Shortly, two months will have passed since my British Airways Boeing 737 touched down onto the runway of Heathrow Airport Terminal Three.

There would not be anything extraordinary about the flight itself – I believe it is quite a routine service which the crew operates several times a week, maybe even several times a day. But for me personally, the flight was indeed unique in one respect: it set me off to a new life, which I was about to begin in the most beautiful European metropolis (after Prague, whose beauty is immeasurable, of course), the financial and in its time political capital of Europe. Yes, you guessed it: London was to become my new home for the following three years at least.

Ever since I was accepted to study at University College London and I knew that I could rely on the kind support of The Kellner Family Foundation, I was preparing myself for the enormous change that was awaiting me in the British capital. It was not so much about the academic rigor at UCL promised by my friends already studying there and the information brochures provided. I have surmised it before, since the university has placed among the top five world universities in recent rankings, which obviously has to have a reason. I also believed that my high school studies at Open Gate have prepared me well for all kinds of pitfalls of university life. The change concerned the environment which I was entering. I had spent the previous seven years of my life in Babice, a small village of no more than a thousand inhabitants. For the weekends I used to commute to a town about eight times bigger, which however makes no big difference considering the small base which is being multiplied. And all of a sudden I was moving to a city whose population including the suburbs exceeds that of the whole Czech Republic by some three million.

Getting accustomed to the incredible population density is – especially for people from my country – a long-term matter. It is necessary to reconcile oneself with the fact that an ordinary walk down the street can quite easily – and in an instant – turn into   to a slalom amongst the passersby, of whom there are lots and lots. Especially during the afternoon peak one is not advised to go out at all. If you need to get somewhere nonetheless (similarly as millions of others), get ready for phenomena such as lines (or queues, as they call it in Albion) for turnstiles in the Underground. It doesn’t need to be stressed that Brits are very well-mannered: jumping the line is unacceptable at all costs. Even if you were in a total rush, you would still be expected to wait for your turn. And if it happens that someone bumps into you in the chaos around, it is polite to apologize to that person. For your being in his way, slowing him down and ripping him out of his thoughts.

But even British decency has its limits. The locals have taught me, for instance, that waiting for the green light as a sign that one is allowed to cross the road is utterly pointless. Intervals of London traffic lights are so long that civil obedience would almost certainly mean that you miss the meeting you are running for, no matter how far you are going and when it starts. Besides, there are so many cars which are also so slow that you can zigzag between them with relative ease.

Two months have been enough for me to get used to the cultural and other differences mentioned above. Yes, there are more people than back home. Yes, you are going to spend a lot of time in queues. Bureaucracy cannot be avoided, not even in Britain. But all that combined London has to offer makes it a marvelous place to live in. It is a city where something is on all the time. Where it is not possible to feel alone. Where even the fact that you are a foreigner loses its significance – there are around a hundred languages spoken in London every day. And I need to say that the proverbial English weather keeps surprising me. It does not rain as often as in the Czech Republic (at least for now) and the temperatures are very pleasant. For example, Halloween brought clear skies and a temperature of twenty-five degrees. Of course, global warming does play a role, but let us stay positive. After all, it is so beautiful here!


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