London Pre-Departure Orientation was a big marker in terms of my JET departure countdown. This was the point where I’d be handing over my passport and finally getting my hands on those important travel details which might actually make me feel like I was going to leave the country!
I decided to travel down to London the night before. I really don’t trust the trains in the UK, and there are cheaper deals if you’re happy to travel outside of rush hour. I left the office at normal time on the afternoon of Wednesday 12th, and headed down to London. I arrived in good time and managed to navigate across the tube to Queen Mary’s University where we’d be staying. I was a bit surprised when I actually got onto the campus, because there seemed to be hundreds of people in different coloured tracksuits all over the place. It was like I’d wandered into the Olympics! I later found out that there were some para-athletic championships going on in London and the athletes were staying on the same campus as us. I found the security office so that I could check in, and after waiting for Mauritius to finish complaining about the lack of water in their rooms, I received my key and instructions on how to find my room. As I was leaving, I heard the security guard say “oh and you’re in the same flat” to another chap, and that’s how I met Chris from Ireland! It was nice to have some company as we went to try and find our flat, and to have someone to talk to about all things JET. The accommodation they provide at Queen Mary is basically student flats, so everyone gets their own room in a shared flat, with a kitchen. Each flat has it’s own en suite which is tiny but perfectly functional.
I woke bright and early on Thursday morning having decided to go for a run before breakfast. I find running really relaxing (I know, it’s weird) but I wanted to start the day feeling relaxed rather than super hyped up. I decided to head up the canal to Victoria Park and investigate up there. It was a beautiful morning to run, and I saw a lot of lovely dogs on my way which is another good reason to run. I was a bit annoyed with myself when I got home, because I’d been on pace to absolutely smash my 10k PR, but I stopped at 9.5k and didn’t realise until I’d showered! The rage….
After a quick shower, it was time to get dressed and head off to breakfast. The breakfast is included in the room price and it’s very good value for London. It was then off to the opening of the orientation where we received our flight details and travel information. Bye bye passport! It was still quite early, so I sat outside with new friends before heading in and being “orientated”. We had a selection of interesting talks throughout the day before we got a break for lunch. There are a few interesting cafes on site so I headed off to the nearest one with girl friends Laura, Ami (she will reappear in later posts!) and Sara. Then we had more talks and we were done for the day. After all my excursions I was exhausted and headed off to a Sainsbury’s local for a gourmet dinner! Sometimes at these events it feels like there’s a lot of pressure to make new friends and to talk to people so it’s important to take some time out to recover. Not to mention that while it was great to meet London JETs, some people at London you may never see again (or at least only in passing in the Keio Plaza!).
The next day we were up early, packed and checked out after breakfast. We had a whole day of Japanese classes so Chris and I headed our separate ways with many “good lucks!”. I was in the intermediate class, so went to find that. It was an interesting class but my Japanese felt rusty so I was a bit ‘rabbit in the headlights’ to start with! At lunch, I bought a sandwich and sat with another new friend Sarah by the riverbank.
When classes finished, it was off to the Embassy for the reception. I was sort of adopted by the Scottish contingent which was a very symbiotic relationship as I knew the route on the tube and they gave me friends! We got to the Embassy in enough time to eat some dinner at the local Pret which was a good idea as there was about to be a LOT of champagne. The reception was good fun. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but there was lots of alcohol flowing, some toasts and speeches, and some excellent sushi (even for a vegetarian like me!) I was sad that I couldn’t stay very long, but I at least got to meet and thank the lady who interviewed me. That felt like a really nice conclusion to the application side of JET and almost like I was closing a door on that section of life. After a few short hours I had to roll to Kings Cross to catch the last train back to the frozen north, ready for my Goodbye Party the next day.