Finding Independence Abroad
As usual the security lines at JFK were insane, I guess September is a popular time to fly. Normally these lines don’t make me nervous, but today I’m on my own. For an only child, leaving the country on your own is a bit nerve wracking. I nervously check over and over again that I have my passport, wallet, and plane ticket. My bag feels like it’s getting heavier as the TSA officers direct travelers into different lines in an attempt to move things along.
The flight was a bit overwhelming for me, never having traveled out of the country before I had never been on a flight that was over 4 hours. Going from JFK to Heathrow Airport was an 8 hour journey. To top it all off I really was alone in this, the international department on campus had planned a trip to London for this fall but it was only for education majors. Due to lack of enrollment the trip was dropped. Now it’s just me, on this flight, alone. Great.
Arriving in London was a bit confusing, my flight arrived around 6am and I hadn’t slept at all on the flight. I was instructed to meet my student ambassadors at noon, so I had a few hours to myself but without an international phone there wasn’t much for me to do in those hours. Eventually more students began to show up, some of which were going to other schools in the London area. I found my group and was relieved to meet other students from the United States. My ambassadors were really friendly and had traveled to the America before so they knew exactly how we were all feeling.
We took a bus back to campus, which was about an hour away with the traffic. Once we arrived we were all grouped into a lecture hall so that we could get our regnum numbers (student ID), room assignments, and all other administrative paperwork out of the way. After the meeting we all struggled to wheel our suitcases to the halls, I was on the third floor and getting my bags up the stairs was a arduous task. Most students probably took a much needed nap upon arriving to their room, but I set to work making it feel more like home. I was exhausted but I emptied my bags and filled up my wardrobe, decorated my pinboard, and made the bed. I have an awful time sleeping in the daylight hours anyway, so this seemed like the only logical thing to do. In a few hours we would be taking a tour of the town of Twickenham. After arriving and taking a nap the other American students were knocking on each others doors, making friends, and trying to help set up each others wifi routers. We were anxiously awaiting the English students move in date, and wondering what it would be like once the hall was full.
That evening of the tour was crucial to the rest of my trip, I met two girls who became my best friends for the remainder of the trip, Hunter and Olivia. Our entire group became close over the course of the semester but Hunter, Olivia and I really bonded. We would go on random trips to the charity shops, markets, and off-licenses together. On nights out we were like sisters, helping with each others makeup and always looking out for each other. For an only child these friendships were life changing, now that were back in America we’re spread out but still make time to text each other about major life events or something that reminded us of an adventure we had in London. Going to London was a huge step for me, it was my first time out of the country, my first time living alone, and my first time truly being independent. I wouldn’t trade those memories for the world.