3 Random Things I was Surprised by When I First Arrived in England

Sariah Cheadle is a student at Southwest Minnesota State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Reading, England.

  1. This is Bingo.

Uh. . . Where does it say B-I-N-G-O? Nowhere, apparently. The numbers 1-90 are just called out and you cross them off as you come to them. Apparently, Old McDonald doesn’t have a farm in England. Either that or he just doesn’t have a dog named Bingo. We played “full-house” bingo, where you had to have every number crossed off to win. Normally I love bingo, but this seemed, in my eyes a bit flat, because you can’t make the standard “B-4 WHAT?” joke when you play.

  1. Paper Dimensions

All printer paper and notebooks are just slightly longer and slimmer in England than U.S. printer paper. Makes sense, when you think about the fact that they don’t use the same measuring system, but it completely threw me. One of the first things we did when we arrived was pick up a packet of information about the university from the study abroad office on campus—things you should probably pay attention to. But when I opened the folder and took out one of the sheets of paper, I was so distracted that I missed half of the guy’s speech. As I held it in my hand, it just felt wrong. I flipped it over and fluttered it up and down in investigation until I realized what it was that was putting me off. It’s only maybe half an inch longer, but it’s enough to notice the length and balance of it when held in your hand.

  1. (Excessive?) Fire Safety

Okay, I know that London has a history of bad fires, and I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining because I appreciate their concern with our safety and all, but, when I first arrived, I was a bit overwhelmed by all the fire safety measures. At the end of every hall in the dorms are these fire extinguishers—two larger ones filled with water, and then one smaller one with CO2. Almost every door within a building has a small plaque with a blue circle in the center that says: “Fire door keep shut.” I’ve seen this occasionally written on doors in the U.S. of course—mostly in apartment buildings—but almost every door in every building of the entire university seems to carry the pledge. One of the first things we attended when our study abroad group arrived was a safety talk for living in the dorms— respective universities around the U.S. and a few of us were talking about how we had candles in our dorms even though they weren’t technically allowed. But during the talk they were so serious about fire safety that we all decided that we were definitely not going to have candles in our dorms.

All in all, though, these changes are slight but the biggest thing I’ve come to realize is that these small things really can add up and become overwhelming if you’re not careful. The more you can think about them as exciting and interesting, rather than weird or strange, the more successful your experience abroad will be.

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