“What did I do to deserve this? Why MY luggage? Why does this airport have to be so big? Why did I have to pack those extra shoes? The luggage is that much heavier.” After about 15 minutes of complaining to myself, my normal optimistic disposition engaged and made light of the situation.
“At least I’m getting my weekly workout whilst lugging this suitcase!”
At this point, I’m pretty sure I was sweating in all the most unflattering places one could sweat. Not just because of my impromptu cardio session while looking for some assistance in the airport, but because I literally had no idea how I was going to get to Uni (that’s what the Brits call universities) and I was a tad bit on edge… just a tad.
After wondering aimlessly like a lost puppy for 15 minutes, I spot a lady with a bright yellow shirt amongst a line of well dressed limo drivers with fancy greeting signs. This had to be a sign! No really, she was holding a sign. Her shirt was printed with big bold black lettering saying, “Meet & Greet International Students.”
“Hey, that’s totally me!”
After walking a little closer I could make out what her sign said. “Student? Need Help? Please ask me!”
“Yes, YES, and DON’T MIND IF I DO!”
Without hesitation I approached the women, perspiration and all. She then, very welcoming, introduced herself and asked the staple questions that I would be answering repeatedly for the next 3 months while abroad. “What’s your name? Where about are you from? What school did you attend back home? Do you know the song ‘Sweet Home Alabama’? Where’s your accent? How do you pronounce your name again?”
Me finding this lady had to be a sign that this trip was going to get better. After getting all the necessary information from me, the guide then led me to the nearest airport train that would then take us to another train that would then take us out of the airport for us to walk at a quarter mile to the nearest National Express Coach Station. At this point I’m convinced the 59 pound luggage has now turned into 159 pound luggage.
Reaching the coach station was a relief but my journey was not quite over. My personal “lost college student” guide then led me to the kiosk where I would then purchase my own ticket to Leicester. I don’t know if anyone else can relate, but I never took the time to familiarize myself with military time before now. I guess the stress of being stranded in an unfamiliar country with unfamiliar people with unfamiliar accents clouded my ability to think clearly but seeing a departure/arrival time of 15:20 and 17:15 through me for a loop (I admit to using my fingers to count once.. or twice)! With coach ticket and luggage in tow, I was now ready to FINALLY make it to my final destination. Throughout this whole adventure from airport to coach station my guide literally didn’t leave my side or let me stray. How she this nice? My American conscience thought, “I wonder how much this is costing me. I bet I’m on a meter right now.” I truly wish I had a bouquet of flowers I could have given to my guide because she definitely helped immensely; and for no cost!
Fast forward two hours and one coach transfer, I finally step onto Leicester soil! But for some odd reason I didn’t feel relieved just yet. I did manage to make it to the front desk of my accommodation reception to receive my keys and welcome booklet. I guess I missed all the confetti and ‘Welcome to Leicester’ that the other students got while arriving together. I kind of felt like a kid arriving to a party when its over.
“Here I go!” This has got to be the longest trip of my life. After about 15 minutes of trying to figure out which building I actually belonged to, I finally reach the apartment that I would call home for the next 3 months. As I inserted the key my heart was pounding and I don’t know why.
“I wonder what my flatmates are like? I wonder if they like Americans? Will I be able to understand them?”
As I turn the key and push the door open I expected to hear angels singing and bells ringing but there was absolutely nothing… and I mean NOTHING. There was no one there and it was so much smaller than what I imagined (size and portions of everything here is something that I’m going to have to get used to).
After “settling” in (ripping through my luggage and tossing clothes everywhere but in their respective places) I found that I was not only absolutely exhausted from my trek but now on the borderline of malnutrition with no idea where any access to food may be. Through all the hustle and bustle I guess I forgot to eat. Yikes!
I made my way back down to the reception desk to have the receptionist to tell me the closest place for food is a grocer about a mile away… “walking distance”. Great, MORE walking. But at that point I had no other option; either walk for groceries or starve and shrivel away. I believe when you’re walking somewhere and you don’t know exactly where you’re going it takes longer than it actually is. I promise, this walk had to take at least 40 minutes. This is just not my day. And to top it off, once I get into the grocery store I find NO familiar brands of anything that I eat. CULTURE SHOCK! And let’s not mention getting to checkout and realizing there’s still a conversion rate I wasn’t keeping in mind before picking up 50 pounds (UK currency) worth of junk food. At this point I’m pretty sure I said to myself that I was ready to go return to the states.
I’m aware that up to this point of my blogging it sounds as if I wasn’t enjoying myself… well that’s because I wasn’t. But don’t worry, there is light at the end of the tunnel!!
SPOILER ALERT: I did not end up returning to the states..
To be continued…