I have dreamed of traveling to London ever since I was a little girl. I am pleased to report London has lived up to my expectations of a spectacular city swirled with culture and history. But with that being said, not everything was quite as I expected…
1.) Expectation: It rains all the time and is cloudy.
London gets a bad reputation for being a dreary city with no sun and an endless supply of rain. Well, my friends, you haven’t met London’s summer. Walking through the park, you can find people laying on the grass soaking up the sun. Even the typical businessman, in a full suit, can be found lounging during his lunch break. The reality is the weather varies extremely, and you will never know how to dress so embrace that fact. It is very breezy, so dress in layers and still be prepared for showers (just in case). It has rained less than I expected (granted that it is summer, so the weather is more favorable). Overall it has only sprinkled two days during my trip.
2.) Expectation: Londoners speak English so there will not be any language barrier.
Unfortunately to my surprise, language was a more significant issue than I thought it would be. Coming from Germany the week before, it was a relief to hear the sweet sound of English. Although it was the same language, I still found myself asking people to repeat things. Whether it was the accent or merely the inflection of their voice that initially confused me, I had to ask for clarification more than I thought I would. The Brits also have words that are slightly different (update: a ‘hoover’ is a vacuum for you Americans). So, do not fret if you need to ask someone “pardon” if you did not quite understand them the first time. Just remember you are not alone. Keep calm and carry on.
3.) Expectation: London is expensive, so there will be nothing free to do.
One of my concerns going to London was that there would be nothing to do unless I forked over the entire contents of my wallet. I was surprised to learn how much you can do in London for no cost. Most of the museums are free, and if you do a little research, you can find a free activity almost every weekend. I found my best resourses were the internet and the announcements that AIFS Student Services advertise through Facebook and fliers in their office. I found events such as West End Live, where I found myself standing in the middle of Trafalgar Square listening to the cast of Mama Mia and Dream Girls (to name only a few).
In sum, do not be discouraged if you have a strict budget and are afraid that London may not be the best personal choice. Especially in the summer, there are countless street festivals, pop-up food festivals, and outdoor concerts that are 100% free. You will only need to be proactive and search for the events.
4.) Expectation: I will want to live in London.
Reality: I do want to live in London. I think London is the perfect blend of New York City and D.C. with regards to architecture and overall feel. With London, you can also tack on a couple hundred more years of history and you have a bustling city waiting to be explored.
London has felt like home from the moment I stepped off the tube, and I am excited to continue my study abroad program here. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Come and explore what London has to offer and find your own adventure at www.aifsabroad.com.