Day 18: The Day We Said Goodbye

 

Of all the days here in London, today was definitely the hardest. Not because we had lots of exams or we got lost on our journey, but because we had to say goodbye to some of the most amazing people we have ever met. Today was a day of goodbyes.

We started off with our last day of class, and with it came the last time all 11 of us (12 including Jason) would ever be together again. I really enjoyed how small our class was because we got to know each and every person on a more individual basis. Whether it was working with them in the project, or simply having a conversation as we ran to catch up to tour-guide Jason, each person had a unique story to tell. I feel like we have bonded, especially as a class of foreigners in the respect that we all experienced the city for the first time. We were brought together by our lack of knowledge of London, and I cannot think of a better group of people to spend these 3 weeks of class with.

After class the 4 of us rushed of to get ready for our Fulbright reception and presentation. Dressed nicely, we all arrived to a room full of the incredible people who made our journey possible. Along with invited guests from King’s Summer School and the American Embassy here in London, we were warmly greeted by our teachers, mentors, and advisors.

The presentation went well, and afterwards the 4 of us joined our mentors and teachers (Uta and Jason) for one final dinner in London. We were introduced to an array of Indian food, and it was awesome to have seasoned veterans ordering for the whole table, especially because Sam and I especially were not sure what to expect. Although a lot of the food was too spicy for my taste, our teachers ordered a sweet/mild chicken curry that I actually enjoyed very much. It is incredible to think about all the food I’ve had here that I probably never would have even thought about tasting at home. We certainly have traveled London through food, and it has been quite the journey.

Dinner was followed by drinks and good-byes at a local pub. It is so hard to believe that these 3 weeks have passed so quickly, and that we had to say goodbye to our new friends and teachers. I feel as though we have all grown so close in such a short time, and that made the goodbye all that more difficult. This trip would have been an entirely different experience had it not been for Anna, Emma, Jason, Uta, and all the incredible people who have helped us on our adventure. Thank you to each and every one of you.

 

Day 17 – Elephant and Sloane

Class this morning started with our tutor telling us that yesterday had been his last day of teaching for the course, and the rest is up to us. It made sense because we spent the morning presenting our group projects on various areas of London and the afternoon consisted of two groups giving a quick tour through their neighborhoods. But, his comment struck me a little more than I wanted it to because it was the first indication that I will have to deal with leaving London soon. It has gone by so fast, but then, it always does.

Like I said, today was devoted to each group sharing their particular neighborhood of London with the other three groups. Hearing about the different areas (Elephant and Castle, Barbican, Sloane Square, and Whitechapel) and the plans for the future of each was really interesting. Our neighborhoods range from wealthy to poor, mostly white to incredibly diverse, and business-zoned to worn-down subsidized housing, and the strategies to grow and maintain each of these areas are incredibly unique.

After hearing the presentations, we first visited Elephant and Castle – actually just a little way South and East of our King’s campus at Waterloo. The area is quite lively and full of different ethnic groups, prominently Latin American, but it definitely has some issues. The most glaring problem here is with housing. Elephant and Castle was one of the hardest hit areas in all of London during the Blitzkrieg of WWII. In an attempt to quickly revitalize the town, buildings were reconstructed cheaply and quickly, and some of those are clearly beginning to deteriorate today. The other major issue is Heygate Estate, a completely empty, massive council housing complex. (you might think of “housing projects” but council housing is more akin to rent-controlled student housing, but for the low-income population) The Estate actually struggled to gain enough residents, and a few years ago, the decision was made to demolish the whole complex and to build a new food, shopping, and housing district in its place. Perhaps a somewhat controversial plan, the demolition has been a long a painstaking process. The outlook is for this project to just be completing the tear down phase in 2015, with new construction needing about five more years for completion. But, Elephant and Castle seems to turn a blind eye on the vacant complex, and the markets, stores, and restaurants around the area thrive.

 [A view inside Heygate Estate, which has been abandoned for years]

The contrast could not have been more stark when our class stepped out of the underground station at my group’s area, Sloane Square (I think our tutor planned it that way). Briefly, Sloane Square is one of the – if not the single – wealthiest areas in all of London. This is where the rich, famous, and powerful come from all over the world to invest in property, eat in fine restaurants, see great theatre, and shop in designer stores. The residential areas are astonishingly quiet, while the nearby shopping street, King’s Road, is crowded with eager consumers. Every plan my group came up with for Sloane involved the word “maintain” as in the council, business owners, and residents want to maintain the current environment of the area. It seemed pretty obvious that people want this place to stay almost exactly the way it is . We stopped here near a fountain for a little break from the heat, and a few of us ended up with ice cream in one form or another – I went for an Irish Creme flavored shake.

After the tours, the four of us took some time to finish up some last-minute paper and presentation editing, and then it was off to Hoxton, the East London home of Anna, to meet our mentors for dinner and some drinks. We ended up at this neat little covered lot which contained a two food stands, one Argentinian and one Lebanese. I, never liking to have to choose between food options opted to start with some homos (or hummus) from the Lebanese stand, Yalla Yalla. It was enough to share, and ended up disappearing pretty quickly, so then it was time for a proper meal. Conor and I decided to go for the choripan (churripan), which is an Argentinian sausage on a toasted bun, with peppers, lettuce, and a special sauce. Once again, we were both extremely satisfied with our choice, although the Lebanese shawarma, a lamb and fried potatoes dish, that the girls got looked pretty good too!

 [Our delicious choripan, waiting to be eaten]

 After our stomachs settled, we followed Anna and Emma to one of their favorite bars in the area for a couple drinks and some well-deserved relaxation time. It was a dark, cool little place, with old leather sofas around some of the tables, and was a great place to kick back. I know I speak for all four of us when I say how much we really enjoy spending time with Anna and Emma. It’s a huge advantage to have a couple locals to show you around, but even better that they are so fun! That, hanging out in a local bar like we go there regularly, was how the night ended. We all made our separate ways home, and are about to get a good nights sleep before our big day tomorrow – what is really our last day here.

-Rob

Wandering in London

Another day, another part of London to explore, another market to see. Today it was Brixton, an area with a rather checkered past of class tensions and race riots. Just the day before we went, 74 artists were evicted, causing small clashes in the streets. In class, we talked about this history and watched a documentary of the racial violence. And so it was with reservations that we all headed for the market.

But it was a lesson in the folly of prejudice. Certainly, it wasn’t the nicest area of London in terms of outwards affluence. But Brixton, and its Market, felt like a part of the urban fabric, like it made a certain sense to be where it was. Certainly, one could see the tensions of gentrification – the Market is split between higher end stores and more traditional food stalls selling groceries. But Brixton had not lost its diverse roots – fish of all varieties were laid out whole on ice melting in the heat of the day, halal cuts of meat hung in storefronts, produce from the Caribbean was laid out, bright and fragrant.

After eating a delicious, local lunch of jerk chicken, oxtail gravy, rice, and beans, we left Brixton to work on our neighborhood projects, ours centered on Barbican. In preparation for presenting our neighborhoods tomorrow, we took another walk through Barbican Estate, a fascinating mix of rough Brutalist architecture with hidden walkways, lush publics spaces, bright green-blue water, and high-rise towers. For class, we were concerned with the areas strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (thus, SWOT analysis), as well as what plan we could create for the area.

Walking through Barbican Centre itself, and the estate’s public square, was very interesting. It felt like a maze, but as we had time to explore getting somewhat lost wasn’t an unpleasant feeling. And we wandered through art exhibits and courtyards, indulging in one of the great joys of London – wandering around, letting things be found rather than actively seeking them.

In this way, we stumbled upon the Church of St. Giles Cripplegate, and met, entirely by accident, the tour guide – an 83-year-old man named Frank Major, who gave us an amazing, and unexpected, tour of the Church, explaining its history and architecture.

And standing in the church where John Milton is buried, a church that stands as a bulwark of history against the onrushing tide of growth next to it, I was immensely grateful that Mr. Major was there, that I could listen to him recount the lifetime of a church so clearly special to him. It was a reminder that great passion, combined with kindness, creates an impact that lasts beyond chance encounters (it was only later that I learned the Mr. Major is only at the church on Tuesdays, the day we happened to visit). That is one of the great opportunities of the Fulbright program – it allows you to step outside of settled routines, to explore the city and wander, to find people and stories from a diverse swath of London, from Jamaican merchants in Brixton to church guides in Barbican. All the best,

Conor

Day 15- Trip through Brick Lane and the Big Ben area

Today we started our day with a very fascinating lecture. We talked about cities and different viewpoints on city statuses. One viewpoint was the social mixing viewpoint, which suggests that having wealthier families living with poorer families will help prevent the “poor trap.” The poor trap refers to the idea that when poor families are confined to one small area, they have no motivation to leave and reach for bigger things because the status is accepted and common, and it becomes sort of like a trapped environment. The alternative viewpoint is that social mixing increases the poor trap because it diminishes the morale of the poor individuals living there because they don’t have the means to do the same things that the wealthier people do. We discussed our experiences in our own hometowns, and it was interesting to hear from people in so many different places. I have noticed that here, the divide is much more evident than where I am from at home, but they are also very different areas to compare.

After lecture, we took a class trip to Canary Warf and Brick Lane. Brick Lane was awesome. The graffiti on the walls was so detailed, and there were so many small vintage stores. The people there were very diverse, and there was a hipster feel to it. I love small markets and stores, and things of the sorts, so I was very content being there.
We also went to Big Ben, Parliament, and Evensong at Westminster Abbey. Big Ben was amazing from up close, and Westminster Abbey was gorgeous. I have been so impressed with the architecture here. Looking at the intricate designs on the stained glass and of the statues was just breathtaking. It’s hard to imagine how much time and hard work it must’ve taken to build. The choir was extremely talented, and again, I liked that they welcomed people of all different faiths to come and experience prayer together, in whatever form feels right to each individual. I lit a votive candle for my family members that passed away before leaving, and I really enjoyed the experience.
We ate at a Mexican restaurant, which was pretty spicy for my liking again, but pretty good. And after some work, we visited a new pub. The culture of the pubs here are so unique to each place. I love how casual and social they are. We caught the tail end of a pub quiz, and I doubt how well we would’ve done if we had gotten there in time to participate. I wish we had more pubs like these in the states because I have really been enjoying the culture of them.
Today was more of a work day. I spent all of my breaks working on my project and paper for class, but I am trying to get a lot done now so that I can really be out and about in London for my remaining four days here. I cannot believe this journey is almost over, but it has been absolutely incredible, and these experiences are ones I will remember forever.
- Samantha Birk

Day 14: The Day With Sunday Tea

We have been experiencing so much of the local culture here in London these last 2 weeks, and yet there seemed to be one part missing: tea and scones. Today we rectified this problem as a break from our daily museums.

We started the morning at Tate Britain, yet another one of London’s amazing art museums. This one held a collection of both classic and modern art, and each room took you further along the artistic timeline. It was interesting to wander around and watch the style of art transform as you moved through the years. It is difficult for me to say which type of art I like best, and I think that’s why the Tate Britain was a good museum for me. Its combination of styles, mediums, and ages gave a very well-rounded look at art in London.

Some of us then headed to the Museum of Natural History. Upon exiting the tube station, we were astonished to find that the building looked more like a castle than a museum. The architecture combined with the stained glass windows created a building that seemed so strikingly unlike any museum in the US. It is sights like this that constantly remind me how lucky we are to be exploring such a wonderfully cultural place. The content of the museum was just as interesting as the building itself, and we wandered quickly through the age of the dinosaurs before catching the tube to make tea time with one of our mentors.

We arrived at this tiny bakery and were instantly greeted with the smell of aromatic teas and sweet treats. The 5 of us ordered 3 different types of teas, which were naturally accomponied by scones with clotted cream and jam. This was a very interesting expereince for me in several ways. While soaking up the thought of actually having tea and scones in England, I got to try thing I had never tasted before. The tea–vanilla black–was delicious, and the clotted cream added a richness to the scones that is entirely missing from them back home. Despite the hot afternoon, we sat around enjoying our warm cup of tea before heading off to yet another museum.

The boys returned to The National Gallery/ National Portrait Gallery in an attempt to view more of its enormous collection, and Sam and I started back to our rooms. A small sign caught my eye, however, and before long we were off to visit the Charles Dickens Museum. Although it was closing as we approached, I got the opportunity to say that I had visited a tribute to yet another amazing British author.

We returned from our adventures and set to work on our final essays and projects for our class, and it is clear to say that our learning didn’t stop when our travels did. This class gives us an amazing opportunity to see London from a critical, intellectual point of view as well as from that of a young tourist, and the combination makes us even more well-rounded. There is certainly nothing quite like taking a break from schoolwork and looking out to see the London skyline stretched before you.

– Alexandria Bottelsen

 

Day 13 – A Barbecue!

Every time I start to thinking that we might have seen every inch of this city, there comes a reminder of how much we have not and will not see. And this morning, we got a wondrous view of how much of this vast urban center that we will probably never see.

We began our day as I tend to begin my posts – with food. This morning featured a traditional English breakfast: eggs, bacon (more akin to holiday ham), sausage, toast, and beans. There were mixed reactions, especially to the beans (in the morning?!), but I found it quite delicious. I believe Conor found our cafe of choice by searching “greasy spoon English breakfast” in Google, so props to him for getting the day started right.

From the cafe, we headed via bus to St. Paul’s Cathedral, the centerpiece of the Church of England (along with some little place down in Westminster). This is one of those structures that, from afar, comes off as quite large. But, from inside the magnificent cathedral, its enormity becomes breathtaking. I always admire these old churches. Built centuries ago, the ornamentation and attention to detail is astounding even to todays standards. Mosaic and mural vaulted ceilings look down onto mighty stone walls and pillars, over the gold-laden altars, to the cold, smooth marble floor. It is a truly gorgeous church, and exploring it was quite a thrill.

One major feature of St. Paul’s is the crypt. Notable persons entombed beneath the church include Lord Nelson, Duke of Wellington, and Christopher Wren, designer of St. Paul’s and dozens of churches around London.

Miles above the crypt rises the dome of the church, which can be tackled in only 500 steps. At the top, we found some of the most incredible views of the city’s expanse.

[Atop St. Paul’s Dome – taken by a woman clearly afraid of heights]

 

[One of the narrow staircases that must be ascended on the way to the top of the dome]

 From St. Paul’s, we traveled to the outskirts of the city to the home town of our mentor, Emma. A charming town by the name of Kew Gardens, the area is home to the royal botanical gardens of the same name, and it is there that we spent the majority of our afternoon. Kew Gardens is the world’s largest collection of living plants, and is rather famous in the botany world for hosting students and researchers in groundbreaking projects. Our purpose to visit was much more leisurely (was only leisure, in fact).

[A walkway through the trees in Kew Gardens]

 Conor, unfortunately, missed out on some of the gardens. We had all gone through St. Paul’s at our own pace, and had agreed to meet at the Kew Gardens train stop at a designated time. Conor, however, had a horrendous time getting there. From underground shutdowns, to bus diversions, driver changes, and confusing signs, just about every delay possible stood in between Conor and the gardens. After missing him at the meeting point, we didn’t really become concerned (he is really good at finding his way around) until he was over an hour late. But, shortly after, we were able to get in touch with him and two hours later welcomed him to the gardens and a well-deserved break in the shade. Finally reunited, we spend some time exploring the expansive gardens, greenhouses, and palace of the grounds.

 As afternoon began sliding toward evening, we made our way to Emma’s beautiful home, where we were to be treated with a barbecue. Pounds of meat, smoking charcoals, cold drinks, and lots of great company (Emma had invited some of her friends as well) combined for a great time. For us, I think it felt a lot like home. Helping to prepare the food (Conor and I grilled, the girls made a delicious salad), helping to make it disappear quite quickly, swapping stories and ideas and perspectives as night came on all felt just like it does in the states. We were at once thousands of miles away and right in our own backyards, and that made for a really fun, really unique experience for us all. We couldn’t appreciate the hospitality of Emma’s family and friends more, and I couldn’t think of a better way to end a long day!

[Posted by Rob]

Days 10 and 11

These past two days we had on our class trip to Liverpool and Manchester. Coming into this trip, I said I wanted to see the culture of London and compare it to the other places I go, and this was a great opportunity to see other places.

We didn’t spend too much time in Liverpool, just enough to get a taste of what it’s like. When we arrived, we took note of the architecture. We went right near the museums and the shore. It reminded me of Brighton, but with more of an older feel to it. There were many museums to choose from—the Titanic Museum, the Beatles’ Museum, Tate Liverpool, etc. A few of us decided to go to the Beatles’ Museum. They gave us headsets where different friends and family narrated different experiences. They had the entire stories of the Beatles from start to finish, with all of the important people and places recreated, and they promoted the fact that the Beatles were made in Liverpool. My favorite room of the museum was John Lennon’s “Imagine” room. The room was completely white, with a piano and a guitar set in the center, and there were lyrics along the walls. One wall was covered in faces of people of all different ages and ethnicities and it read, “And the world will live as one.” While we were there, we also got ice cream at a small truck called “Mr. Wippy,” which had delicious ice cream cones with chocolate “flakes” and I thought it was a very clever name. In the US, we have ice cream trucks that ride around and play music and stop at different houses when kids come out, but this was a cute little stand.

It was interesting to see some of the structures that were built in the regeneration projects. In class, we read an article about Liverpool’s World Heritage Status, and with the unique architecture, museums, and many different attractions, I definitely see why. it was sad, though, to know that Liverpool is in such a bad state, and that the new waters plan would cause Liverpool to lost its status. Walking around the area where we were, you really couldn’t tell that they are in a bad state, but again, we only got a small taste of it.

After our short stay at Liverpool, we went to Manchester, which had a very different feel. I think the University of Manchester is one of their huge attractions, since it holds so many students, provides jobs, and thus attracts so many people to the area. We visited the National Football Museum, which allowed us to see the history of the sport and how it has evolved over time, and we also went to Sport City and learned about its history followed by a tour of the area. It reminded me a lot of sports stadiums in the area. It is a huge venue that is used not only for sports, but also for concerts and family events, which is very similar to in the states. It felt a little out of place though. When we got off of the tram, it felt like a ghost city. There was no one in the area and the stadium was empty, which was a new experience for me, but once we were up and about, it was a really nice venue stuck in the middle of a very residential area.

After our tour, we had a lot of free time. We saw Chinatown, which we have in New York, and it’s crazy to me to see how so many places around the world have little areas like that. We spent a lot of time in Piccadilly Gardens, where families were playing outside, musicians were playing their instruments and singing, and people were enjoying the beautiful weather in all different ways. I love the gardens and parks that we’ve seen on our stay. They are full of culture, diversity, and so much life, and I love just sitting around and taking it all in.

Taking a course here on London, with an emphasis on city life and city regeneration, really makes the tours and exploring more interesting. I enjoy visiting different cities and seeing what’s unique about them and what they use to attract different types of people and keep the city running. It definitely varies based on the city, but they all have small, or large, victories, in a sense, that they can be proud of. Some cities draw on the larger pride of Britain, like Manchester with the National Football Museum, and some draw on “achievements” that they can “claim,” like the Beatles in Liverpool. Both Liverpool and Manchester were unique in their own ways and filled with so much potential for growth, Liverpool especially. I am excited to see how the rest of this trip unfolds and visit more places so I can pick up on as many cultures and unique factors as possible.

– Samantha Birk

Day 12 – Shakespeare and salted caramel

First off, I want to say hello – my name’s Conor, one of the Fulbright participants here at King’s College London this year, and I hope that through this blog the four of us can paint a picture of the program we are on here, how truly amazing this experience is, and what day-to-day life at the Summer Institute is like. And I got lucky enough to write my first post on perhaps my favorite day I’ve had here yet (and, indeed, one of the best days of my whole life), so I hope you can get from this a bit of what London and the Fulbright Institute here are all about!

The day began in unlikely fashion, for anyone besides me that it – a four forty wakeup, followed by a quick, scalding hot shower and a rush to throw on clothes and be out the door by five. The reason – an antiques market, Bermondsey, which was, the Internet told me, the place to go for authenticity, a place to get the local color and see another side of the city. And despite being the only one of the four of us to go, it felt very much like a window into the city’s less visible majority – not to mention a great opportunity to meet some local residents and look at the remnants of historical Britain.

From there, it was back to our hotel to meet up with the others and then to a greasy spoon, the Coral Bay Café, just next to Waterloo Station. The goal was a cheap English breakfast, which we found for four pounds, tea included. With white toast, baked beans, bacon, and sausage, it was on the tame side as English breakfasts go, but it was delicious – a great prelude for coming attractions. We then had the opportunity, in a special Fulbright class, to meet with a U.S. diplomat who worked in cultural affairs at the Embassy in London, where we were able to learn first-hand how the American government promotes the country’s image abroad, how cultural affairs works, and what challenges are posed for outreach in a European country. It was an amazing opportunity to have an intimate conversation with someone with a unique eye into the city of London, one that resonated deeply with my still-limited experience as an American abroad.

After an hour or so to relax, we met Anna, one of our mentors, to head to another market about fifteen minutes away from our flats. This time, however, it was not antiques for sale – in fact, it was almost the polar opposite. We were headed to the fabulous Borough Market in London’s Southwark district, a food market that claims to have been in existence, in ever-evolving form, since 1014. The place was, for me, a revelation – it was as if someone had designed a farmer’s market to my specifications alone.The smells, even at the entrance to the market (grilled Gruyere cheese sandwiches, cooking sausage, coconut quail eggs), were beguiling. And it was immediately obvious that people there cared about their product, that it was for them a labor of love motivated by a need to offer something genuine. Everywhere, people wanted to share their work. A free pistachio pastry, because I mentioned to the shopkeeper that everything he had looked delicious. A chat with the Italian cheese monger at the back of the market – she thought I was Italian, we got to talking, then learned we shared common Sicilian roots. She gave me a slice of drunken cheese – cheese cured in the grape husks left after making wine – that was mind-blowing.

From Borough Market we went to Southwark Cathedral, the oldest Gothic church in London and a place of continual worship for more than a thousand years. Organ music rebounded softly off of the carved pavestones and vaunted arches, and the walls were decorated by saints and patrons of the church. Borough Market and Southwark form a quintessentially London juxtaposition between the new and the old, which coexist everywhere in this city.
Then we had a brief walk to our hoped-for destination for the night – the Globe Theatre, to queue for standing room tickets for the seven-thirty performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And after an hour and a half wait, we got them. Five pounds a piece and we were in, into the inner yard, the paved stone floor and great circle formed by the theatre. The rest of the crowd streamed in, encircling the stage five feet in front of us, and I was struck by just how lucky we were to have the opportunity to be in London, to experience the city, and to see such a varied cross-section of it even within one day.

Of course, the performance was amazing; it quite literally took our breaths away. It is staggering testament to the power of the written word that a play written nearly five hundred years ago remains vibrant and relevant today, and that Shakespeare continues to inspire people to support the Globe Theatre or to study English around the world. And for me, it is even more unbelievable that I have the opportunity to be in London to experience this magic with three other amazing people in an amazing city, a city that moves from antiques to farmers’ markets to Shakespeare seamlessly, with more to offer. Until tomorrow, and another author, best,

Conor

Day 9: The Day Spent Amongst Friends

Ever since the first day of school, our parents have put us on the bus, and with a final wave good-bye, reminded us how important it was to make new friends. Although this time they were putting us on a plane, the same message applied, and our parents would be proud to hear that we fulfilled their wishes today.

Our class is very interesting in that it is incredibly small–only 11 people–and yet incredibly diverse. We have a combination of people from Singapore, China, Hong Kong, parts of Britain, and the United States, and each person comes with a different story to share. Today our tutor, Jason, gave us a chance to tell our stories as he led the way to Primrose Hill for our afternoon discussion (as it was far too nice to spend the day in a classroom). Not only was this an excellent way to get out of the classroom and enjoy yet another part of London, it also allowed us the chance to get to know our fellow classmates a little bit better. With every passing block we learned more and more about each others’ home lives and hobbies, and before we knew it we had reached the park for class.

The park we reached was stunning, with a gorgeous view from the top of the hill. It was incredible to look out from the top of such a green area and see the city sprawling into the distance on every side. As we sat in the shade and discussed city planning and London, we couldn’t help but watch the diverse group of people live their lives around us, and I suppose that is what we have been doing all along.

After class we stood around with a group of students from our class and decided that we would experience pub-life together tonight. Plans made, we headed off in our separate directions, excited to hang out later that night.

Our group decided to travel towards The National Gallery and The National Portrait Gallery, which immediately made our list of incredible museums in London. The building itself was a piece of art, and even though we weren’t allowed to take pictures, some of the incredible pieces of art will remain with us for a long time. Some were so incredibly realistic that you expected them to turn to you and start speaking, as if out of a Harry Potter movie. Others contained such incredible detail that you wished for the power to jump inside and experience the world the artist had created. Yet another museum you could spend days exploring, we decided to leave in time to pass by Buckingham Palace before meeting our classmates.

At 8:30 we met outside to start our adventure. We took a short walk down the street before finding a little pub that looked perfect. A small pub with nothing ornate or incredibly unique, the memories it has given me will last a lifetime. We sat at a table near the window and talked for hours with our new friends, finding things we had in common as well as things that made each of us so incredibly unique. Telling stories until the pub closed, we saw yet another reason for this incredible experience. Since the beginning of this trip, we have been learning about ourselves and Great Britain through an essentially British lens, and tonight we were given so many more points of view. Even the girl from Washington D.C.–an area not too far from where I live–was able to offer new insights to both our world at home and what we are experiencing while we are here. Each new perspective adds to our experience and adventures here, and I believe that, after tonight, I have a new appreciation for that lesson our parents have instilled in us for so long. Meeting new classmates, now new friends, has been an invaluable part of this experience.

-Alexandria Bottelsen

 

Oxford Street and the British Museum, Monday 8th July

We took a trip to Oxford Street today, which reminded me of some of the shopping streets in New York City. There were many stores everywhere, several of the same kind- a ton of small souvenir shops. We made sure to visit TopShop and Primark- Primark which reminds of a Target and Forever 21 mixed into one store. It was interesting to me that they had only one shirt for women that said London, which had an image of Mickey and Minnie Mouse on the front, and only on London shirt for men, that simply had a flag on it. The amount of shirts for other places, like New York City, Miami, and San Francisco, were plentiful. It was very mind-boggling to me. We explored many shops along the street and made our way to the British Museum.

The British Museum was massive. We made our way through the entire ground floor, which took us three-and-a-half hours. I felt like I was moving through so many different places, as the museum is broken up. We visited Africa, Greece and Rome, the Middle East, etc. One exhibit I really enjoyed was the Living Dying Room. It was interesting to see the way that different cultures deal with death and bereavement- some by celebrating, some by mourning, some by trying to keep their ancestors happy, and some by trying to arm the dead for their next journey. The British Museum is a great representation of Britain itself. It is packed with customs, traditions, and pieces from so many different cultures. I really enjoyed reading about them and making my journey through the ground floor.

For dinner we had Chicken Cottage, which I described as the Kentucky Fried Chicken of London. It wasn’t bad, just your typical fried-food selling “restaurant,” if you can call it so. I worked on my paper at night through which I examined the third scene of the Olympics, titled “Frankie and June say…thanks Tim.” It was a movement of about 100 years of British music and both classical and modern British films. When rewatching the section, and reading about the section, I picked up on so many things that I did not pick up on before doing so. I think that Boyle did a good job overall of presenting the history of London, making small comments on colonialism to merely sweep the surface and avoid much of the controversy that would undoubtedly if British were to be shown taking over cities. I think overall Boyle displayed Britain as confident in its post-empire status and did a fine job of cramming a ton of history into a short three-hour spectacle.

By Samantha Birk