so this is culture shock?

I dunno. My mind has sort of unconsciously made me hyperaware of when I might be experiencing anything like it, since I was lectured many times before I left about the cycle of culture shock and how to deal with it. Also, I don’t completely identify with the preliminary “euphoric” stage- indeed, mine was lovely, but I wasn’t naively in love with everything I saw. However, I suppose that I was educated on the matter for a reason. So there you have it- I’ve been

CULTURE SHOCKED!

20 Funny Shocked Cat Memes 3

So I guess I’m in the anxiety phase. Without reading much about it, I can already attribute my current money worries to this stage. Although I don’t have to pay for all my food myself, it’s still jarring to be shelling out about 60 pounds per week for food I cook for myself. It’s also surprising to me because I love to cook, but living without the comfort of a meal plan that lets me prepare food only part of the time forces me to do a lot more work up front. As I like to say, my passion for cooking is enhanced when I am in a relaxed mood- rare when I’m working/studying all the time. So this makes cooking (and the creativity it requires) difficult, for now.

In addition, I understand that I’m paying for what will amount to discounts later on, but I feel like money is jumping out of my pockets when I buy a student rail card (26 pounds) and an ISIC card (~40 pounds incl. shipping and ID photo) and student oyster card (25 pounds not including fares) and textbooks (56 pounds) and a phone plan (38 pounds + monthly bill, but I’ll get reimbursed) in the same week. Whew! Keep in mind that, although the dollar is getting stronger, it takes about 1.52 dollars per pound (currently. Was 1.65 a month ago.)

I can only go onto the free and cheap and frugal London websites for so long until I burst. It’s hard for me to spend money as swiftly as I am currently. Hopefully I’ll get used to it by the time I’m taking worldwide tours and eating gold-covered truffles when I become a billionaire evolutionary biologist.

Obama’s reaction at my scheme to get rich quick.

I know this will pass in time. But for now, I’ll let my pictorial pun do the work:

Culture Shuck (get it?!)

Culture Shuck (get it?!)

Update later that day: I know that this stress will pass! It’s unnerving to be spending a lot up front, but I know it will be worth it in not too long. Like any student studying abroad, there are the joys and challenges of adjusting to a new environment, and I knew I’d have some trouble (as everyone does) when I signed up for this.

Not all my posts will be wonderful and happy, as not all my experiences here will be. And that’s okay- good, even. It’s what life is all about: learning how to grow from tough circumstances. After all, one of my new mantras is “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” It’s how I’ll grow as a person, and that’s good news to me!

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School is starting

I don’t think, up til now, I’ve experienced much culture shock. Instead, I’ve been more inundated with the details of school beginning again, and what it means to have to be a freshman once more. Maybe the culture shock will show its beastly head later on. But man, it’s difficult to start school a weekend and a day after a two day orientation: finding buildings, experiencing my first frustration with the school’s infamous class scheduler, not knowing who to email and ask questions to. Although I’m very happy with my decision to be away from Wes for a semester, I do miss the ease of knowing how to navigate class selection, even if WesMaps had not been so kind to me.

Also, eating is difficult without a meal plan and a full-sized fridge! It’s cool that each student gets their own mini fridge, and that the kitchen is cleaned daily by staff. But that means that I have to bring downstairs each ingredient I’ll be using for a meal, and if I’m not freezing it (we have a big freezer, which is nice), I’ll have to find room in my tiny fridge to stow it away. This put a hamper in my plans to make a big lot of food on Sunday, or possibly Wednesdays (no class!) and eat it for the rest of the week. Not sure if that’ll work out or not. Maybe I’ll have to freeze instead of refrigerate?

Also, I was searching on 8tracks for a playlist with the goods: CSNY, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, etc. and one that popped up was called “Breakfast at Perk”, which playlistifies a coffee house located in Durham, CT! It was a beautiful playlist and felt like a long-distance blanket.

After going to my first class (European Society and Culture; 4-level (freshman); met 3 new kids; seems interesting/easy), I can confidently say that Queen Mary is way more diverse than Wes could ever hope to be. I’ve realized that, as much as a white middle-class American can demand, I need diversity to thrive. Life’s too short to surround oneself with a homogeneous, close-to-home outlooks. It thrills me when I feel like I’m part of the minority in the room or on the tube. Growing up in a 93% white town does this to you.

Somehow I’ve managed to befriend all the English and Drama majors. It feels like the biology kids are hiding. I know I’ll meet some in my Mammals and Evolution class tomorrow. But for now, in my science friend-devoid stupor, when I meet anyone vaguely interested in science- biochemistry, math, even pre-dental– I exclaim “that’s so cool!. My companion is often taken aback, but that’s okay. They say no one ever says majoring in math is cool. I’m glad to deviate from that sad, sad norm. (Shoutout to Sarah, my fabulous math/dance double major pal!)

Also, I feel a little burnout coming on. It’s strange, since without Facebook and a phone, you’d think this wouldn’t happen as quickly. Maybe it’s not burnout so much as it is lack of energy to keep in touch with everyone I want to (I’m lucky to care about so many people) and understand my schedule. Making friends hasn’t been very hard so far. I guess I understand that it takes time and I’ll meet a lot through all the clubs and activities and classes I intend to participate in.

Long post wrap up: Now! What are your favorite freezer-friendly recipes? I’m dying to know!

I’m starting to think with an accent

It’s happening! Also, am beginning to weigh different groups of words in the milliseconds before I speak, e.g. contemplating between saying “thanks a lot” and “thanks very much”, or “very” versus “quite”. They are similar but the latter words give off a more British vibe in my head. I feel more proper- like I’m actually going to use the vocabulary words I’ve learned in my years of English classes and books, and not rely on a broken-down vernacular (widespread in my hometown and college), through which we communicate in fragments rather than sentences. Maybe it won’t happen, but the hope and motivation to speak more clearly and well is there! (Obviously not coming across through my run-ons, but since I’m blogging to mostly Americans, can I get away with that?)

I’ve met some cool Americans on the boat tour of the  Thames and while shopping at some markets in northern London today. Am eager to meet the real British folk, who should be arriving tomorrow in time for Monday’s classes.

My mom was very vocal about offering to fund a smartphone abroad, but after much decision, I declined. I have yet to purchase a phone (sorry mom! Plan on it tomorrow!) so in the meantime, I’ve had my new pals scrawl their numbers and names on the back of a receipt. Here’s hoping that some of the magic that accompanies songs written on bar napkins will turn up in the friends department! Not planning on it, though, since I remember how at Wes’ orientation, the race to make friends is a mad dash of courage, speed-friending, and lots of disposed phone numbers after a few weeks. But that’s okay! At least I gathered some nice pictures of us! (posted below)

Vassar/flatmate, Florida, and I

Vassar/flatmate, Florida, and I

boat tour scene. May add that on the tips of the scones lay dots of that beatific CLOTTED CREAM! But only in tiny drops and unfortunately not enough to give me a feeling of coming home. Soon!

boat tour scene. May add that on the tips of the scones lay dots of that beatific CLOTTED CREAM! But only in tiny drops and unfortunately not enough to give me a feeling of coming home. Soon!

Myself, Westchester and Philly

Myself, Westchester and Philly

Niagara (NY!) and I

Niagara (NY!) and I

But as I was saying- no smartphone, yada yada. That means I don’t have access to apps or GPS or anything more mobile and high-tech than a map right now. So, I have to plan out my trips in advance- including writing down directions and important information on notepaper! (Don’t have a printer either.) Wow, do I appreciate the ease of technology now! BUT MOM, NO that doesn’t mean I want a smartphone. It’s a refreshing change, and has an end date. I’m happy to embark on this challenging experiment!

Also, some shoutouts to pals:

Marissa: I met someone from your college! In the theater department though, so you may not know them.

Elior: I was going through my picasa and this came up:

this would happen to either one of us. it did.

this would happen to either one of us. it did.

Also while shopping today there were these hilarious cards about *awkward topics* and an ad about taking old people out on Sundays and I miss you so much!

Also, Netflix is different over here! Some cool movies available!

Tomorrow I plan on scoping out some of the town on my own. It’s fun to be with friends but I know myself enough to recognize my market habits and love for moseying. I know there is much social fun to be had in the future, and I may go to a pub with friends tomorrow for dinner. Can’t wait!

I saw this bald guy 3 times today

He was an administrator. Very kind and friendly- each time I saw him, he flashed me a great smile. But the third time, when at the IT office, he started speaking to me about how funny it we run into each other so often today! and although we were speaking the same language, we WEREN’T because it took 50% of my jet-lagged brain to comprehend his rapid speech and 50% to finagle some jumbled reply and 10% to stay awake (yes, I am running on 110% right now). So, I just smiled and snuck in a (maybe?) fitting word here and there. English is our common language but dialect and accent are enormously underestimated when comparing the US to the UK!

Have met all of my flatmates and they’re each very friendly! One is another associate student from Vassar (she recognized Wes right off the bat) and the others are Queen Mary students. Three study biochemistry and one English.

I was cooking a rudimentary dinner of spaghetti and garlicky kale when I met my flatmate from Liverpool, Nema (only remember that because I think of nematodes. Bio geek 4 life)

Nema’s associative organism. Sorry, Nema!

It was during this conversation (and one earlier with other flatmates) that I realized how uncommon it is to know much about New York City when you’re not from the US. I was asked if Manhattan was the capital, if by “3 hours north of NYC” that meant Long Island, among other amusing queries. I know I, too will ask very silly things over the next 5 months as well, but this was a first! (A couple hours later: Just came back from a get-together and when asked where I was from, this one guy was like, “Is that near Albany?” and I was so impressed! Now they all associate me with Albany (half don’t know where it is) but it’s better than NYC! Or is it?)

A funny thing about Queen Mary is that everyone has their own bathroom. Apparently, the British value personal space very much. I was also informed to refrain from speaking to them on the tube! A met a few friends who are here through IFSA-Butler and during their orientation, someone gave them pointers on etiquette.

Here are some pictures of my room (and the infamous bathroom):

room deskBR

windowsill

Here and happy!

So I made it to my flat!

Total transit time from my Saratoga house to Queen Mary: 22.5 hours. Whew, glad that’s over!

Total sleep: About 1 hour. (As of 3 pm London time (or should I say 15:00), the jet lag hasn’t quite harassed me yet! A nice surprise.

Travel days usually aren’t that interesting or fun so I’ll keep it brief. Two really cool parts about the trip were

1. I flew via Virgin Atlantic, which was a lot of fun. I claimed a seat on the upper level- that’s right, there was a STAIRCASE in the airplane- and it ended up being very enjoyable! It reduces the landing shock and there was a good lot of full bed/first class people on the floor, so fewer economy seats = fewer crying babies (zero, to be exact) and a quieter flight.

2. Virgin Atlantic, as well as many other airlines, now offer a very diverse selection of airplane meals. I’m not talking about low-fat and kosher- the couple next to me was served Hindi meals, while I opted for the Asian Vegetarian meal (which was actually sort of yummy.) You get served first, too. Just make sure to reserve at least 2 days in advance.

Orientation starts tomorrow and there’s a welcome dinner tonight.

My building and flat couldn’t be closer to everything: it’s on the ground floor in a location that’s with the other dorms but closest to the other campus buildings.

I might also add that Queen Mary is the only London university with a campus.

Here’s a slideshow of pictures of the campus– too tired to pick and choose, plus haven’t really seen it much yet. I promise, pictures will come with adventures!

Some backstory

Only a couple days to go. It’s getting real!

Lemme just take a sec to explain why I swapped out my Facebook page with this blog.

For years now, I’ve (very vocally) struggled with how to maintain a fruitful life and an honest yet fun Facebook persona. Dissecting both theory and practice have proved to be most difficult. I often go on small hiatuses for a few days at a time to escape the environment where you’re expected to uphold an ever-slippery combination of happy, successful, funny, etc.- you know the story.

About a year ago (or was it two?), I got fed up and decided to leave it. Those couple months were real-life living; filled with moments that I wasn’t obligated to evaluate and deem clever enough to throw into my online community, then have faith that enough “friends” would return some sick sort of validation. For that stretch of time, I decided against making myself eligible for near-constant contests of popularity, humor, looks, success (staged by myself and others.) For that time, there was an undeniable peace and increase in self-esteem.

The sad part was that without the site, I couldn’t hear about nearly as many campus events and parties. Checking bulletin boards wasn’t enough. The semester before, I’d heard about a life-changing event a couple days before it was held. The only location it was publicized was Facebook. I felt that it was worth it to be a type of slave to the technology if I could, in return, optimize the opportunity for hearing about activities, some of which would be restricted to Facebook. The logic went that, when I wasn’t at Wes, such as during the summer and breaks, I could reasonably disconnect from the site without (unbearable) consequence. So, that’s what I’m doing now.

So, without a FB or texting-y phone to use for the next 5 months (I see an ever-glitzy tracfone in my future!), I hope I won’t have to work so hard to have a life if ya know what I mean!