As I arrived back home from my Philippines trip, I could already prepare myself for the next adventure. I had only two full days at home, before I had to fly to London for my exchange semester. Quite tight in time. But it all worked out okay. However, packing for an entire semester is something completely different compared to a two-three weeks trip. But I told myself, that I can come home anytime I want. That’s what I thought at that time. Then, compared to Japan, London is not at the other side of the world. However, everything turned out differently. But let’s start from the beginning.
On February 12 I flew from Basel to London. Unfortunately, my luggage was way too heavy. And as Switzerland is well known for being ridiculously expensive, I had to painfully pay quite a bit extra. Whatever! Let’s not talk about that. The flight was pretty quick. In around 1,5 hours, I landed at Heathrow airport. There, I already met a classmate of mine. The driver waited already for us, which was super convenient. As we arrived on campus, we first had to do a health check, due to the Covid-19 situation around the world. Even though, the situation in Europe at that time was harmless, there are many international students studying at my school. That’s why the school took it pretty seriously. I almost didn’t want to tell them that I have been transferring plane in Hong Kong, even though they told us we should not enter a step to mainland China. But it was all good.
It was so nice to see some familiar faces again. The London campus is much smaller than the Swiss campus. Many of my close friends stayed in Switzerland. Therefore, I was first a little scared coming here. But it was also quite exciting to be in a different environment and to get along with different people compared to the last semester. As I discovered the campus and got used to my room, I already liked the atmosphere here. Much more familiar and convenient. We were divided in different little houses, 12-16 rooms each if I remember correctly. Every dorm had a kitchen and a sofa area. The classrooms were literally a 10 second walk away. So convenient! The first week was for introduction purposes. They showed us the campus, explained how the 4th semester will work and so on.
Besides school, we went an afternoon to Ikea, to buy some stuff for our room and the kitchen and to eat some Hot dogs. I also had to get my nails done, because the school didn’t allow us girls to wear red nails. Such a pain. Moreover, I got invited to a friend’s home for dinner. It was so cool and kind of them. And the food was delicious! Obviously, we also checked out the biggest and cheapest supermarket in the area, called Asda. Then for the next four months, we had to cook daily. But most excitingly was the day, when we first went to the city centre. I mean, it wasn’t my first time in London. I’ve been there a couple of years ago with my mum. In those few days, we basically saw all major tourist attractions and popular areas. Therefore, I didn’t feel any pressure having to explore every corner of London. There were and are definitely many things I haven’t seen of London yet. But this time, I also had the opportunity to see London as a Londoner.
The first time, I went with a bunch of Asians to the city, which was pretty cool! Our Uni is located in a neighbourhood called Roehampton, which is why we took an Uber to get to the city. With 4 people sharing the price, it was quite affordable. First, we headed to Chinatown. I’ve never been there before, which is why I was especially excited. It was all like I imagined. The red lanterns and the atmosphere were really nice and lively. There were so many restaurants and dessert store we wanted to try out. In general, London is heaven for foodies. So many amazing and original restaurants for everyone’s taste.
Then, we headed to Covent Garden to catch up with the other guys. Covent Garden was new to me as well. It’s definitely more of a shopping district. But the entire vibe, with the traditional British pubs, houses and of course the red telephone cells, couldn’t have been more British. The weather wasn’t as nice. It started raining here and then, but that’s what London is famous for. Right?
While most other guys wanted and needed to go shopping, I decided to walk and look around during that time. I looked at Covent Garden Market, an indoor hall with cute shops and cafés. Afterwards, I headed to Neal’s Yard, a hidden little alley which looked absolutely adorable. But I’m not going to lie, it took me a while until I actually found the right way. Otherwise, I just strolled through the streets.
At the time, the others finished their shopping, we met up again and headed back to China Town and Soho. I really wanted to try my every first Bubble Tea. If not near China Town, I didn’t know where else. We went to Xing Fu Tang, a well-known Taiwanese boba shop. Bubble tea originated in Taiwan; in case you wonder. I was so excited. Even though I spent 6 months in Japan, I never tried it. Don’t ask me why. We all got the brown sugar bubble tea, which basically not even tea, as it consists of only of milk, brown sugar syrup and tapioca pearls. The best thing was, that they prepared the boba pearls freshly and directly in front of you. Sooo cool! And it tasted amazing! I can tell now, why Asians are obsessed with it. But I can also understand why “Westerners” might not be the biggest fan. Anyway, I loved it!
Then, we headed to a Chinese groceries store to get some ingredients for cooking. And then, it was already time for dinner. For dinner we headed to a Chinese restaurant. Surprise! We ordered some shrimp dumplings, spicy Sichuan style fish, rice, some veggies and so on. Really good. As if it wouldn’t have been enough, we ended our day with another Asian treat. The dessert shop offered shaved ice with all kinds of different toppings, such as red beans and so many typed of jellies. They also had those warm sweet soups with that jelly inside. It was a nice experience, but I wasn’t the biggest fan of it.
Anyway. That’s what happened the first few days in London. Stay tuned for more!