Monday, February 1, 2016

Week 2: Nerves & Friends

Allison Luppe
Plymouth UK

It has been one week since I arrived in Plymouth and it has been... interesting to say the least. I have made some new friends, both from the international department and from the surrounding community, gotten over my initial jetlag (more or less), and have figured out my way around (again, more or less).

Coming in three days before orientation was probably one of my better ideas for a couple of reasons. The first being that whenever I went to bed at what I considered a normal hour of 10:30, my jetlagged brain decided that the best way to combat flying over a six hour difference was to have me sleep for fourteen hours. For those of you keeping score at home, I couldn't find it in me to get out of bed before noon on that Tuesday. If I had something going on that day, I would have been in for a rough time indeed. I've started getting the hang of the time change though and these days with nothing going on gave me plenty of opportunities to explore and get lost. And explore some more as a result of that.

Plymouth has become smaller than it seemed whenever I first arrived, which I count as a really good thing. Whenever I first arrived, I was shocked by how big everything seemed and the winding streets that I couldn't figure out how they went. Eventually I found their course and I am getting better at finding my way around. I've only pulled out my phone once or twice over the course of this weekend and that was to look at my bus schedule that I actually didn't need in the end. This is something that I really have to get used to. As those who know me know, I usually drive wherever I would need to go and I've never really needed to rely on public transport. This probably says something about my station in life and I am well aware of that, but the South, particularly in rural/urban hybrid communities, there are a lot more drivers than there are bus riders. Over here it seems that there are a lot more people who walk and ride the bus than they do drive.

(A quick aside on the drivers here: They absolutely do not care who you are or how you think the roads are work, they will drive wherever they need to. There have been people who drive up onto the curb without any sign of alarm that they did so. Probably has something to do with those winding streets I mentioned earlier.)

Luckily, I wasn't the only one who has been going through these changes in scenery and I have already made a couple of friends as a result of the international program that they have here. Two girls, Sarah and Lauren, from Montana and Kentucky respectively. I've met a lot more people of course over the course of this week from different backgrounds and with different levels of intoxication, but these two are definitely people who I would hang out with more.

One person in particular who I met was someone who I think really embodies the care that some people have here for those who look like they are in need. I didn't know it at the time, but on Monday whenever I went to go out to eat, I looked incredibly nervous. First night in a new country, unsure of how restaurant etiquette went, all of those sorts of fun things. While I was eating, there was a group of guys across from me who were having a night out. One of them accidentally spilled his drink and he went to go get napkins. One of his friends bantered with me for a bit, joking how they were going to take him home soon and the like, and it was all very lighthearted and made me feel a bit better. When the first guy returned, he overheard the banter and jokingly started to try and fight the second. I told them that they needed to take it outside very teasingly and the two of them looked shocked that I had even heard their banter. It was all very lighthearted and whenever I left I put the incident out of my mind.

On Wednesday, I went back to the Roundabout because that was one of the few restaurants that I knew at the time that I knew served decent food for a reasonable price. Whenever I settled into my table, low and behold, spilled-drink guy from Monday came over and asked me how I was. (Quick aside: Saying "alright?" over here is a lot how people say "how are you?" in the States. Usually in passing and not actually trying to find out how you are.) He explained to me that on Monday, as I mentioned, I looked incredibly nervous and that he wanted to make sure that everything was okay on my end. I explained to him that I was an international student and gave my reasons for my nervousness. Overall he was very sweet about the whole thing and if his friends (different from the incident on Monday) hadn't arrived to go elsewhere, we probably would have kept talking for a while. He was cordial without pressing too hard and also mentioned how I accidentally went out a fire exit on Monday. Luckily fire exits over here don't let out a screeching alarm that lets everyone within a five mile radius hear so I was actually unaware of this happening until he told me. I saw him in passing today whenever I was walking back from the shops and who knows, he might end up being one of my friends later on.

Overall, this week has been a lot about changes and how my nerves have started to let up. I can only hope that this next week will give me the same sort of results.