I grew up relatively independent for people my age. I was the oldest of three siblings, with a five and seven year age gap. Not surprisingly, I didn’t hang out with my sisters or their friends; when I was in high school, both were in elementary and middle school. I took the bus during high school and was comfortable traveling alone or doing tasks by myself. So it wasn’t a big surprise that I was somewhat at ease with traveling quite far to go on tours in England. The Tube quickly became familiar and I grew used to traveling around. However, just because I was comfortable doesn’t mean it was safe.
Last week I traveled to the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour (I already mentioned that I am a huge Harry Potter fan!), which took two separate Tube rides and a long bus ride for a total of two and a half hours of transit. When I got off the Tube to go to the bus stop, I was in a hurry and worried that I would miss my tour time so I thanked God when I saw the bus still at the stop and hopped on and settled in for a long ride. However, luck was not in my favor. I had taken to using my UK phone to keep track of where I was in case I got of track or lost. I quickly realized that in my hurry, I had gotten on the wrong bus and had to figure out how to find my way. After getting off at the next stop, I used my phone to figure out where the proper bus would stop at and high-tailed it. As soon as I got on the bus, I watched my navigation app like it was my life, making sure that I knew when I had reached the stop. At this point, I was actually about half an hour late and I kept crossing my fingers that they would let me on another tour. Luckily, they did and I had an amazing time! I got to walk in the Great Hall, and see some amazing set pieces, from the animatronics to costumes and creatures used in the movies. I had a blast and went crazy at the gift shop, then cried a bit at the amount of cash I gave the cashier in exchange for some pretty awesome souvenirs ( I had promised Hu that I would get her chocolate from everywhere I go as souvenirs). However, my high quickly wore down when I got outside and realized that I had to walk all the way back to the bus stop, which was a good half mile away, in the dark. There was an official bus that left from the studio lot, but I didn’t know about it beforehand and apparently you needed to buy tickets in advance. So, with caution, I set off to the bus stop. The first thing I did was make sure that none of my souvenirs were very visible and that the gift shop bag with the studio logo was hidden. This might all seem paranoid, but I was by myself at night in a foreign country, better safe than sorry. Finally, I got on the bus and got home. But I tried to plan most of my trips to end before dark afterwards.
Most recently, I went to the House of Parliament both as a tourist and for an assignment for my architecture class. The Study Abroad Office at Harvey Mudd recommends that students take at least one course that has to do with the history or culture of the country you’re visiting, so I chose to take a class about the architecture of London. It was a really amazing class, and we traveled every other week to visit sites that speak to the different architectural styles. Our first essay was to write about on the buildings from a given list and what their main significance was. I chose the House of Parliament and booked a tour to get an in-depth look. I was pleasantly surprised to hear familiar names and architectural words on the tour and had a lovely time.
I have had an amazing time in London so far, but I didn’t forget my friends and family back home. I Skype with my room-mate often (Hi Hu! *waves*) and I try to Skype with my relatives, especially my parents and siblings at least once a week. They are coming out to visit me for a week and I have to say that sharing experiences abroad with friends and family only adds to the amazing adventures.