Growing up, I always loved the excitement of field trip days. Field trips meant leaving the tedium of the classroom and getting to explore somewhere new. While I’ve certainly come to love the classroom environment, I never outgrew that desire to break out of the ordinary and explore (I am studying abroad, after all).
Something I have been absolutely loving about this program is how frequently the classes I am in allow for such opportunities to explore and learn firsthand. Already, I’ve been able to trek across the city of Westminster (the administrative borough of London – it’s kind of confusing to understand how the boroughs of London function, but I’m starting to get the hang of it), explore the Tower of London, visit Rochester (a small town in Kent), tour the BBC headquarters, and attend four different theatre productions!
My contemporary Britain course took us on a tour of Westminster, where we walked along the Northern bank of the Thames (providing a perfect view of the London Eye), saw the Ministry of Defense — perhaps I’ve been reading too much Orwell, but I’m sure I counted no less than 3 police officers looking at our group suspiciously when we stopped to take pictures of it– and visited the Houses of Parliament. The Ministry of Defense is actually located where part of Whitehall castle once stood — as an avid fan of Showtime’s The Tudors, it’s hard to imagine that at one point in history, the place where all of these civic buildings now stand was occupied by a huge castle. In typical English style, we then went by Sara Levine (our program director here in London)’s house for high tea and biscuits.
I visited the Tower of London with classmates from my Medieval English History course. It was a pretty strange visual contrast to see the cosmopolitan, modern buildings of London juxtaposed with the ancient structure. My favorite part was easily the Royal jewels, which supposedly belong to the people of the Empire. Yet another reason why the American colonies should reclaim our part in the Commonwealth…
With my Architecture class, we took a day trip to Rochester, a small town in Kent, to visit Rochester Cathedral and Rochester Castle. The Cathedral was massive, encompassing almost the entire town. It was particularly interesting because of how many converging architectural styles were represented in the interior: the nave was almost entirely Norman while the transepts were early English Gothic and decorated Gothic. There were a few features of perpendicular Gothic and a splash or two of Victorian as well. [I had no background on English architectural styles before this class - you can tell how much I'm learning!] We also got to climb up to the top of the castle, a Norman structure built in 1140, which was very cool (and exhausting).
I was so excited to be able to visit the BBC headquarters with my British Mass Media class. As an faithful subscriber of all things BBC, it was very cool to see where a lot of the news and media is broadcasted from. The organization has been instrumental in changing the way that world news is broadcasted and received – as a Communications minor (and International Studies major), I found it incredibly fascinating (so fascinating that I forgot to take pictures — sorry!).
Finally, I’ve seen four shows thus far with my theatre class: Blurred Lines (at the Shed, a temporary venue at the Royal National Theatre), Rapture Blister Burn (at the Hampstead Theatre), Oh, What a Lovely War! (at the Theatre Royal Stratford East), and Happy Days (at the Young Vic). I am so glad I decided to take this theater class because besides being able to see critically-acclaimed plays in the theater capital of the world, it’s reminded me how much I love literary analysis. I’m going to have to squeeze in an English class once I’m back at Hollins; I’ve missed it too much!
Recently, the weather has been beautiful here in London (66°F! and sunny!) so I’ve been taking advantage of it and spending a lot of time outside. Fingers crossed it lasts!