The Experience

I write this on Feb. 23. I’ve officially been here for more than a month. That’s more than a month of school, more than a month of being around the people, more than a month of getting used to the area.

It’s enough time to reflect on what I have been through since I arrived here in mid January. It’s enough time to really understand what it’s like to live here, to realize what I miss (and maybe don’t miss) from back home in California. The daily life, the night life, the food, whatever it is. I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on the whole experience right now. And I’m going to share that with you.

“You go to a restaurant or grocery store and ask for some ranch, they look at you weird and bring you mayonnaise (gross). You go to the movies and ask them to add butter to your popcorn, they look at you even weirder and point you in the direction of mayonnaise again (more gross).”

Here are the biggest adjustments I have had to make since I arrived about 5 weeks ago:

You always hear about it, and you think you are mentally prepared coming in, but the weather when you first get here is just straight-up tough to handle. It is consistent and relentless. Coming from a place where I’m used to wearing shorts and a t-shirt 80 percent of the year, to a place where it is regularly in the 30’s year round, it’s quite the adjustment.

Language barrier
Obviously it’s not an actual language barrier, because they speak English here. But I think coming in I underestimated how different the language actually is. Not only the accents, which still make it hard to accomplish simple tasks like ordering food or following along in class, but the nuances in vocabulary that create some issues as well. On multiple occasions I’ve ordered chips thinking I was getting tortilla chips and yet there I was with thickly cut potato wedge french fries (that they serve with absolutely everything).

Confusion created by these intricacies has me saying “what” or nodding my head politely more than I ever have in my life.

They really do drive on the left side of the road, and it’s weird. It’s weird in your mind, and even more weird when you see it happening. Not only that, but the driver is on the right side of the car. I’ve attempted to get into a number of Ubers on the driver’s side before quickly redirecting and trying to cover up my mistake.

Then there is the challenge that is crossing the road as a pedestrian. You never really understand how strong muscle memory is until you are forced to change it. Especially when it is something that you have been doing since you were a kid. “Look right first, look right first, look right first.” Yet I still inevitably look left, see no cars coming from that side of the road, and proceed to take a step forward only to hear a car coming from the other direction and hop back onto the sidewalk. It’s best to wait for a local to walk first so I can confirm that it’s safe.

The biggest challenge with it at first was understanding how much everything really costs. Every one pound translates to about $1.40. As a math guy, I enjoy doing the calculations in my head. Just 40 percent higher every time. However it’s still natural to see you are eating dinner for under £5 or planning a trip for under £100 and getting excited, forgetting about the conversion rate. But trust me, your debit/credit card statement never forgets about it.

Along with this, coins are used for £1 with paper money starting at £5. As a result, I’m often stuck with loads of coins in my wallet — coins that actually have quite a bit of value, unlike at home.

Time change
We’re 8 hours ahead. That makes it difficult to find times to talk to friends and family back home. I don’t use my phone to talk to anyone other than my friends here until about 5 p.m. each day because everyone is asleep back home (actually probably a good thing). Following sports is as hard as it has ever been. Being from the West Coast, my teams’ games don’t come on until 3 a.m. each night. These arelittle things, but stuff like this makes it hard to keep up your old lifestyle.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, ranch dressing, movie theater butter popcorn. These are daily staples back home; if you go to any grocery store, CTC is everywhere. If you go to a restaurant and want something to dip your chicken tenders, pizza, or french fries in? Ranch is available at a simple request. You go to a movie, you are surprised if there isn’t butter on your popcorn. You take all these things for granted, because they’re all so standard, they’re all so entrenched in the culture.

But here, they’re simply not. There’s no CTC anywhere. You go to a restaurant or grocery store and ask for some ranch, they look at you weird and bring you mayonnaise (gross). You go to the movies and ask them to add butter to your popcorn, they look at you even weirder and point you in the direction of mayonnaise again (more gross). I could go on and on about the food, but there are a few examples. Again, all little, picky things. But it’s the little things like these that really make you miss home the most.

Seriously, mayonnaise!

There are also aspects of life that have been slightly easier to adjust to than expected. The academic system as a whole is not all that different. The pop culture (movies, music, celebrities, etc.) that everyone follows is very similar to the U.S. The humor is the same; what is funny back home is funny here. The way people dress isn’t as formal as I thought. They have malls, supermarkets, pharmacies. They have TGI Friday’s of all places. Familiarities like these have undoubtedly made the process easier.

Whatever it is, difficult to adjust to or not, each little thing has contributed to my overall experience of living in England, and I look forward to that experience growing as my time here goes on!

Oh and I went to Scotland. So I included a pretty picture for you, hope you like it.

Davis Elgin is a second year applied mathematics major. He is studying at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom for the entire spring semester.

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