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Travelog

Breaking Bad

It's like Freshmen Orientation week at Parsons all over again. Except this time with that valuable perspective I didn't have as an over eager freshman terrified that my family and friends had abandoned me and I had be drop-shipped into this scary new world of terrible people. Desperation, apparently, makes for unfriendly people. Like they can smell how much you want to be their friend.  

And really, if it weren't for the European Art History module, where I paid  £580 for my own set of friends, I'd be the same as everyone else. Eager and hopeless and ready. 

They fed us breakfast, at least, danish and pain au chocolat, and what I'm sure was stale coffee, though even the most gourmet tastes like dirt, so I didn't partake. And then whisked us into the back, after I met three people who attend Parsons alongside me who's faces I might have seen before, but couldn't be sure. Our school must be huge, in order for me to have never met other people in my major. And in this lecture hall--stuffy, like most things in England, seriously guys, can you turn down the heat in the Tube? It's the goddamn Underground and it feels like the broadside of the Sahara under the eye of the equator. Also, Londoners, for the love of all that is holy, learn to pack the carriage like a can of sardines already. There are a lot of people who need to get from here to there to somewhere at rush hour and just because your trains come every two minutes doesn't mean you should be able to squat in place without rubbing bums with the rider next to you. Because if that's the case, then you have too much personal space. And people call New Yorkers unfriendly.   

Lecture from the librarian, from the study abroad advisor, from the president of the student union who had a prezzi presentation and a handwriting typeface in fushia on violet--DO YOU GOT TO ART SCHOOL OR KINDERGARTEN, HONESTLY-- then another from the hilarious student accommodation expert, and this person and that, I don't know, I stopped paying attention after the sixth person told me to buy an oyster card and stop using paper tickets like a clueless nipper. 

Then I had a delightful meeting with the witty director of my program, who mentioned he wanted to read our blogs, just because the American perspective of London fascinated him so. Absolutely, sir, I love sharing my opinions with strangers--especially ones who remind me so much of Professor Bevington. So here's a taste: stop using aerosol deodorant, it's weird and why doesn't Pret carry the Roast Beef Arugula Parmesean baguette--do you have something against arugula, because it's like freakin' Adam and Eve's underwear--a gift from the gods. Your grocery stores only sell food--how weird is that? Your double yellow lines are on the edges of the street instead of the middle and sometimes they're red. You have a queen, and she's a real thing that you refer to as majesty, and it's so quaint but also terrifying because your television is paid for by taxpayer money and subsequently the acting is terrible and yet, there are still commercials, which are all American with a British voice-over. Less guns, but a whole boatload of cameras, yet you treat 18 years olds like the adults they are--letting them drink, even in the common rooms in the dorms! And out on the street, open container laws be damned. You are very concerned that my credit card isn't signed--but then if someone steals it they have my credit card AND my signature--and your cheese is expensive and it tastes weird. All of your dairy products do. You have too many coins, everyone uses cash everywhere and not a single person has commented on my American accent. 

Free lunch was tea sandwiches like you Brits are content with eating white bread when baguettes exist. "If you need the toilet, just walk past the bar and take a left at the DJ Booth." Because those are normal sights in a school cafeteria. And then Tom, sweet faced Tom and all of his good hearted planning like we actually are Freshers, comes around and assigns us numbers for the walking tour. Obviously we're standing in a group, you know specifically that we spent the last week in Madrid together, and yet still, sweet Tom, you assign us all different numbers like were are toddlers on our first day in Elementary gym class. Three glances in between us, "So we're going shopping?"  

"So long as we catch up with the tour later for the trip to the pub."  

"I'm down."  

Thank god so many art students smoke and no one blinked an eye when we ran out the front door. For shopping. Ever been to New Look? It's like London H&M, and it is very lovely, and a very bad idea when your amount of money is finite and you shouldn't be spending it frivolously. That is the most terrifying part of study abroad, for sure. I'm not working, which means, if I'm not conscious, the money could eventually run out.  Shivers.  

And a jot through the pharmacy--seriously guys, who told you spray deodorant was a good idea--any why don't you use top sheets in your bedding sets? But then we had forty-five minutes to kill. 

Half the city is housed in these turn-of-some-century buildings and the others are glass and steel but you walk around the corner in London, you can be gobsmacked with history. The law offices in Holborn sit around a chapel and its crypt, where a few dozen past members of the royal council are interred. You can literally walk three steps away from a skyscraper in this town and be standing on a tomb that's been there, chiseled in calligraphy, since 1743. Look at how cute we are in America, making such a big deal about our hundred year old rail stations and our centennial. The oldest tailor in London was founded in 1689. I have photographic proof. 

We found the pub, and our abandoned tour group making their way up to it's marble doorstep with poorly suppressed giggles and one giant conspicuous shopping bag. Some other familiar faces where there, and as the group continued past the pub for some (un)familiar sights of near-ancient chapels and a crypt full of Silks, we gathered around the tour guide and his fanny-pack microphone. Tom crept up behind Claire en-route. "Been doing some shopping, I see?" But everything sounds so much less dangerous in his jolly British accent. But his smirk totally crossed the T on the SHITHEAD stamp on my forehead. 

But some well deserved ribbing over the American pronunciation of 'herb' and a one stolen chip, and we're on fine ground with Tom. He must deal with so much worse anyway. I know how art students can be. 

Then 4PM in the Knight's Templar pub and free pints for all! School bought us all a pint of beer. Let me repeat that for you. School bought all one hundred twenty of us a pint of beer. Sure is was a chain bar and they offered alcoholic cider--is this your idea of a good time, Britain? It tastes like sour apple juice and piss. And Coldwater Creek wine on tap? I don't even know how to form words in response to that. 

Props to you, UAL, for trying so hard to make us happy, but we do not need an entire week of orientation activities to get us acclimated to the city when the majority of us have been getting drunk in pubs since we moved in when the tenancy contracts started three weeks ago.  

But points for the effort. And you bought me a pint, so, cheers.  

Jessica Griscti3 Comments