Well, I finally have some time to sit down and write about London, so here it goes…
First off, I didn’t pack very much. The clothes and other belongings I brought to London fit into two suitcases and a backpack. I am, after all, a packing goddess, and “Lindsay worship” has been known to run rampant when I advise my comrades on packing as much stuff as possible into their bags. I think I should open a business where I just advise people on how to pack their bags. Anyways, my two bags and a backpack were quite a change from my freshmen year at GW, where I sent seven boxes and brought along several suitcases. Being forced to lug around all your luggage on several different modes of transportation can be quite a motivating factor in cutting back on any frivolous tchatchkies that are better left at home.
My flights were boring, as usual. I left LAX at 12:30 in the afternoon on the 25th and arrived in London around 10:30am on the 26th of September. I had a six hour flight to Chicago (BTW, Chicago O’Hare Airport has to be the worst airport when it comes to catching an international connecting flight…I hate that airport with a passion). My flight to London was around eight hours, so I had plenty of time to catch up on all the summer movies I missed, such as “The Stepford Wives” and “The Day After Tomorrow.” They were alright, I suppose. The food was pretty good…actually, it might not have been that good, but I was starving, so I ate everything. I used to hate airplane food but now I eat all of it…weird. I think Air France still beats out British Airways when it comes to food, though, because they serve those tasty mini-baguettes (although the BA cheesecake was quite tasty).
When my flight landed, I went through customs, where the officer asked me a bunch of questions and made me show him my acceptance letter from LSE (uhhh, if I wasn’t really going to LSE, then why did your government give me a student visa? Yeah..) I took the Heathrow Express train to Paddington Station, then took a cab to my dorm. The check-in process was surprisingly easy, which I didn’t expect…signed my papers, got my key, and I was done. I like my room a lot…grad students luck out – you get a single with your own bathroom.
The next day I registered…you pick up your student ID card and swipe it at a computer terminal…welcome to LSE. I haven’t actually registered for my classes yet…you don’t do that for another two weeks, even though classes start on October 4th (I have no idea how they do things around here).
After I picked up my ID card, I went over to the LSE Health Center (er, Centre) and registered with NHS (the UK’s national health care system). The nice thing about studying in the UK is that you don’t have to worry about health insurance, because students (yes, even foreign students) are entitled to the same free health care that UK residents receive. Well, hopefully I will never have to actually use NHS, but it’s nice to know that if I do get sick I can go down there for treatment. Quite nice of the Brits to provide us foreigners with this service (and OMG, a country with socialized medicine, and no hammers and sickles in sight!)
I also picked up a Virgin Mobile UK sim card, popped it into my phone, and I magically now have a UK cell phone number. I set up MMS and GPRS…fun stuff to play with. I’m finally out of the dark ages in regards to cell phone technology (purchased a Motorola V400 for $59 from Cingular…quad band, camera phone, and it comes unlocked). I wasn’t able to surf the internet or send MMS with my pathetic Nokia phone (and it wasn’t GSM capable, either), so I’m having fun with all this newfangled technology. I’m using Virgin Mobile Pay As You Go, which is quite nice. When I run out of airtime I can top up via the web or at convenience stores and certain ATMs.
I’ve never done so much walking in my life. Seriously, I thought I did a lot of walking in Moscow and St. Pete…no way those can even compare to the walking that you do here. The walk to LSE from my dorm is about 30 minutes (although the school says 20 minutes…yeah, sure). It’s a nice walk, though – past the Tate Modern museum, cross the Blackfriars bridge over the Thames River, and walk up Fleet Street, past the Royal Courts of Justice, and you are finally at LSE. It’s kind of like if you lived near Arlington National Cemetery and walked to the GW campus…that would seem to be a similar distance…and you have to cross over a damn river, too. The nearest grocery store is pretty far too…again, you have to cross the river (God, that thing really gets in the way, you know) and walk a few blocks to the nearest Tesco’s. Most of the food in these markets is pre-packaged meals, which is good for me because I can’t cook.
The LSE campus is relatively small (compared to GW, at least)…and also, this is so random, but there are like three pubs on campus. The school just refurbished one over the summer at a cost of 825,000 pounds (a little under $1.5 MILLION!), and it’s really nice…a good amount of people there at noon. We have a bar in our dorm, too…which might seem a bit strange to someone coming from the U.S., seeing as the dorm houses both grad students and undergrads, but it’s no problem since the drinking age in the UK is 18. The beer prices are pretty cheap, too (around 2 pounds for a pint, so over $3.50, which may not seem cheap, but for London it certainly is) because alcohol and food is “subsidized” (or so I’ve been told)…as to who subsidizes it, I’m not sure (the school? and since the school is a state school, then the government? How odd…maybe beer subsidies for students are a part of the Labour Party’s platform?). Yeah, definitely wouldn’t find that happening at GW…
We have the craziest library ever…it’s just insane. HUGE, tons of computers…kicks Gelman’s ass anyday. It’s supposedly the world’s best library in regards to social science, which will come in handy when I have to work on my dissertation. It has this cool looking staircase with glass elevators…I know my description sucks, so here is a picture:
Oh yeah, Vannessa Kerry (John Kerry’s daughter, duh) is going to school here for her MSc…I wonder if she’ll be at “Post-grad induction for surnames A – L” tomorrow…
I’ve started saying “queue” and “lift” instead of “line” and “elevator” so people will know WTF I’m talking about. Referring to a shopping cart as a trolley still irks me, though…when I think of a trolley, I imagine a trolley car a la San Francisco, not the errant shopping carts I had to retrieve from the parking lot of Office Depot. Anyways, don’t worry, I’m not going to come back with a fake accent like someone we know (Wicked, I’m gonna pahk mah cah in Hahvahd Yahd!)