I can’t think back to the first time wanderlust struck me. I’ve always dreamed of adventure and the big world that few attempt to see. I’m from a small town in southern Missouri, so I grew up knowing little other than the Ozark Mountains.
Upon touring MU for the first time my junior year of high school, the J-School tour guide mentioned our amazing study abroad programs. She put the words “internship” and “London” into the same sentence, and that was all I needed to hear.
Ever since then I’ve been working hard so that the spring of my junior year at MU could be spent abroad in London, England. Well folks, I’m happy to report that I’m currently sitting on a black sofa in my flat in Camden Town, London.
I arrived Jan. 7 at Heathrow Airport and will remain here until April 29.
Upon arrival in Camden, we were given our keys to our flats and told to meet back downstairs for a neighborhood walking tour. Now if you’re anything like me, you probably imagine London to look like a blend of Mary Poppins and Shanghai Knights. I was very much mistaken.
Camden Town is an area north of central London with streets full of shops and pubs. The nightlife is constant and often sounds like a kindergarten playground. The people look like H&M models and singers from the punk rock bands I listened to in eighth grade. The streets are packed during the day. It’s kind of like Columbia, but on speed or some other form of illegal drug that accelerates everything.
After our walking tour on the first day, my small group of (new) MU friends and I went to a pub/restaurant for lunch and yes, I ordered my first legal drink (sorry mom and dad). It was a cider, so I’m going really crazy here. I spent the rest of the afternoon in my friend Sophia’s flat, absorbing my new life abroad.
That night, a group of us decided to go out to a pub for an hour and then head home since we had to be up early for orientation at CAPA (our program’s headquarters) the next day.
That didn’t happen.
It turns out that The Elephant’s Head, a small and stereotypical pub, was having an open mic night. Therefore, our short evening of one drink and heading home for bed transformed into five hours and a couple of Americans drunkenly leading the entire pub in an a cappella rendition of Smash Mouth’s “All Star.”
Now if I told you that I didn’t enjoy that moment, I’d be lying. If I told you that I didn’t have my coat, scarf and purse on before the performance was over, I’d also be lying. While hilarious, I was ready to get out of there.
So with my first pub experience under my belt, I felt much more comfortable going out with my flatmates a few days later. We went to a place called The World’s End. (Yes, there is a comedy based on it.) It played the original Rock Band soundtrack and was packed to the brim, but it was a blast. That is, until two guys came up and asked us if American girls really like to push the limits. After they realized we weren’t stars from “Girls Gone Wild,” they let us be and we got out of there.
As we were walking out the door, a guy ran up and grabbed my arm. He proceeded to tell me that his friend thought I was very attractive, but was too shy to say anything. When I looked in the direction of his thumb, I saw a guy quickly turn his back to me. It was awkward, but flattering. I said thank you, but the guy never looked at me.
So that was my first four days in London. I’d doubt it will be this exciting for the rest of the semester, but I’m sure there will be plenty of laughs and awkward Ellise moments along the way.