Sunday, October 10, 2010

My first week

The first Sunday morning the student village I lived in had a shuttle going to the Tesco Extra (Think Super Walmart) for people to buy needed stuff. Really I was just trying to get what I needed to get me through the first week, then I felt I would have a better idea to buy actually needed items. I had made a list of the things I would need back in New York, Bedding, toiletries, TV dinners, and other sundries (or as they refer to them here, bits and bobs). Since this is Europe, you can't get a comforter or a blanket, they are all Duvets. And, since a lot of students were also buying bedding it filled up the shuttle's luggage area rather quick.
For orientations I had one for: International students, PhD students, Computer Science students, the student village, and my medical research group. Needless to say, with that many orientations I feel no more oriented now than before. However I did get a fresh stack of papers and paperwork from each one that I have been slowly going through.
I knew that I would get lost easily when first here, however there were a lot of things that added to it. My watch broke right before I left so I was disoriented by not knowing the time. I had decided to go with a cheap phone company (giffgaff, £10 month-to-month for unlimited texts and Internet, and 150 minutes. There is no way they would exist in the U.S.) but I had to get my SIM card through the mail and configure my phone to work on their network. It took me most of the first week before I could use the GPS in my phone. For my luck there was a subway workers strike the day after I arrived. The closest I could get to campus was from an unknown stop so luckily my internal compas worked with all the curvy streets (cloudy skies don't help with getting directions from the sun.) I made it to campus both days without to much getting lost.
There have been activities every day for the student village to get people meeting each other, and scavenger hunts and pub crawls to familiarize people with the neighbourhood. It was also weird to have one of the pushes to be registering for a doctor since the health care is just there and the hard part is getting people to use it. Everyone here is different nationalities. So far I have only met one guy out of the hundred or so I've talked to that is actually English. I've also met one other American, there seem to be a fair bit from Ireland and France with the rest of the world pretty evenly distributed.
When there were sign-ups for social groups I thought- hey I'm finally one of the international students, but alas, there is no American student group. However, since this is a pretty premiere engineering school there were some pretty nerdy groups such as a Magic card group and World of Warcraft along with the more normal stuff. I did sign up for the robotics group should I need a reference for some of my research, the bike club to get access to tools should I need them, and the glider club with the hopes that should I have enough time I can fit in some gliding. (Hey, I can dream can't I.)
The first two days I took the tube to the campus. But when I wasn't in a hurry and didn't have to worry about getting lost I rode my bike. Luckily there were bike lanes most of the way. Bikes are seen as a normal mode of transportation here and I fit right in on my folding bike. (Apparently there is quite a folding bike sub culture here and I already had one guy ask questions about my bike since it is different from any others.)
Everything here is linked to a RFID chip in the ID card. The problem is that my card got lost somewhere in inter-office mail. So I spent the first week following behind people into all the buildings, or asking people walking past to swipe me in. While I had no nefarious intent it is obvious that the cards don't provide much security since I was able to get into the bike cage and even the most secure medical areas with, at most, a few minute delay.
By my first full weekend had enough time to do some more shopping for dishes so that I could cook (and clean up after) instead of buying take-out or frozen dinners. It tasted great, but I realized after eating I realized I hadn't bought any containers to store the left-overs.
I have also switched my spell checking over to British English since I need to start writing letters and papers here. So if things start looking spelled weird, that is why. It is not because I have succumbed to British pub culture.

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