From the U.S. to the U.K.: A New Kind of Knowledge

When I decided to enroll at the University of Hertfordshire for a semester, I knew that the University was easier than College of Charleston. I was actually excited about this. Even though I think I’m intelligent, I’ve never considered myself to be the academic type. I’m typically a B-student, and I don’t exactly strive for A’s. What I strive for is to learn something valuable.

What I didn’t expect is the overall frustration I would feel toward my classes. I thought I’d be okay with taking easy courses. I’m happy with the light work load. I don’t want to focus on 10-page research papers while I could be travelling Europe, but when I sit in a classroom, I want to be engaged and involved in stimulating conversation. Instead, I’m bored. I sit there quietly, and watch the time pass by on the analog clock. In most of my classes, I know I’m wasting my time.

Instead of moping about the lack of academic simulation in my classrooms, I’ve decided to take my learning to the real world. When my friend Trina and I decided to spend an entire weekend in London, we had to learn quickly how to navigate the tube.
Trina is from North Carolina, and I’m originally from a small town where a traffic jams means there’s a tractor on the road. Neither of us were used to getting around with the bus and subway systems. But Trina had been to London for a day prior to our trip with a few other friends from her home university. One of her friends had acted as their navigator because she had traveled to London multiple times before.

Luckily, Trina did pick up a few tricks when she explored the city with her North Carolina friends. She showed me where I needed to buy and top-up money on my Oyster card, a travel card that acts as a ticket for public transportation in London. Trina also grabbed a few maps of the Tube.

At first navigating the Tube wasn’t an easy task. Trina took the lead in the beginning to find our hostel, and I followed after her with my weekend bag slowing me down a little. But the thing is, you cannot be slow on the Tube. Everyone is in a hurry, and everyone seems to know where they’re going. Every move seems coordinated in chaos. People move in a giant flow from point A to point B.

(Photo courtesy of Trey Ratcliff via Creative Commons)

(Photo courtesy of Trey Ratcliff via Creative Commons)

We all raced up the stairs to get to the next station or exit as people rushed by on either side. Even though the atmosphere was hectic, it was also organized because people knew which side to stay on. If someone took a wrong step, I’m positive Londoners would have had no problem pushing you back in the right place. I felt like I was running with the bulls, and the only way I would survive was if I kept up with the current.

Eventually we got off at the stop at London Bridge, and took the Jubilee line to North Greenwich. We weren’t sure if our hostel was located in North Greenwich, but it seemed like our best bet. As we were transferring to a new line at London Bridge, I started to feel like a part of London. I was keeping up with the crowds, and I no longer felt lost. I felt like an insider instead of a foreigner.

“This is actually kind fun,” Trina said, with a smile. She was right. It was fun. I enjoyed using the color-coordinated map to decide which line we would transfer to next in order to reach our destination. After so many things went wrong for me, it was exhilarating to be able to conquer the Tube. Learning how to find my way around made me feel in control, and knowing that I could find my way around a new city was valuable to me.

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