Until I came to London, I had never really used public transportation before. Okay, I think I used the Downtown Shuttle once in Des Moines. But that was because I was on a tour. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have used it. And why is that? Well, because it’s just easier for me to use my car to get around. I don’t have to include the added wait time I would if I used the bus. Taking a car in Iowa is also the norm. So it has been a change for me to get used to taking public transportation everywhere I need to go.
Seeing as I’m in London for the semester, I don’t really have an option. Well, I guess I do. I mean, I could walk or take a taxi instead, but using the buses and the Underground is just so much easier (and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than taking a taxi!). It might take a little longer, but in my opinion it’s worth the wait. It’s also something that you get used to over time.
I’ve been in London for over a month now, and it just seems natural to plan my route via public transportation. When I first arrived, it was a little overwhelming. Getting groceries and only being able to purchase what you can carry home on the bus? Having to figure in extra time for travel? Living by the bus and Underground maps instead of by my GPS? How different!
That’s all part of living in a foreign culture though. Some things are just different. In London many people use public transportation. That’s just a cultural norm. And part of the experience of being in a different culture is adapting to their way of life and feeling more comfortable living the way they do.
Public transportation was quite stressful at first. A lot of that was due to the fact that I didn’t really know how to get anywhere. I remember my first time getting on the Underground. It was exciting since I’d never been on a subway before, but it was also a little bit scary seeing as I had no clue where I was going. But after about a week, it made sense. And now, I’m able to go wherever I need. I look up the route online before I go, and if I happen to get lost I just look for connection stations to the main line and bus I use to get back to Roehampton. And then I’m not lost anymore.
Learning the public transportation system here has made me a more confident person. It may not seem like a lot, but it’s a little piece of London culture that I can say I have adapted to. And that’s a big part of what a study abroad experience is all about.