Does this week actually count as my year abroad? I haven’t actually done any studying but I have been in the USA so I’m halfway there.
I spent the first week travelling and basically being a stereotypical tourist in New York and Philadelphia. This sounded like a fab idea back in May when I booked my accommodation and travel but by Thursday I was tired and feet ached yet I still had so much to see. Alas, I still had a wonderful time and took all the photographs – putting my GCSE in photography to use.
I arrived into JFC airport on Sunday 13th August, and after a 7 hour flight I was so excited just to be stood up and outside. Customs was a lot less stressful than I imaged – the man who served me even wished me a good day which was nice.
Now the task of getting my luggage from JFK airport to Upper Manhattan, which is where my Airbnb was located. I had prepared in advance, I knew which trains I had to get – Howard Beach and then get the A subway train until I reached 145th Street. Simple right?
The first train went great, and then I got to the platform to get the A train but here was where the first issue – there was literally no signage whatsoever? Was I on the right train? Will I go in the right direction? Unsurprisingly I did get on the wrong train and had to immediately get off the next stop which looked like an abandoned station you would only find in horror films. This was where I was going to be murdered and that was it.
(Spoiler Alert: I did not die here, everything was fine)
It was at this station I realised I had lost my metro card. Not really a massive issue, but as someone who is familiar with the London Underground, where you need to swipe in and out of the station, I was panicked by this. I hoped my accent would stop them yelling at me or fining me a horrendous amount of money. However, it turns out you don’t need to swipe out of the New York system, but alas I was already panicked, stressed, and I had terrible signal so not even the internet could help me at this point.
I took my chances and got on the next train, and spent the next hour and a half on the edge. Was I on the right train? Am I going to end up in some random location in a city I wasn’t familiar with? Am I going to be allowed out of the subway station with no metro card?
Thankfully I arrived in the right subway stop and some kind man helped me carry all my luggage up the stairs. Now to walk to my Airbnb. For some reason my phone literally hated NYC and refused to load google maps for me which was not ideal. So I literally walked in one direction and thankfully it was the right one. Then I basically slept for the rest of the night.
Or at least until 3am where jet lag took over my body and I remained fully awake until 6am when I decided that would be an appropriate time to wake up. Yay.
Day One in New York was basically my mission to visit anything and everything. First was Times Square, Bryant Park, New York Public Library, Trinity Church, Ground Zero, Federal Hall, and the New York Skyline via the top of the Rockefeller centre.
I then moved onto Brooklyn where I took my spot under the bridge and watched the sun set of the Manhattan skyline. I was there for two hours, it would have been romantic if I wasn’t alone and exhausted. I did buy some delicious lime juice though.
After a decent amount of sleep came day two. I had planned to spend the day exploring Central Park, which wasn’t the best plan seeing at rained the entire time I was outside. Have I mentioned that it was also about 28 C? Way too hot for a coat but I had no umbrella so my time in Central Park was spent overheating in my rain coat.
The afternoon came around and I decided to head inside – I needed air conditioning and no rain. I headed towards the Museum of the City of New York which was so wonderful. I love history and I love New York. They had an exhibit called ‘Activist New York’ which basically showed movements from Black Lives Matter to Stone Wall to Activist Literature. It was easily my favourite part of the museum.
After the museum and something to eat, I headed towards Broadway after getting myself a ticket to go see Waitress! After listening to the soundtrack because I’m a lowkey fan of Sara Bareilles, the musical had always been on my radar. I hadn’t expected it to be so funny but alongside the heartbreak the humour is truly what make this performance.
The next day I set off for Philadelphia. After underestimating how long it would take me to get to the bus station (have you ever packed for a year abroad? Let me tell you, the luggage is heavy), I nearly missed my bus and that would have been an issue I did not know how to solve. Nevertheless, I made into Philadelphia and after a 45 minute struggle of trying to figure out their subway transport I made it to my hostel for the two nights.
If I thought New York was warm, then Philadelphia was 100x warmer mainly because of the humidity. After purchasing suncream, I headed towards Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest inhabited street dating back to the 1700’s. I then moved on to Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. After grabbing myself the best grilled cheese I have ever eaten in my life I then headed back to the hostel and laid down for the rest of the evening.
It was warm and I was tired don’t judge me.
Day two, fully rested and rearing to go, I headed towards the Ben Franklin Museum which was relatively small but still a fun time for a Thursday morning when nothing else was open.
I then went to tackle the Philadelphia public transport system to get myself to the Eastern State Penitentiary. After buying the wrong ticket for the underground (different lines need different tickets, who knew? Not me), I headed back to the ground and tried my luck at a bus. It was a success and I made it to one of the oldest prisons in America that used to house criminals like Al Capone.
Now in ruins after being closed in the 1970’s, has in recent years become a museum. Apart from detailing the events of. what occurred in the prison and the impact the site had on the rest of the world (e.g it strongly influenced how prisons across Europe were built), the museum also feature art pieces ranging from sexuality and gender in prison to those victims of the criminals inside of Eastern State.
Although spending a sunny afternoon in a run down prison might not sound like a fun time, it was a definite highlight of my week. 10/10 would recommend to a friend and all that jazz.
My original plan after the prison was to head to the Philadelphia History Museum, but did I mention it was hot? It was so warm that I dropped all of my touristy plans and headed to Franklin Square and spent approximately 3 hours lying in the grass trying to cool down whilst reading.
Then it was Friday and time to head to my new home for the year – Wilkes University! After a two hour coach journey, I was taken to my new room and with my key in hand I have officially moved in. I immediately headed to Walmart to buy the necessities like bed sheets and cereal. Now, I work in a superstore back home, but that had nothing on how big Walmart was, I was overwhelmed – who knew there could be so much stuff?
Today was spent decorating my room, doing laundry (American washing machines are so different), trying out the meal plan food, and taking a walk across the bridge. Not the most exciting day seeing as I’m literally just waiting for orientation to start and my roommates to move in.
I guess I’ll really miss the days I have absolutely nothing to do when classes start.