My journey across the pond began with a very early flight leading to a very cranky me. It’s crazy to think I woke up to get ready to leave for the airport at 4:30a.m. and didn’t land in London until around 10p.m. Although, once I landed in the iconic Heathrow Airport, I was absolutely thrilled to finally be in London. I wasn’t sure what intrigued me more, the accents or the classic double decker red buses. I felt like a rescue puppy trying to soak in every little bit of its new home but being too excited to notice everything. After years of wanting to visit the city of London, I was finally there. For a solid 4 and a half months.
After a bit of a messy start to my dorm hall, I was relieved to have made a few friends and embark on a mini tour of Kingston Upon Thames led by someone at Kingston University. Walking through Kingston market gave me a Woodbury Common’s vibe, which both excited and comforted me. From Starbucks to TopShop to North Face, the stores seemed endless. I couldn’t wait to dive in head first.
Admittedly there wasn’t much culture shock. It’s a major concern for many students and parents that the differences in environment will overwhelm the student. I knew from the beginning that I wouldn’t be badly affected by that because I thrive for experiencing new things. By coming into London with an open mind about the experiences and pushing and insecurities to the back of my mind, I was lucky to eliminate all those insecurities within the first few days of being here. My biggest concerns included finding friends, knowing how to get to my classes and to the campus from my dorm, and how to navigate my way into town. Thankfully I accomplished all these fairly quickly, giving me more time to focus on other aspects of adjusting to my new home. Like the coffee. In England, and I assume it is the same if not similar in surrounding European countries, you cannot just order a “coffee.” Everything to them is coffee. You want just a regular iced coffee? No, you want an iced americano. Don’t drink your coffee black? You want a white americano. However the worst adjustment for me, by far, was their cup size difference. Most of my motivation and productivity comes from my venti iced coffee, but the largest size at most places is equivalent to a Starbucks grande cup for iced drinks. So you can see what my struggle was for the first few weeks (okay, month. I like my iced coffee, okay?). It took a few tries to get used to ordering an americano, and even longer to get used to drinking hot coffee.
The only other thing I had to keep reminding myself was normal here is when someone says “are you alright” they’re basically asking “how are you?” The first few times I was asked I had to pause for a moment, wondering to myself “do I look extra tired today or something? Do I look sad? Why are they concerned?” only to snap back to reality and realize they’re just asking how i am. So far Kingston has been a dream. It somehow feels simultaneously calm and busy and I look forward to see what else it has in store.
Edit: I have recently discovered there is a venti size, but it is smaller compared to America’s. Have you ever seen a cat with stubby legs that looks all cute but it’s small because of them? That’s what the vent cup here reminds me of. Give. Me. My. LARGE. Iced. Coffee.