Monthly Archives: September 2014


September 26, 2014

Without seeking out these by myself, I have stumbled upon many experiences that remind me of my childhood. From seeing the props from the His Dark Materials show at the National to going to the Harry Potter Studios, I have been transported back to past delights. The concept of living in another country can be frightening, but so far, ignoring the occasional bouts of fear and worry, I have been enjoying my time. I believe that part of the reason is finding comfort in these items from my childhood.

Last Friday, IES took us to the Harry Potter Studios. I was amazed by how huge the studio was and by the quality of the work. The sets were elaborate with every last detail meticulously selected. However, more importantly, I felt like a kid experiencing magic. What could be better?


The next day, we went to Cambridge. It was beautiful and almost like a continuation of the Harry Potter experience. The quiet feeling of the place combined with the beauty of the water and old buildings brought me into a different world. Too bad it was cold or the day would have been perfect.


In addition to the Philip Pullman and JK Rowling novels, I also grew up with Jane Austen and William Shakespeare. This may not be a traditional mix of authors, but I love them all. I was introduced to the works of William Shakespeare when I was seven years old and Jane Austen when I was eleven. Both have stayed with me since.

Yesterday (Thursday, September 25), I was exposed to Shakespeare and, indirectly, to Austen in London. (This is ignoring the fact that I am taking a Shakespeare class here.) In the afternoon, I went to see Julius Caesar at the Globe. As a groundling, I was able to lean right on the stage and watch a powerful production. The very idea of it made me so happy, the fact that it was a good version was icing on the cake.

That night, through my theatre classes, I went to see a show called Wolf from the Door. It was a weirdly funny show involving nudity, anarchy and laughter. It was here that I indirectly got a glimpse of Jane Austen in England. Starring in the show was Anna Chancellor, who played Miss Bingley in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth. Though she was playing a very different character in a very different story, she was brilliant (and so were her fellow actors).

I came home last night thrilled by what I had seen and experienced. It means a lot to see childhood books brought to life in different ways in the country of their origin. Tomorrow, I head to Bath. I hope to experience more Jane Austen while I’m there!

Touring London

September 21

I’ve been in London for about twenty days now. That revelation was quite startling to me – I feel like I only just got here and like I’ve been here for months. But, I have to remind myself, it’s just been twenty days.

Recently I’ve felt guilty about not taking advantage of more of the history that London has to offer. I’d seen many of my fellow students not only posting pictures of themselves at major London sights, but also talking about trips (present and future) to places outside of London. I felt like I was (and still often feel like I am) falling behind. Adjusting, going to class and figuring out the immediate area have taken up a lot of time. So last week I decided to go to many of the major tourist attractions. Not only was I interested in feeling better about my choices of activities, but I was also genuinely interested in exploring these places.

Wednesday, I set out on my own to see what London had to offer. I went to the Churchill War Rooms first and I must say, it was quite an experience. Seeing the cramped quarters, hearing that the toilets didn’t flush and learning about the British perspective on World War II was fascinating. Churchill was quite the boss. He pushed everyone, including himself, very hard, working from 8am to 3am most days.

Next I went to Westminster Abbey, which was beautiful. Having not read much about it, I was delighted to stumble upon the grave of Queen Anne – Richard III’s wife. As an admirer of Shakespeare, I had a strong notion of who Anne was based on renditions of Richard III. That surprise, and so many more, made the Abbey worth exploring.

Happily, the rest of my day was spent with other people from the program. I got to wander around the staterooms of Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London. One of the most stunning parts of the day was the moat surrounding the towers. In it are thousands of ceramic poppies in remembrance of World War I. The poppies combined with the war rooms reminded me of the much closer connection England had to both wars. Though the US participated, the war was not as immediate in the states.


Most of this weekend has been spent exploring the Harry Potter Studios and Cambridge. I can say that both are lovely to visit. Harry Potter was huge and exciting, while Cambridge was peaceful and lush. Now, though I feel like I’ve done my part in terms of being more involved in where I’m staying, I am exhausted. I guess the lesson is to take things slowly here. It’s just hard to relax knowing there are so many things going on and that I’ll only be here for a few months.

Week 1

It’s hard to fathom describing my first week in London.  From day to day, hour to hour and minute to minute, my experience changes, just like the weather here. However, the one constant part of my experience so far has been jet lag.

IES had us hit the ground running. In addition to a traditional orientation, I have taken a bus and walking tour of London, visited Hampton Court Palace, and more. I cannot even guess how long I have walked each day. Though it is probably longer than expected considering my embarrassingly frequent tendency to get lost.

I think that this first week in London with IES: Study London has been similar, emotionally, to my first week at Whitman College. Two years ago, I (and every other freshman) faced the daunting task of trying to make new friends and feel at home as quickly as possible.  Originally from Maryland, I also had to accept the large distance from my family and friends.

In London, I am faced with the same challenge; however, this time could be considered more difficult because we have so little time to get to know each other. Additionally some students came together, which makes inserting myself into their groups both off-putting and necessary. Oh and this time around, I can’t just call my parents because of the expense and the five-hour time difference.

But that is enough of my difficulties and fears. One of my favorite things about London thus far (other than the accents) is looking at the mix of modern and historical architecture. I find that this combination almost makes my living here feel real. There are beautiful old buildings sitting right next to skyscrapers. In fact, adjacent to one side of Saint Paul’s Cathedral is a rather odd looking sculpture clearly created relatively recently. Another example of this is the posted picture I took that looks at the Millennium Bridge and Saint Paul’s Cathedral. This juxtaposition is not what I typically expect from a European city. However, locals have repeatedly told me that Brits don’t consider themselves part of Europe.


There are quite a few other peculiarities I have stumbled upon. I will only enumerate the ones I did not expect. First of all, the Brits do not seem to use a full set of sheets. Our rooms came only supplied with a fitted sheet and a comforter, no top sheet. Second, in London, the yellow streetlight comes on both before the light turns red and before the light turns green. It becomes a warning to pedestrians and gives cars sufficient time to rev their engines. Some cars even start moving before the green light officially comes on. And this brings me to my third fact: often cyclists are crazier and more dangerous to pedestrians than the vehicles on the roads. I have been told this is because cameras record intersections, fining cars but not cyclists. Though unusual, I hope these tidbits have been enlightening, or at least entertaining.