Justin and his sister in London

RU Abroad with Justin: Landing in London

The Storm Before the Adventure

Now don’t get me wrong, my summers have always been busy, but 2015 is the dawn of the redefinition of the word. I wrote my last exam on April 27th, spent a week at home packing and planning, and then hopped on a plane headed for London Heathrow airport. From May 6th to June 10th, I am visited 12 cities in 10 different countries, followed by departure on June 11th for a summer camp that I am working at until roughly August 14th. Now that sounds lovely, right, but it doesn’t end here. A week after all of that and I’ll be hopping back on a plane to go to the Netherlands for what will hopefully turn out to be an entire year of studying abroad. If that’s not busy, I don’t know what is. I guess I like keeping myself occupied; bad things tend to happen when I’m idle for too long. So, as the days tick by, welcome to the first part of my entirely too full summer.

Before I begin, let me tell you about the end of the semester, because it was hell on earth. For some reason, I’ve always told myself that taking six courses per semester is easy, and I have done so without a problem my entire university career, until last semester. Luck of the draw left me with six long essays to be completed at roughly the same time. On top of this were exams, of which I got luckier than normal and only had four. Add arguments with the university, professors, friends, and family, with a little bit of relationship and roommate drama – and you get an unpleasant end to your year. With all this going on, I had to also prepare my exchange application and go through the tedious bureaucracy of waiting for course confirmation and all sorts of details. Needless to say, the summer is a much welcomed change from all of that, and I’m not going to lie, backpacking Europe is me literally running from my problems so that I can take a little break. It’s been fantastic.

Taking Off

So, the end of April comes around and my sister, my cousin, and I have talked about going overseas. We’ve got plane and train tickets and we’re all ready to go. We’ve packed only what fits in a backpack, made a rough itinerary, and booked a couple of hostels. When the day finally rolls around, my parents drive us to Pearson and we say our goodbyes. Even once we had landed in Heathrow, it didn’t feel real to me. After so much unpleasantness at the end of April, it’s hard to put all that behind you and just decide to enjoy yourself, but it came easier than I expected.

Justin in London
On guard at the Tower of London

Now, London isn’t sunny, and when it rains, it pours. So, naturally, while it’s pouring we thought to ourselves “How are we going to kill some time?” The answer is simple: go watch a movie, and with the new Avengers movie still in theatres, I was actually really excited to go. Now, the movie was a huge disappointment and if you ask me it didn’t live up to all the hype, but what is interesting is what happened in the movie theatre itself. Before the movie began, there were no commercials. Instead, the screen was displaying various pieces of pop art related to the film. Coming from Toronto and expecting Cineplex routines, it was a nice change to not be forced to sit through a million advertisements. Something about paying $15 to see a movie and then being met with 30 mins of advertising just doesn’t seem right. Another difference was that before the movie began the projectionist came down from the booth and spoke to the audience himself. The speech itself was nothing impressive, some jokes mixed in with “Please don’t film the movie… It’s illegal and mean” and “Stick around after the credits, there’s a clip”, but the personal touch is noteworthy and is something the American influence is obliterating.

Justin on the London Eye
The London Eye

London Streets

Londoners are some of the most hectic people I’ve ever come across. I used to think Toronto was bad, but take two steps in London and you’ll be overwhelmed by the sensation that everyone (including yourself) is late. It seems that every single person is the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, hopping around and staring at their watches; and if you don’t have a watch, don’t worry, the million clock towers have got you covered. In retrospect, this London busy-ness is probably because there were elections going on, as well as the planning of the London Marathon and a World War Two memorial. I probably should have looked into what was going on in the city, but the surprise is what made it fun.

I had imagined a more sophisticated, relaxed British society, drinking tea in their gardens and organizing cricket games; but I’ll be the first to admit: I was pleasantly surprised. The first shock is that London itself is much more diverse than I’d assumed. London looks more multicultural than all of Canada claims to be. It’s actually pretty impressive. Secondly, the people strike me more as industrial working class than the common middle classes in Toronto; and let me tell you, they work hard. Construction was actually happening efficiently and everything is done with obvious care, precision, and effort. These people give 100% to the smallest of tasks. And thirdly, the bar is open at 10 am. Open, and busy. Business men, taxi drivers, it doesn’t matter, they all start drinking in the morning, and then go right back to work.

In my opinion, there’s absolutely nothing glamorous about London. While Toronto has a sea of sky scrapers that you’ll never go into, London’s charm is less visible and more felt. No one is trying to show off or convice you of anything. Everything they have to offer is evident and clearly stated, with a minimal amount of surprises. To sum it all up, London is a proud city, and willing to move towards the future. It is here, in London, that my adventure begins. Having said goodbye to the past, adulthood has never felt so bittersweet.

My London Ratings

The movie (The Avengers 2) – ⭐️⭐️

The City (London) – ⭐️⭐️⭐️


The Eye – ⭐️⭐️

Tower of London -⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

London Bridge – ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

King’s Cross – ⭐️ (their Harry Potter shoutout is weak sauce)
* we return to London at the end of the trip (aka there will be a part 2)*