17 April 2013

Hello, Britain.

After weeks of packing, planning, stressing, giggling, saving, and years and years of waiting, here I am. 

My flight was wonderful, despite the fact that I'd only flown a couple of times before—and never across an ocean. My friends and family gave me a heartfelt sendoff, full of prayers and well wishes, and I savored my last few moments with my family, knowing that I wouldn't see them again in person for at least 2 1/2 months.

Once again I marveled at the patchwork ground far beneath me, ripples in the land, tiny clusters that might be towns, lakes reaching out with alien fingers, the fuzzy line where blue meets white. It was still a novel experience (and boy, did my ears hurt when we touched down in Chicago).

I'd heard horror stories about O'Hare International Airport, but my experience was fabulous. I was able to lug my carry-on full of bricks all the way to my departure gate without having to get on a tram. I set my bags down beside a nice elderly couple sitting in the waiting area. We started talking and didn't stop for about three hours! We got so chummy, they gave me their contact information in case we could meet up while I was on my trip!
After boarding the plane I met my charming seat companions—two young gentlemen named Jake and Alphie—then took my shoes off and settled in with an iPod for the long haul.

The word "surreal" is overused, but I think it suits my first transatlantic flight. I almost felt as if it wasn't really happening. Riding high above the clouds at sunset, the fading light gleamed golden on the plane's edge, then that faded and a single light on the wingtip was all there was to mark our spot in the night. It looked just like the pictures, but it is different experiencing it in person.
I'm not sure if I got any sleep, but I did curl up in the darkness with my neck pillow and blanket, earplugs dulling the roar of engines and a fussy child in the rear of the plane. Around seven o'clock (Manchester time) the sky grew teal in front of us, then it turned lighter, with a strip of rosy yellow in the east, the clouds rising up from the mist like fluffy, sculpted islands. My first airborne sunrise.

The pilot casually announced that we were passing over Ireland. I jerked over toward the window and saw green stretches of soil curving together in ancient, un-geometric fields. I took out my tiny camera and snapped pictures through the blurry window, holding my breath and pressing my face against the glass, on the lookout for my first glimpse of England.

It was heart-stopping. There, just a few thousand feet below me, the land I'd dreamed about for so long came through the clouds.

Clouds do inhibit visibility when flying, but I think it gives the landscape an air of mystery—what is hidden is just as beautiful as what is revealed through the fleeting patches. We came closer to Manchester, flying low right over the motorway, then touched down on sunny English soil. I had my bag in hand, itching to disembark.

After tromping my way down the long corridor, I got into the non-EU line for customs, feeling shivery and ready for it to be over already, fearing more than anything that they would find something wrong with my papers and send me packing on the next flight back to America. But believe it or not, customs was a breeze! I don't think the woman even looked at my Capernwray acceptance letter; I just told her that I was here for 79 days and she stamped my passport.

I walked toward the exit in a daze of relief and happiness, grabbed my luggage off the carousel, and set off through the doors into the wide world of Great Britain.


  1. Lovely! Brings back fond memories of my first trip to Britain! Don't forget to have a ton of fun!

  2. Welcome! I'll be following your blog. Sorry the weather is rubbish but I hope you have a great time. Let me know if you're coming anywhere near Essex.

  3. I'm so glad you made it!!! Your flight description was perfect in every detail - I could almost feel the jet lag. Enjoy!

  4. Hope you have a great time and really enjoy your time in Great Britain!

  5. Hello Abigail!

    I've just discovered your blog through Anglotopia. It has been such fun to read about your plans and experiences so far. I will confess to being quite jealous. I had long dreamed of going to the UK and learned of study abroad opportunities too late in my college career. It took another 15 years for me to realize my dreams. I first spent a week in London on my own. I loved the city and hope to return again someday. Next my true dream of a visit to Scotland (the land of my forefathers LOL) was realized in 2009. My best friend/roomie and I spent two glorious weeks in the Highlands. Those were two of the best weeks of my life. I can't wait to go back there too. We often joke about winning the lottery and buying a home in Scotland. I'm slowly turning my roommie into a full-fledged Anglophile. She hasn't seen it coming but when she asked ME to show her where to find Downton Abbey on Netflix I knew I had her hooked. We're slowly planning on our next adventure to Ireland and Wales because Debra's heritage is Irish/Welsh.

    Have a fantastic time in your two 1/2 months at school. I'll be keeping you in my prayers.


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