. I'll be the first to admit that I miss home. I am such a homebody and I adore life at SMC. This semester I have suffered some serious FOMO while looking at pictures that my friends have posted from St. Mike's. In that sense, I am so happy that I have so much love for my school. It proves that I picked the right place to spend 4 years. But studying abroad is a privilege that not many people get to have. Its something that I will remember for the rest of my life. Its taught me a lot about the world and people. I always find myself counting down the days until I am reunited with the good old U S of A but then it freaks me out a little bit knowing that in just a few short weeks I will have to leave this fairy tale, unsure of when I will return. So my advice, savor it. Savor every single second because it is the most amazing thing you will ever experience.
I can honestly say that I am going to miss this place everyday that I am away. It is beautiful; it is my new home.


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