23 hours of flight time, four inflight movies, two Bloody Marys, and five questionably edible economy class meals is what it takes to get from Middle Earth to the Old Smoke. Me being excited about getting off the plane as we land on the Heathrow runway is probably an understatement. Not only was my back sore, but I was beginning to think that my seat had permanently contorted the shape of my backside.
I quickly make my way through customs and out of the airport. As I walked around like a headless chicken looking for anything that marginally resembled a shuttle or taxi, I had my first opportunity to soak in the atmosphere. It was a particularly overcast day, and it gave me the same grim feeling as I would get watching an episode of East Enders.
Depending on your destination, expect to pay over sixty quid for a ride from Heathrow airport in a black cab/taxi. The more economical choice is paying around twenty five pounds for a shuttle with other passengers. Of course, for all you introverts and haters of people in general, this might not be an attractive option.
I make my way to the hotel in Paddington. I was planning on staying here for two days before moving into my studio room at GradPad Wood Lane Studios. Paddington being quite close to South Kensington would allow me to orient myself with the surrounding area and the Imperial campus itself. On arrival, they tell me that I have been upgraded to a ‘nicer’ room, free of charge. At this point, I was feeling quite special about myself, so I didn’t question it at all. What they didn’t mention though, was that this ‘nicer’ room was in Barbican, on the other side of the city.
With these initial hiccups aside though, my first impressions of Imperial College were great. Being an international student and arriving in London for the first time, I was practically a living manifestation of the ‘Forever Alone’ meme. Fortunately, Imperial provided a great international student orientation week, allowing students (many attending university for the first time) to assimilate themselves into student life, and to meet other wide-eyed freshers.
Imperial College is split into a number of campuses. In my case, I’m based in the business school, appropriately named Imperial College Business School, which is based in the main South Kensington campus. South Kensington is as fancy as it sounds. To keep a long story short, the rent for a single apartment in the surrounding area could probably rival the entire economy of a small country. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s a student town, but there is definitely a great variety of stores and eating places, especially for when you get tired of the school canteen. Prices for meals at most places in the area are relatively easy to swallow, even for the budget conscious individuals.
Lectures have been of high quality. Our MSc International Health Management class consists of only fifty or so people, therefore student have a greater opportunity to interact with their lecturers. In fact, the class is so small that our course director/ health informatics lecturer knows us all. I learned this the hard way when I overslept on the first week. Being a good student and all, I decided to catch up on the missed lecture online, as they record every single lecture. It was a very awkward feeling seeing the lecturer greet another student, thinking it was me, her proceed to seek me out in the lecture theatre to apologise for the mistake, but then realise I wasn’t even there. She now knows me as the dude who skipped her lecture. Moral of the story is, watching a recorded lecture online is not a substitute for attending in person, and having more than one alarm in the morning will ensure a greater attendance rate.
I have been here for a few weeks now, and I have plenty of things to share with you all, not only about this great university, but also about my experiences in the city of London. I’ll talk to you soon.