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18 September 2007

Orientation Weekend

I'm settled in my room here at the university, and I finally have a bit of a break to provide an update.

The past week has been very eventful and memorable. For most of last week I was off exploring London on my own. Since I was on my own and had my own travelcard (with unlimited travel in zones 1 and 2) on my Oyster card, I was able to go anywhere whenever I wanted - which meant going all over the city! I explored most of the neighborhoods in central London, including Soho, Covent Garden, Kensington, Chelsea, Bloomsbury, the City, Notting Hill, Westminster, and Hyde Park. And having explored these neighborhoods (and more), I'm really loving London! It's so exciting to live here; there's always something to do, there is a mix of people from all over the world, and everyone I've encountered has been extremely nice and helpful. Plus, contrary to what I had expected, the weather's been phenomenal: sunny and warm every day!

This past weekend, Friday through Sunday, was the orientation for my study abroad program.

The group of people who were with me (there were about 20 total, from all the UC campuses, spending this school year at three different universities in the UK/Ireland) were amazing. They're all smart and from diverse backgrounds; I feel lucky to be in the same program with them. We had our introductory meeting, in which our program coordinators introduced themselves and discussed the many ways we'd be adjusting into life in the UK. It was exciting, although parts felt mundane and redundant. Afterwards, we walked all the way from Bloomsbury to dinner at Covent Garden. Then we were off on our own to explore London at night, but most people, exhausted from jet lag, went back to the dorm where we're staying.

Saturday was another great day. We had a tour of Notting Hill (basically pointing out celebrities' houses, including Madonna's and Robbie Williams', and the filming locations for the movie Notting Hill).

We had some free time afterwards, during which three of us checked out the Victoria and Albert museum. We only walked through briefly, glancing at the ornate displays of sculpture and interior design. We were most impressed, however, by the futuristic hand dryers inside the bathrooms! Next for the group was a tour of Parliament, which was quite spectacular. There's so much history that has happened there, it's overwhelming! That evening, we watched a play called The Boyfriend in Regent's Park; it was cute. It was the final performance of the summer at the outdoor theatre in Regent's Park, so to congratulate the theatre troupe on their work on the production, one of the theatre's most prominent supported came on stage to speak: It was the Dame Judi Dench!

I was more impressed with seeing her than I was with the play! After that, our group rejoined the Cork and Nottingham people and hung out at a nearby pub called the Albany (which had a dance club downstairs).

Sunday, after a final meeting with our coordinators about academic expectations, we rode in taxis booked for us to the university. I shared a taxi with one classmate; our taxi driver was from Tunisia (or was it Turkey?), and we discussed politics along the way. Apparently they don't all hate Americans as one might have been inclined to presume. Instead, they hate the US government, especially its foreign policy. I felt unexpectedly reassured.

Arrived at the uni, and it was time to settle in to my room! I quickly dropped my stuff, then soon went with a couple others in my group to stock up on necessities - silverware, plates, pillows, etc. I still have some things to buy.

Monday, my friend arrived from Germany. I met her at Piccadilly Circus. She's staying with me for a few days before we travel to Scotland later this week! It's non-stop!

Today, I registered for my classes. It was exhausting and overwhelming! After an orientation meeting, all the international/study-abroad students (myself included) entered a big room with tables set up, one for each department. We had to line up and get each department's advisor to personally approve the classes we wanted to add/drop. It was crazy; it took at least half an hour, if not longer, for me to wait for each advisor, and I had to wait in 4 lines (queues!), because I'm taking classes from four different departments. I still have to go to one more department tomorrow; I don't want to do another one today. It's such an old-fashioned system! I can't believe they still require you to register in person. Now I truly appreciate the value of our online class-registration process!

That's all for now. I still have a lot of shopping and organizing to do. And I'm leaving for Edinburgh tomorrow night!

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