Monday, 17 November 2014

Recap, Rename, Repeat.

Greetings from London. The city that will forever fail to get my name right.
After my first weekend, I thought I was going to be alone on my course.

Everyone of my flatmates had met at least one person they were studying with, and I remember one occasion when we were hanging around the campus bar, where I was surrounded by about 20 Fashion students (there is Fashion Design, Buying and Merchandise, so it's not very surprising really), wondering "Is there... anyone doing PR at all?"

There is.
When I walked into the Lecture Theatre for the introduction before enrolment, I heard a voice from the back: "Anyone doing PR? PR? Hello?"
Happy to meet a kindred spirit, I gave him a high-five and waited for the enrolment process to proceed.
Enrolling at uni is like all the other bureaucratic things in life: It's pretty simple and passes much faster than in all the worried thoughts you spent on it, but then again, it's always the simple things no one cares to explain.
I'm still struggling with what to reply on a "How're you?". Do I simply say "fine, thanks"? (Which is what I do most of the time?) And if I do so, am I somewhat socially required to ask back?
And if I hold the door open for someone, do I have to say "you're welcome" after they thank me? Is this too formal? Does a "no problem" do it as well?
I just really don't want to appear rude, but I don't really think people will think much better of me if I just stand there, gaping like a fish at a loss for words. (Because that's what I sometimes do before smiling awkwardly and leaving.)
If middle school English classes would just focus on the small pleasantries in every day life, everyone would be much better prepared. (How was I supposed to know supermarket cashiers are required to make small talk with you? Now I always have to use the self checkout all the time because I have been wearing my "I hardly see how that's relevant to you."- face on more than one occasion while giving tight-lipped answers to the employees. The struggle.)

But back to the topic.
In the end, there were around 70 people taking my course, some enthusiastic about PR, others about Advertising, some simply wanted to go to uni and others didn't bother to show up until... week 5 or something.
This usually goes like this. Monday, 10.15 am, my tutor has already started.
The door opens a notch. A girl appears.
"Hello...". She hesitates. "Is this Introduction to Advertising?"
My tutor turns to her. "Yes, it is indeed. And you are? I mean, apart from 3 weeks late?"

On this first day I also learned that introducing yourself with a self-picked nickname doesn't go down to well with tutors, as they are required to look you up in databases when grading you and if you have 200+ students, having to remember nicknames for each and every one of them tends to get a bit strenuous.
So my tutor asked me: "Well, what's your real name?"
"Henriette.", I said.
But with a German pronunciation. Or something that I believed to be the English pronunciation of my name. Something that sounds a bit like this: Han - ree - yet - a. (If you read them singularly but fast, you should get something that sounds close to the correct German pronunciation.)
Now I didn't realise that the name "Henrietta" is far more common in Britain (obviously), and that if a British person was to pronounce my real name, the last e would be mute.
All of this simply resulted in my tutor saving my name as "Henrietta" in the vast outskirts of her memory, addressing me like this in every e-mail she writes me, no matter how often I subtly sign it with "Sincerely, Henriette".
Too subtle, perhaps.

This carried on:
I was elected course representative and had to change my name on the invitation forms, my rowing tutor thought I was French and when someone asks after my name, I try to mute the last e - but to no avail. It just won't stick.

Nevertheless, I had fun meeting new people, organising weekend trips and hanging around in other people's kitchens, strolling through London with awed eyes on the hunt for a NINo and listening to all these different languages being spoken around me.
I mean, I had four different languages in school. And most of my friends took different languages than I did. But London is just a whole new level of linguistic exploration.

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