words | Nicole Macedo
It’s been three weeks since I embarked on my visionary quest of studious academic proportions and I feel like a true Londoner. I’ve sat next to a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle on the night bus, and I’ve mingled amongst arty hipsters at the opening of an obscure exhibition in Kensington. At the same time, I still feel distinctly foreign; I’ve tried to pay for a bus ride with paper money, I’ve recoiled in horror and pure distaste after having sampled the local take on ‘Chargrilled prawns’, and I’ve wandered off without having properly locked my room door, only to come back and find it had been invaded by my utterly banterous flatmates. I’m aware that this has somewhat come off as a diary entry thus far, and I promise I will not give Adrian Mole a run for his money and use this as my personal whinging space, but understand that as a sheltered individual in a country that I can’t quite decide whether it is foreign to me or not, I have a few qualms. I have also made a mental note of the positives. The view from my room faces North West of London, with the towering spires of the city visibly illuminated at night, including the now Coca Cola red London Eye. Occasionally, I look out wistfully to remind myself why I’m here and where I want to be once the clutches of higher education unhand me.
My haunt is small and there is a constant state of siren blaring outside. The Goldsmith’s campus overflows onto the ever-busy New Cross Road, which has significantly impressive transport links to Central London. My halls of residence sit directly opposite the Overground station and the biggest Sainsbury’s I have ever seen. Adapting to the student lifestyle is the biggest challenge I’ve faced over the past month. Former full time employment Nicole had no qualms with the cost of things, but I seem to have developed a hypersensitivity to the cost of certain things, from dishware, to alcohol, olive oil, and books for my course. Other things I am still getting used to weaning myself off of, like expensive sushi dinners, designer make-up and using the underground as my preferred mode of transport. Food shopping is proving a taxing task, as I meander around isles spending way too long pondering over whether I really need a certain item and whether it is acceptable to spend north of £3 on the smallest quantity of prawns for homemade ‘gambas pil pil’. The answer to the latter is always no, leaving me pottering off to the Sainsbury’s own meat free burgers, feeling deflated. I have found myself having quite vocal disputes with myself, directed at the higher echelons of the Sainsbury’s brand, about the price of olive oil and roasted red peppers and other items that had been engrained as necessary in my weekly food consumption, having grown up between Gibraltar and Spain. On the subject of eating habits, analysing my flatmates’ has become a truly fascinating social study. Bearing in mind that the individuals the mystery accommodation algorithm chose for me to live with are almost all of the same age as I, culinary staples include jam on toast, different variations of packet ramen noodles and egg, and the standard take away fried chicken and chips. My go to evening meal shifts between the Veggie Patty meal deal from Subway, and homemade couscous, although it is difficult to find anything appropriate to eat after my evening lectures, which finish at 9pm.
I seem to have found myself in the midst of an identity crises, since moving to London. ‘Where are you from?’ is the most frequently asked question and often prompts a blank face when asked by another student. ‘Well…’ I used to tell people I was from Kent, because I wanted to associate more with the English, but now being English is no longer a novelty, and I find myself professing my true Gibraltarian-ness to confused and intrigued peers, painting the Rock as any other worldly utopia. I do miss it. I miss how it doesn’t take more than thirty minutes to travel anywhere, I miss tapas, and I miss the warmth, but otherwise I have embraced London. I would even consider myself a true Londoner now, having been harassed by a homeless man for a cigarette, and scolded for not allowing him to have a few puffs of the one I was currently smoking. I think I dealt with the situation rather well; ‘Sorry, mate,’ ‘No mate,’ ‘I’m a student, mate’. Despite what my mum consistently warned me, London really isn’t as scary as it is made out to be. Take the night bus as an example, it’s 4am and strange characters are lurking in the darkest corners of the double decker and my route travels through Peckham, yet the air of unease dissipates by the third stop, when you finally realise that every individual on the bus is either dead inside, or absolutely oblivious. I’ve become a daily underground hopper, now familiar with the majority of the lines. It really is a magnificent system that I would highly recommend avoiding when you are deathly hungover, dying between Charing Cross and Piccadilly is quite probably the worst way to see out your life. When the novelty runs out, and my financial situation becomes more pressing I will make the switch to travelling by bus, which actually, may I add, is an even worse experience to endure when hungover.
Much of university life is made up of sleeping and reading, usually in the opposite order. As I’m on a Literature course, the majority of my workload is reading based, particularly the relevant texts to the course, similar texts, analytics texts discussing the other texts you’ve already read, and even more texts on the influences of the era. This early on I have already learned that distractions are aplenty, and it is not a wise idea to try and get your course reading done in any environment that is not a locked cell void of internet connection and warmth. My lectures run in the evenings, causing any appropriate sleeping pattern to have been quashed in the very beginning. The activity in my flat occurs between the hours of 10pm and 4am, when wandering the corridor and inviting yourself into your flatmates’ rooms for a chat or chucking a tray of hash browns into the oven is a regular occurrence. Communal laundry sessions are the best kind of flat bonding, always inducing the same conversation about how expensive it is to wash and dry clothes on a student budget. You have to be tactical with your washing; it’s an elaborate game of mixing colours and waiting a few weeks until every item of clothing, bar your onesie, is festering in the laundry basket.
I’ve survived the first month managing to avoid the infamous Fresher’s Flu and any extreme bouts of homesickness. My knowledge of Shakespearean English is developing beautifully and I am now an expert price comparer of laundry washing tablets. In time, I’m fully confident that I can drop the prefix from my self-awarded title.