In this week's post, Christopher reveals his first impressions of London and how he stumbled upon the Duke and Duchess of Sussex during a casual stroll.
I embarked for my semester-long journey on the evening of September 4th. Upon my arrival into Heathrow Airport the next day, I found myself enjoying a cup of tea at Costa Coffee when I was warmly greeted into the United Kingdom by the Heathrow Baggage Claims Staff. They performed a choreographed dance demonstrating proper airport etiquette to ABBA’s Dancing Queen. After enjoying a good laugh from the performance, I instantly started to feel more comfortable amongst my surroundings. I then took the lift down to the Underground platform.
My first experience getting on the tube during the early morning commute felt a lot like I was a sardine stuck inside a tin can. However coming from New York City, I have dealt with this same scenario on many occasions. After getting off at Earl’s Court Station, I was then dealt with the next task of finding my way to my new flat. It was in this moment that I had my first experience of culture shock.
When I would look out at the street and see a car driving along the road with no person sitting in the left-hand front seat (the American driver’s side), it made me stop, pause, and think more about how they drive on the other side of the road in the United Kingdom. Additionally, there have been a few instances where somebody was crossing the street and almost got hit by a moving vehicle, due to the unfamiliarity of cars driving on the opposite side of the road.
The peak moment of my arrival week was when I happened to stumble upon members of the Royal Family while casually strolling around Westminster. During our second night, some of my flatmates and I decided to take the tube to Covent Garden to casually stroll about the area and have a more relaxed time, taking in all the sights and historical buildings that London has to offer. As I was walking up to one building, I happened to notice a lot of commotion as there was a crowd of paparazzi idly standing outside an exit surrounded by barricades; so we decided it'd be a good idea to see what all the fuss was about. Within five minutes of standing around, two cars pulled up alongside the exit, one black Range Rover SUV and a black Jaguar Coupe following it. It was at this point that all the paparazzi began capturing the moment everyone had been waiting for.
Out stepped the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and his new wife Meghan Markle. I couldn’t believe it, my second night in London and I happened to stumble upon members of the Royal Family, something that locals and diehard fans could only dream of happening. I find it rather ironic, as this summer I was someone who was indifferent toward the hype surrounding the royal wedding, and now I found myself standing a mere 15 feet away from the Duke and Duchess in sheer awe of their presence. It was at this point where I first realized how grateful I am for my experience; it's enabled me to have experiences that I could never fathom if I were studying back home. I’m going to forever cherish that moment and can only hope I’ll see more members with my newfound appreciation.
Keep reading for my weekly insights and adventures!
Christopher's journey continues every Friday so stay tuned.