My first week in London has been a surreal experience! Dare I even say that it is already starting to feel like home for these six weeks. Home for me is Camden Town, a northern suburb of London that has been described by the locals as “having real character” and as a “town gone mad.” I am living with three fantastic Pitt students who I did not know before London. It will be great seeing them back on campus in the fall. From my own personal take, Camden Town is a gentrified neighborhood that is shrouded in gorgeous street art and is home to the Camden Markets. These attractions draw thousands of visitors, especially on the weekend, which can make Camden Town feel a bit cramped at times. Thankfully, London is a vast city with much to see.
Since arriving, I’ve been ready to get acclimated to the city the best way possible: sightseeing! My biggest suggestion for anyone planning on coming to London is planning your tube ride before you get to the busy stations. That way you can easily navigate the platforms and board the correct carriage without causing congestion. I was given an unlimited tube pass for all of central London. The tube is our primary mode of transportation but you can also take any of the city buses. My new friends and I explored an immense number of sites using both modes of transportaion during orientation like Kensington Palace, Hyde Park, and Westminster.
The timing of GBI London could not have been at a better time. I witnessed history, and a bit of British culture, three days into the program when Prince Harry married his American sweetheart, Meghan Markle. My roommate, Kevin, and I celebrated the Duke and Duchess of Sussex wedding by observing the momentous occasion with a few hundred of our new British friends at the St. James’s Market watch party. It was quite surreal seeing the reactions of the locals to the newest addition of the royal family. My hope in the next few weeks is to get outside of London and experience some more traditional English culture. Especially as all of my classes are on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I thoroughly enjoyed my first day of my European government and politics class in addition to my international accounting issues class. It’s going to take some self-control balancing classes with traveling. Since the semester is only a short six weeks, I’ll have to do a semester’s worth of work in that same amount of time. I’m up for the challenge and know that stepping out of my comfort zone will be the best way to grow as a person and learn more about myself. I think the biggest challenge so far has been budgeting and setting priorities to how I spend my money. I’m learning that people, including myself, place an intrinsic value on the things that they purchase abroad. Some items, like groceries and a phone plan, are necessities while other purchases reveal how I want to spend my time. I’ve been pleased in the way I’m controlling my finances through a budget. This tactic is new to me, but I think I’m going to continue to record my expenses at the end of the program. I certainly value travelling during my time in Europe, so the budget has shown me that I’m going to have to sacrifice some fancier meals and expensive local tours to stay within my budget. If these past seven days are anything like the rest of my time in London, it will be difficult for me to leave. Thank you for following along this incredible journey with me.