Saturday, February 25, 2012

215: My code to London

The phone rang and I hesitated to pick it up. When I don't recognize a number, I tend to avoid answering out of some irrational fear that the caller is a serial killer, a stalker or a solicitor trying to sell me a collection of newly minted coins. The call wasn't even from an area code I recognized. Some 215 number, wherever that is.

But I had my ringtone at full blast and I was sick of ignoring it - so I picked up.

Cheerful and friendly, the person on the other end spoke in a garbled voice. "Hi is this Ragcheck Ponsick?," the voice asked. "I'm sorry," I responded. "Who?"

I was a terrific photographer at 14.
"Rayhen Pomchick?" Still unintelligible, but I figured it out.

"Oh yes, this is she."

The news was unexpected. After I realized that the person on the other end of the conversation was, in fact, speaking English, I listened closer. But I didn't have to, because in the next instant her voice was loud and clear and telling me I had been accepted to study abroad in London this fall.

I've wanted this for a long time.

In my first few months in college, I went to the study abroad office on campus already eager to begin planning to go overseas two years later. My adviser looked at me and said, "You're a sophomore, right?" I laughed. No, I was just a very neurotic freshman.

Though most people begin planning their sophomore year to go abroad in their junior year, I was a year early - but actually I was about a year later than I intended to be.

Back in high school, I tossed around the idea of going to England for university. I met with my high school academic adviser, asking her what her advice was on the subject.

"We've never had anyone apply to colleges in the UK," she said. That was the extent of her expertise.

I swore I'd be the first. So I figured out the awesome UCAS system (which is infinitely simpler than the Common Application or any other American university app program), and went out for five UK schools. On the top of my list of colleges was this one school called University College London (UCL for short).

When I eventually decided not to spend a fortune (with no financial aid, thank you United Kingdom) to go to school en Europe, I comforted myself in knowing that by going to the school I now attend, I would still have the option of studying abroad at my dream UK school.

And my evil (okay, not so evil) plan worked.

This is what a Harry Potter poster in London looks like.
But the plan did not even necessarily begin back in senior year of high school. It was really the brain child of my 14-year-old self, just exiting my freshman year and at the time obsessed with Harry Potter. This is basically how it went down (the following text is stolen from my study abroad essay):

"At fourteen years old I sat on an airplane next to my dad, returning from a trip to visit my grandparents in Florida. For weeks I'd been considering how to go about suggesting the grandest and most ridiculous of all requests I'd ever make to him.

'Dad?' I said and took a long, pregnant pause as I tried to find the right words. 'Would you want to, um, maybe go to England at some point?'

I knew my dad was not a world traveler. Neither was he adverse to the idea of long plane rides - we'd flown the five-hour flight to Florida at least twice a year since I was a toddler. But a trip to England was something wholly different and - pardon the pun - foreign."

Four trips to London later, and I'm planning my first semi-permanent stay in the country. I have already becoming a research addict.

Before even being accepted, I went to the trouble of looking up the closest grocers and convenience shops to my school. I searched for the nearest tube station and planned where I'd go on a Friday afternoon once classes have finished - note: NOT Leicester Square.

Just thinking about it was enough to relieve me of the stress of filling out the application and putting my fate (years in the making) in the hands of a few admissions officers.

So this really has been a long time coming. But it's also just the first step on the path I've set out for myself. From here the future may not be as specific, as devised, but I know that eventually I will end up in London permanently. And for the first time I can see that plan coming to fruition.

In the end the research, the worry, the agony - it all paid off. And all I can say is: thank god I picked up that phone yesterday. 215 is now my new favorite area code.

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps your big sister insisting you study aboard when in college helped initiate the interest?
    So, proud of you (and secretly jealous, as I wanted to study in England too).