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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Watkins

living in london

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

Wow. These last two weeks have been an absolute whirlwind. I've temporarily moved to a new place, I've recently started an internship at a company in a different country and I've also started to take classes in International Issues in the Media and British culture.

I'm not gonna lie. The first few days of this trip were probably more stressful than they needed to be. Before the rest of my classmates arrived here in London, I came with my dad to orient myself a few days before the program began. Everything was going pretty smoothly, until I stupidly, somehow, inserted my international SIM card incorrectly into my phone and could not get a functioning phone number for virtually his entire stay!

You see, per contract with my study abroad program, I needed to have a working UK number within the first few days of being in England; if I failed to do this, I would have had to face a $1,000 fine.

Long story short, and several hours in multiple Apple stores later, I ended up having to purchase a new iPhone. That was definitely a curve ball neither myself nor my parents were anticipating! And in case you're wondering, my wallet is still crying.

I did discover, however, that Apple stores in London are obsessed with Ed Sheeran. I now know all the worlds to "Galway Girl," whether I wanted to or not.

Also, quick shoutout to my dad for being an absolute rockstar and introducing me to what he knew of London, when he lived here when he was 17. Not only did we figure out my commute to work at CBS (about 45 minutes in total on the overground), but we also went to two plays, ate at some great restaurants and saw some of the major sights you HAVE to see during your first days in London (Westminster, The London Eye, Buckingham Palace, the lot).

Dad and I on Carnaby Street

Side note-if you don't know already, Big Ben is under construction. Luckily, I've been fortunate to see it before a few years ago on my first trip to London, but I feel bad for those who are staying here for the semester and will not be able to appreciate it in all its glory!

Anyhow, after my dad left and my classmates got here, I started to feel a bit more established. The initial shock of "Oh my gosh, I'm living in a foreign country for the next several months, having a big internship and being away from all of my loved ones" subsided, and I was then able to revel in the glory of what was living on my own in Europe!

What you may or may not know about me was that in high school, I received a "paper plate" superlative for "Most Likely to Move to Europe." So, as you may have guessed, I quickly started to thrive.

I am currently living in Camden Town, a rather bohemian, alternative and (sometimes) questionable area in London, which has so many places to explore. We are minutes away from the famous Camden Food Market, where you can buy food from essentially anywhere around the world. We are also surrounded by charming pubs, and even one not-so-charming pub that we refer to as "The Satan Bar" that conveniently neighbors our apartment. I once made a passing dad joke that the bunch who attends the Metal-themed bar probably create a zine together in their free time! And if you ever need their WiFi password, no need to fear: it's "CometotheSabbath."

There's also a lot of street art to look at, which is always fascinating, and many concert venues--perfect for an audiophile like myself. Camden Town is also famous because of Amy Winehouse; she was first discovered in our neighborhood at a local pub. You can see glimpses of Amy's legacy scattered around town, from an Amy Winehouse statue to Amy Winehouse graffiti near the Camden Food Market walls.

In addition to exploring our neighborhood, we (as a class) have already done a lot. We went on a rather (unexpectedly) long and extensive tour of London one day and traveled to Bath and Stonehenge last weekend. We've also been exploring the Royal Borough of Kensington in our free time. Long story short, I'm 95% sure we saw Meghan Markle in a royal motorcade the first week I was there; this was confirmed when I was at CBS later that week! When my mom asked if I squealed like a little girl at the sight, my answer was "Yes, yes I definitely did."

Left to right: Stonehenge, an obligatory (wet) selfie in front of Stonehenge, and the Roman Baths

On my own, I've also covered a fairly decent bit of ground. In addition to seeing some of London's iconic landmarks, I've pretty much explored every nook and cranny of Shoreditch, perhaps my new favorite neighborhood in all of London. The neighborhood is accented with two of my favorite things: flashy neon signs and succulents in every window. There are countless bars, restaurants and stores I can't wait to explore in more detail, too.

Street art from Shoreditch & pictures from Tonight Josephine in Shoreditch with my friend Elena

Last week, I also went to the Tate Modern and saw Marcel Duchamp's famous "Fountain" (urinal piece) that I've read about many-a-times as an art history minor, as well as a Picasso. I only had about two hours there, and I can't wait to go back. From there, I crossed the Millennium Bridge (which you may recognize from Harry Potter) and St. Paul's cathedral to take the tube to Sketch, the most hipster tea parlor you will ever visit in your life.

I found a "life hack," if you will, to have afternoon tea there without spending £80 per person...instead of eating in the famous pink Gallery Room, eat in The Glade, an arguably equally if not cooler room across the hall. There, you can get a cream tea for £13 per person and feel like you are sitting in a forest in Alice in Wonderland.

And holy cow, don't even get me started on the bathrooms...the stalls are literal eggs, and the bathroom is a walking art I texted my friends who accompanied me to Sketch (while in the loo), I was quick to point out that it was "a religious experience."

However, part of me still wants the *full experience* in The Gallery room; perhaps I will splurge when my boyfriend Davis comes here, and will use our 2 year anniversary to "treat ourselves" at the most instagrammable-place in London...stay tuned!

Left to right: The Glade (the room we ate tea in), the famous Gallery Room, and Grace, Elena & I in Sketch's iconic (and confusing) bathrooms

What I won't tell everyone is that I actually went to the men's side of the bathroom by mistake...oh wait. My secret is out! Oh well, just learn from my lesson and follow the PINK lights that lead up to the girls' side of the bathroom. One could point out that the lights are gender-stereotyping and perhaps a bit sexist, but whatever, it's still cool.

Oh, and there's also a bar with a DJ in the bathroom. Doesn't sound too appetizing, right? It's just something you have to see to believe.

What else can I tell you about my experience in London so far? Well, I've been working at CBS for the past two weeks. There, I've done a lot of transcribing interviews for foreign correspondents, shadowed various reporters and editors and logged videos using AVID. Perhaps the highlight of my job so far was being able to try on the brand new bullet proof vests and gas masks that were brought in for our foreign correspondents. It was a crazy and humbling experience, to say the least.

Was not expecting to do that on my lunch break...

We will be here during Brexit, and perhaps Meghan Markle's baby, so it's an exciting time and place to be studying journalism for sure. I also frequently attend the editorial meetings for the bureau. The content they talk about is definitely a contrast from the afternoon budget meetings at The Missourian or KOMU. It's really nice to have a taste of what I could be doing, post-graduation.

Other than that, I don't have that much to tell you. I've included some of the most glamorous moments I've had here in London, but I also don't mean to leave out some of my major learning curves. For example, my roommates and I walked into a flat with a broken washing machine and four girls with heaps of dirty laundry. Although our washing machine is now fixed, it's an incredibly, unnecessarily complicated machine, and it sounds like a Boeing 737 taking off every time we use it!

We've also had the pleasure of experiencing the tube during rush hour. One abbreviation for you: BO. We've also lost people between stations while traveling to class (sorry Ellie), which was especially an adventure.

The Tube Team, oil on canvas, 2019 (this photo cracks me up)

Everyday, we learn something new about living in London, from realizing that weekly trips to the grocery store aren't a thing (we end up there almost every other day) to realizing that cider hits ya fast after a long day of traveling and not much to eat!

But regardless, living here is the best adventure I could have asked for, and I'm so privileged to have the opportunity to come with the Missouri School of Journalism. I've made some great friends, have seen some great sights and I am looking forward to the many adventures ahead.

Stay tuned for more posts in the coming days...



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