Arriving in London

Katherine Whitehead is a student at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville and an ISA Featured Photo Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in London, England.

It’s been 48 hours since I stepped off my plane at 7:30 a.m. (2:30 a.m. my time) and started my new life in London, England.  Due to getting no sleep on my overnight flight and the five hour time difference, I was more than ready to get my feet on the ground.  As I  began to walk through London Heathrow airport, the realness of my new adventure began to sink in.  I wasn’t only in Europe, I was in London: one of the oldest, greatest and most beautiful cities in the world, filled with life, culture and history.  After making my way through baggage claim and meeting a few Brits on the way, I walked to customs.  I had been through this all before.  Four years earlier I had done this trip with my family.  Everything was all very familiar, but yet all of it was so different.  I was alone.  I had nobody to count on except myself.  For the first time in my life, I was completely on my own.

Being in a foreign country alone is always scary (especially the first time) and navigating one of the craziest and most famous international airports in the world is just as scary. From thinking I had lost my baggage, to getting lost in the airport for two hours, to making my way through customs, frantically searching through my suitcases out in the open for a pen to write with, to getting stranded in a parking garage, it has been a whirlwind. I got so overwhelmed as I stood in London Heathrow, lost, confused as to where I was, why I was here alone, and where to go next, I began to cry. I thought, “why me? Going home could be so much easier.” I wanted my normal routine back. I wanted my own bed back. I wanted familiarity back. That’s when I had to tell myself that I would be okay. I made it this far.  London was new and different and confusing and exciting and beautiful in so many ways.  There are so many amazing things to see and explore and learn about myself and what I’m capable of.

This evening I ventured out to the grocery store to buy breakfast food and grab dinner. Being that I am traveling solo, it was obvious I was a foreigner. I was stopped by an old man in Sainsbury’s whom I had a great conversation with. It wasn’t ordinary by any means to be alone in an environment so unfamiliar to me, but the old man brought me back to earth. Humanity is familiarity. From the man, to those that showed me the way in the airport, to the postal worker who helped me get into my apartment and told me, “it happens to the best of us” when I thought my key was broken. I’m trying to keep everything in perspective, my thoughts, my emotions, the uneasiness that comes with being in a new place. That’s the reason I’m here, to let go of familiarity and become immersed in a culture and life that is far different from the one I have known.

The world awaits… it!

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