Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Studying Abroad in London: Fresher's Week

Just like back another week has gone by! And what a busy week it was too! There's so much for me to discuss and recap about this past week, but first, I thought I'd give a little background on what exactly "Fresher's Week" is. 

Basically "Fresher's Week" is like a welcome week or orientation week in the states. My college back home doesn't do one for returning students, but I know a lot of my friends have weeks like these before they start classes. As a study abroad semester-only student, my experience wasn't quite the same as some of my classmates here. While they had enrollment meetings and introductions, I basically just had the parties and events of the week (more on that later). There were between 1 and 3 events everyday--ranging from carnival games and tag archery to epic nights out on the town--and it was both insanely fun and exhausting. More than that, it definitely felt like a  great bonding experience. After this week, a lot of my insecurities about the social side of life have disappeared for the most part as I have a bunch of amazing flatmates. 

But, without further ado, here's what I've been up to the past week! 

September 16, 2019

A few of my flatmates and I met up in the kitchen to go to Froebel Fun Day. Basically this was just a day out on Froebel Lawn where there were carnival games set up and other activities such as mini golf, rock climbing, inflatable horse races, and even a wipeout obstacle. It was fun and I ended up winning a prize from one of the carnival booths (after failing at literally every other game)!

We got lunch at one of the places on campus and I ended up with enough food to last me for two meals, which was great because it tasted wonderful. It was a pretty chill meal just hanging out before we went back to the flat. I kinda just meandered around my room (writing last week's blog post) and chilling before that night.

All of us met up in the kitchen for predrinks, Cards Against Humanity, and an intense game of Uno. It was such a funny bonding session and I can't help but laugh when I remember some of the card pairs for Cards Against Humanity. After that we all headed over to the Silent Disco on campus which, oddly, wasn't silent? There were three giant rooms that had raves going on in them and I wasn't actually able to find the Silent Disco one before I left. Even with just the regular rave it was the longest and hardest I've danced in a while and it was so fun. That's one of the things I've noticed from the couple times I've gone dancing here--back home going dancing at an ACP or party pretty much entailed just bouncing on your feed and nodding your head. Here, though, there's full on dance circles, spinning, dropping it low, etc and it's great--and a great workout. 

September 17, 2019

I woke up late, obviously, since I'd stayed up pretty late the night before. I stayed in a little bit before we all met up to go to the food market on campus. The market itself was really only three tables and there wasn't a whole lot to it BUT I had an AMAZING food bowl for lunch that had so many different things in it that I wasn't sure were going to go together but ended up being amazing. I also got a bunch of homemade bread and I ate it all in less than a day (of course).

We then went to the poster sale where I wish I could've gotten more. I got a small one that I really liked to help bring color to a room made of entirely white but I couldn't get anything big since I wasn't going to have a good way to get it home.

Then we ventured to the "Secret Shop" aka a Londis that is just hidden from the main road in the back of a neighborhood. I got some basic groceries like peanut butter (which the Brits do not know how to do correctly, I've discovered), pretzels, avocado, etc. I even got a rose and something flavored Kit Kat to try but it was disgusting. That's another thing that's different here--they have regular Kit Kats but they taste different than the ones in the US? And it's not a change I like? This is probably a good thing, though.

I accidentally took a 2.5 hour nap and it's a good thing I woke up when I did or else I wouldn't have been ready for the events that night. We all met in the kitchen and then we left to go bowling. We had to take a couple buses over to White City (it was a little less than an hour of travel) but it was a fun time. We got there and I swear it was the nicest bowling alley I've ever been to. Walking in, you would have thought it was a fancy restaurant or club but it was a bowling alley.

The others in my group got some drinks and we sat around talking for a bit while we waited for our time to be up. When it was that time, we went to go bowl and found out we'd have to wait more since we hadn't written our names down when we'd arrived. It was okay, though, because they gave us the karaoke room to chill in. It was so fun because we didn't really go up individually to sing but, rather, put on songs that the entire group sang to.

We bowled one game and it was fun--I got second place. I don't really know how since I suck at bowling but I'll take anything I can get! After we left, we messed around a bit on this stage in the middle of the courtyard before catching the bus back towards campus. We made a quick detour in Putney to get KFC since none of us had eaten dinner and it was almost midnight. It was only my second time eating KFC and it really hit the spot. I'm not saying it was amazing, but I am saying the leftover mashed potatoes with a bit of cheese and garlic were the perfect breakfast.

September 18, 2019

This day was beautiful weather. It had been sunny every day since arriving in London but I tend to get overheated if there's no breeze. Today it was sunny but cool out and I loved it since it was starting to feel like fall. I woke up at a reasonable time that day and headed off on my own to do some shopping in Putney for a bit.

I started at H&M where I ended up getting $100 worth of clothes for $13 (thank you to sales, student discounts, and Audra for the gift card!). There was also a Waterstones right across from it so, of course, I stopped in. I got Antoni Porowski's cookbook that I'd been eagerly anticipating and I can't wait to try some of the recipes in it!

When I got back to the flat I made myself some lunch and hung out with my flatmates for a while. They'd bought Nerf guns that morning so all day was filled with various levels of Nerf warfare. This was about when I started to feel sick so I went back to my room for a little bit to rest before that night.

I made myself dinner and hung out with the flatmates before getting ready for The Grand. I was actually feeling worse but I decided to suck it up and go out anyway because I'm never going to be in London for Fresher's Week again and I didn't want to miss out. I'm really glad that I didn't miss out!

We queued up for the buses and ended up having to stand and just hold on to the railing the whole way there, which wasn't too bad because the entire bus was singing and having a blast. We got there and the venue was super cool! It's an older victorian building that had been turned into a club so the interior was the coolest. Not only that, but there were a few DJs who cycled through and I thought they were all awesome!

I think we got there around 11:45 and we ended up staying until it ended at 2 am. We danced the whole time--except for a brief interlude to do the photobooth--and my feet were dying but the last 20 minutes alone were worth it! They played a whole plethora of my favorite songs including No Scrubs, Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen, Hey Ya, and more before finishing with Bohemian Rhapsody. Let me tell you, there's nothing quite like belting out Queen at 2 am in a nightclub in London. It was strangely peaceful? Overall, it was an absolute blast and I definitely took a look around at one point to just go “you’re in London having the time of your life.” I’ve only been here for a week and it’s already been amazing—I’m going to really miss my flatmates when I leave 😭

It took about 30 minutes to catch a bus and, even then, there was a lot of shoving involved. For a country of people who like to queue, I guess that goes out the window when the entire crowd is drunk at 2 am. It took another 30+ minutes for us to get back and, I kid you not, I fell asleep standing on the bus just holding on to two rails. By the time I got back it was past 3 am and it took me another 25 minutes or so to get ready for bed and write up my little notes for the day.

September 19, 2019

I let myself sleep in, which I'm grateful for since I woke up feeling more sick than the day before. I chilled in bed for the most part to kind of try and get rid of some of the bad feelings. I ended up having to take Dramamine, Airborne, Advil, and three supplements just to get to that day's event at Thorpe Park.

Thorpe Park is this amusement park right outside London that the school rented out for us. That's right--they rented out an ENTIRE theme park for us to play around in. The first ride we went on was almost the exact same as one they have at Adventureland and my shoes got absolutely soaked (it took 2 whole days for them to dry). One of my flatmates had been there a few times before so it was nice having someone who knew their way around after we split into smaller groups. We hit all of the big name rides and I enjoyed almost all of them--I can't say which was my favorite? Maybe Stealth (0-80 mph in under 1.8 seconds) or the Walking Dead themed one. I've never seen Walking Dead but it was more of an interactive ride where you're running from zombies and it was really fun.

We ate there since the buses weren't leaving until 9:30 pm and I got a great Kebob. I definitely want to search for more Mediterranean places in London because if that's what amusement park kebobs taste like then I want to see what a real place does. 

September 20, 2019

This day was the Fresher's Fair, which is kind of like an activities fair with more freebies. It was held the same place they did the Froebel Fun Day and it was a pretty good time. I went with my flatmates but ended up getting separated from them at one point (it was a donut's fault). A lot of the booths were for sports or clubs, but I don't think I'm going to join any. I may do the Writer's Club since that one sounded up my alley, but I want to travel and explore London as much as possible while I'm here. There's always going to be my great clubs and organizations back home but I don't have the same travel opportunities there as I do here.

I did get two different types of free pizza (thankfully, they have Dominos over here), and won a bunch of freebies. The library on campus had a booth where they were giving out free books so of course your girl got one (it was pretty much shoved into my hand). I found my flatmates again and we lined up for this nightclub's booth. Unfortunately, I can't get the free bottle of champagne on my birthday since that was last month but I did spin their wheel and win a onesie!

After that, I chilled a bit and unpacked all my info sheets and freebies before meeting back up in the kitchen to go out. We headed to the same mall the bowling was at and it took a bit to get there. I probably should have taken more Dramamine because I wasn't feeling too hot on the way there (if you haven't figured it out yet--I get severe motion sickness), but I made it there! We stopped by the Apple store and I played around with the new iPads. I'm considering getting one but, at the same time, it's a big financial investment that I don't think I need right now. If I didn't have a computer or phone, it'd be different, but I'd essentially just be getting one to have a digital notebook for class and watch Netflix with more ease and that's just not worth the money right now.

Then we went to Nandos. I've been to Nandos once before in Chicago but this one was far better! The one in Chicago tasted amazing and was a great experience but something about this one was just even better. Maybe it was the fact that I was actually in London and everyone was so excited to finally go there, maybe it was because I learned from my first time and ordered garlic bread as my side--who knows? I was still sick then so I didn't get anything super spicy so that it wouldn't hurt my throat but it was overall just a great time. There's one a lot closer to us within a couple miles so I'm definitely going to be going again sometime soon!

September 21, 2019

Most of the day was pretty chill. I ended up seeing some friends when I got lunch and it was fun just talking with them again! The food was pretty great, too--I had an avocado Mexican bean sandwich that was vegan but so tasty! I also did my laundry and figured out that situation, though I am a bit annoyed since one load of laundry here cost the same as two back at Lake Forest.

That night, most of us met up in the kitchen to just hang out a bit before three of us went to the final event of Fresher's Week: the Finale. I was a bit burnt out from the whole week and still feeling sick so I ended up heading back to the flat with one of my flatmates after we danced for a little bit and took advantage of the Dominos booth. Surprisingly, I stayed up pretty late on Tik Tok of all things--I'm not proud of it and I don't think it's as good as Vine but there are a few gems on there.  

September 22, 2019

I spent most of Sunday recovering from being sick. What had started as a sore throat turned into a stuffy nose and cough so I spent today with a lot of tissues and Netflix. It wasn't a totally empty day, though, since the entire flat met up that night to have a meeting and do some other stuff. I was able to have some really good pasta that night, too. I just chilled after that and went to bed at a reasonable time due to the first day of classes being the next day. 

So that was Fresher's Week. It was a whirlwind and overwhelming and fun and an all around amazing time. I definitely think studying abroad in the Fall was a great choice since they don't have a true Fresher's Week at the beginning of Spring semesters.

I'm definitely taking it a bit slow these next couple of as I don't want to burn out too fast in the first few weeks. I have all semester to see London--on nice days I can do more outdoor things and on rainy days I can hit all my indoor bucket list items--so I'm perfectly okay letting myself have chill days here and there. Besides, I do have to study at some point and considering I already have to read an entire novel for the first day of my Lit class I don't need to be out and about every second of every day. Plus, my first outings for my classes start at the beginning of October and I'll be getting to see a bunch of cool places with those!

It's Tuesday now and I'm still a bit sick with a cough but I'm pretty much back to normal. It'll be interesting to see what this next week holds with establishing a routine, getting into classes and a different academic learning system, and meeting even more new people. I also realized that it's been FOUR & A HALF MONTHS since I was last in class and I can only hope I haven't forgotten how to be a student.

Till next week!

(If you're not caught up, you can find my study abroad landing page with all my previous posts here)

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