First Day at LSE

This past week I’ve been thinking about Kristin’s challenge and tried hard to make up my mind about an interesting first that happened to me when I relocated to London. God, there were so many – good and bad. It was such a tough choice to make and – with no connection whatsoever – it got me thinking about what I’ve been reading in the past two years on the topic of baby feeding: if you want them to eat something, don’t give them too many options.  Seems that too much choice can throw anyone off the saddle.

After much pondering, alarmed by the whiff of fried brains caused by all that strain of coming up with the perfect „first” London memory worth relating, my mind’s eyes zoomed in and framed a clear picture of my first day at LSE, as a fresh post grad student. The very same day I got my belly piercing.

It was October 7th 2002. Beautiful autumn day, warm and sunny, just how I like them. Felt more like late summer back where I was coming from. It was my second fall in the UK and I was thrilled to discover that despite a capricious summertime, London had a mild transition to the winter season. Starbucks cinnamon latte in one hand, the bag with notebook, LSE timetable and a few pens on my shoulder, I was stomping my feet on the pavement, wired up with anticipation.

When I got to the LSE HQ on the corner of Kingsway, in Holborn I almost forgot to breathe at the sight of those tall, imposing, history-charged buildings. Noisy, busy students teemed around the main entrance. The Economist bookshop sprung proud and elegant, in the corner of my eye. There was so much movement and colour everywhere I looked, I had to stop for a moment to take it all in and fully grasp the whole meaning of that moment and place: that island of concrete, history and youth was going to be my educational home for the following years. The same place where John Kennedy and Mick Jagger and presidents and prime-ministers of so many countries went. It was mind-boggling.

As I am writing this, I can almost feel the clean, clear grey stone slabs under my feet, the shrill of joy I felt while losing myself in the crowd. I think I had a frozen grin on my face the whole time I went through the registration process. I kept pinching my arm to make sure what I was living and feeling was real. Only the thought of making a fool of myself stopped me from shouting out how ecstatic and surreal I felt just by standing there. Instead I kept quiet, moved slowly and tried to acknowledge and really live through every thought and sensation.

I was so hyped up, I have little recalling of the actual physical presence in the induction class. Tiny puzzle pieces, snippets of reality gravitate around the towering reception area, with high ceilings and the glass wall, where students stood in line to collect their ID and library cards. I remember thinking I couldn’t get enough of hearing so many accents and seeing so many different races under one roof. The whole room was buzzing. Even the walls seemed alive and breathing youthfulness, hope and folly through each tile.

Next was the massive computer room, where I was going to spend many hours of research, scanning and photocopying countless chapters from books. And then came the impressive library building, with its giant, white spiral staircase, smelling of printer’s ink and looking more like a spaceship than an actual student reading place. And finally, the dark cafeteria with high bar chairs and comfy leather sofas, where we were going to gather for a cup of coffee or a beer. Everything looked so different and hip from my old Uni place back home.

I was glad to find out that I was not the only Romanian enrolled in that master’s programme. There were actually quite a few of us studying at LSE – some already in their second or third year of study, some freshmen like me. The seniors answered diligently to our pressing questions about the place, the teachers and the student life.

But about that and how I got my belly button pierced that day, in sign of celebration, in another post.


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