Ladies and gentlemen, we will shortly be beginning our descent into London Heathrow. These were the words that filled me with an explosion of excitement just a few days ago after a seemingly endless journey from the shores of Australia to the United Kingdom. Alas, I have arrived and I couldn’t be happier.
One thing I will fervently declare is that long-haul flights are horrible. Incredibly horrible. Especially when they depart Sydney airport at 6am in the morning and the only time you can get there is midnight the previous night. Sleeping in airports is not fun. After lugging my brimming bags to the check-in counter, my only solace was the fact that as one of the first passengers checking in, I was given an exit row seat (my six-foot high stature also helps). This made the fourteen-and-a-half hour journey to Dubai much more pleasant, and I’d recommend anyone traveling long distance to try their best to acquire one.
It was 42 degrees when I landed in Dubai, so I can only be thankful that the state of the art Dubai International Airport offered a paradise of air-conditioning for the weary traveller. There wasn’t much time for duty free shopping before I was back on an Emirates A380 en route to London. Unfortunately for this eight hour leg I was in a seat surrounded by babies and toddlers, which is everyone’s long haul flight nightmare. I was so excited to be reaching my final destination that it barely mattered, and I was able to tune out while watching some great new release movies.
My favourite moment of the journey, by far, was approaching British airspace and turning on the live tail camera stream which gives you an incredibly unique view of your aircraft’s landing. Our flight flew over Central London and followed the twists and turns of the River Thames, providing some spectacular views of the beautiful London skyline. My heart leapt as I saw Tower Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral, knowing I would be traversing the streets below me in no time at all.
One of the processes of traveling Internationally that I undoubtedly dread the most is joining the never-ending queue of foreign passport holders in the Immigration Hall of your final destination. I approached Passport Control at Heathrow and was pleasantly surprised to see a separate lane for International students arriving to study in the UK. Just my luck! I was able to avoid the notoriously long, perilous wait.
Since arriving last week, I stayed with some friends in the English countryside for a few nights. We spent a fabulous weekend enjoying some very British pastimes such as taking afternoon tea in a beautiful Country House, relishing in a traditional Sunday roast, drinking pints at the local pub, and of course, whinging about the incessant rain which dampened our weekend but not our spirits.
Yesterday marked my well-anticipated moving day to my new apartment in North London. It’s a student accommodation complex which is home to around 400 university students. Already, I love it. It is well located, comfortable and boasts some spectacular views. I can see many great exchange experiences unfolding here. As promised, I’ll keep you informed along the way with my weekly Postcard. To all those other RMIT exchange students about to begin their International exchanges, I hope you’re having the time of your lives already. To those who are thinking of planning their own exchanges, think no more. Do it!
I’m off to go and start exploring all that The Big Smoke has to offer.
Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!