Free At Last

I meant to make this post yesterday but I’ve been enjoying my freedom so much that I was just too distracted. My last exam has come and gone, and suddenly the world seems so much brighter. Exams are the bane of my life, and of any student’s life. I’ve been having exam sessions twice a year now since 1997 – 8 years of studying, preparing and taking exams. In theory I only have three more years of this to go. It’s weird that you end up taking exams as entirely an ordinary part of existence. It might even have some slight depressing factor when they’re all over in 2008. No. I lied. That’s a stupid thing to say!

It went better than I thought it would. In fact, I managed to write the most I ever have in two hours… over 11 sides of sheer bollocks on the death of liberal democracy and how voters are not as loyal as they used to be. I say sheer bollocks, because to the casual non-political observer, that’s what it would look like. Very dull, but still, it should help me to pass. That’s all I’m after for that module. Just as long as I don’t have to resit anything this year, I’ll be happy.

Once the exam was over, it meant I had to start form filling for my trip to the US Embassy on Tuesday. It took much longer than I thought, mainly because I kept making stupid mistakes because I wasn’t reading that they wanted dates in American mm-dd-yyyy rather than the European dd-mm-yyyy. I’ve never understood why the American’s put the month first. Months are irrelevant. The year could be divided up into so many other different ways, so why make it look as if the month is the most important?

Anyway… I ended up getting about five hours sleep before I had to get up at 5am on Tuesday. I didn’t sleep very well because I was dreading what was to come. I hate central London. I’ve been there a few times in the past and it’s a very bleak place. From London King’s Cross I took a long walk to the office of the company organising my summer, and then on from there to the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square. It was amazing… you would never have thought it was the US Embassy because there were no flags in very obvious positions on the building. Yet, the concrete blocks and barricades all around as well as police with guns were a dead giveaway. A shame we’re in a society like this.

I queued just to join the queues inside. Over zealous security guards were everywhere, even asking why I don’t look more like my passport photo. It’s a question I’ve wondered too… it was only taken this time last year, and yet I look strangely different. I blame it on the photo booth, naturally.

Once through all the security I was assigned a number and took a seat in a very big room with dozens of other people. A computerised system called out numbers in a corny American accent every minute as people were called up first to hand in their documents, and next to have a small chat with an Embassy official.

I was there for about three hours. Three hours of mind numbing tedium. There was one guy who I spoke to for some of it, which thankfully helped pass the time, but for most I had to sit there reading the same articles in the newspaper that I’d bought earlier and already read on the train. Then there was the fact that I was starving. I got in there about 1pm, having had nothing to eat bar some chocolate biscuits and crisps I’d brought with me since 5am. I was eventually forced to pay shocking 75p for some more crisps and a more reasonable £1 for a bottle of water.

It seemed an age before number 421 was called. The first time I went up to get my fingers scanned, I was nervous and so my hands were quite sweaty. This meant my first attempts at scanning were a failure. Then the second time was wrong because I pressed too hard. Then the third time because my finger was not far enough forward. Eventually I got it right… but then when I had to come back two hours later so they could “compare” the scans, I had to have three goes again before I was asked a few questions about where I was going. Three hours waiting finished in this one-minute chat with an official who told me to “have a great summer”.

Hooray. I could now go home. By now I was wasting away through lack of food, and the chocolate biscuits were starting to make me sick. It took me a combined 35 minutes to get from King’s Cross to the US embassy on the way there, but the way back took me just over an hour, mainly because I slowly drifted down Oxford Street and then got lost trying to find the way back. The lack of sleep was beginning to catch up with me, and I could feel a blister forming on my foot.

I had anticipated coming out of the Embassy about 4pm, as I had booked a train ticket for 5:20pm. Instead, I finished at about 3pm, so I had to kill off a lot of time waiting. That gave me an opportunity to get something to eat. I find it impossible to make a decision about which of the hundreds of food shops I passed to go into. There must have been about six Subways just along Oxford Street alone. Being a vegetarian (not sure if I’ve ever mentioned that) my choice is limited. I eventually settled for a Burger King Veggie Burger… which was nice, but set me back a whopping (no pun intended) £2.79.

This was the first time I’d ever been to London on my own. The other few times I’d been with other people… so this was an exciting venture. On the whole it paid off. It was a nice day out and wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. London has been pretty depressing every time I’ve been to it, but this time Oxford Street was a little more welcoming. I can’t really explain why. People just seemed to be a little more smiley than usual. Normally everyone thunders down the street in a permanent rush to get to places. Maybe I missed all the office rushes and so didn’t get to see the Miserable People In Suits. Just a lot of tourists instead.

When I finally got back home at 8:30pm, it felt like a job well done. There’s nothing left to get in the way of my summer now. I’m going home next Saturday, and from there I’ll be getting things ready before the flight the following week.

So things are now definitely on the up. I’m happy for now, but I know the nerves will start to kick in soon. It’s now finally settling in what I’m actually going to be doing this summer. Before all the exams I just couldn’t think about it because it was such a distraction. But now it feels imminent.

My first year of Uni is officially over. I suppose I’ll have to analyse that soon. Maybe I will when I get round to the Youth Review. Coming “Soon”!

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1 Comment

  1. Sounds exciting, keep us posted.


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