Last weekend was one of the best weekends I have had while studying here. I had been throwing around the idea of going to see a good friend of mine who is currently studying in London. I wasn’t completely sold on the idea though. I had heard that London and the UK in general were much like America, and, although very historic and beautiful, perhaps wouldn’t be the most life-changing and cultural places to see. In fact, being that my major is Journalism, the School of Communications and Theater, of which I am part, has a program in London. When I made my initial decision to study abroad, I was faced with the next choice of whether I wanted to live in London for months, or diverge from “the norm” of my program and see somewhere else. I ultimately decided that if I was going to study abroad, I wanted an experience that would truly put me outside of my comfort zone. However, since I had never left America, I did not want to have to find my own program and travel through and entirely different school, so Temple Rome seemed ideal. And it has been!
Two weeks ago I finally decided that I should go to London. After all, I had a free place to stay (when would that ever happen again?!) and could use a kitchen too! Along with being my first time in London, this trip was also my first time traveling completely alone. I feel like such an adult! The commute, despite involving many buses, trains, and planes, was actually very easy. I got very lucky, just making a couple of the buses. Things worked out just perfectly! I was also lucky enough to be able to stay for four days and five nights. Honestly, even with my own personal tour guide who has been living in London for over three months, I felt a full four days was JUST enough to be able to see enough of the city and not be rushed. And we certainly conquered the city.
The first place we saw was Harrod’s; what an experience! This has to be one of the largest department stores in the world. They literally sold EVERYTHING. Of course, you can’t visit London and not see the Tate Modern; it wound up being one of the best museums to which I’ve been. Afterwards, I had my first “pub” experience at Founder’s Arms on the water, where I drank some kind of strawberry-kiwi beer/cider and ate “chips” with mayo-type stuff! I especially enjoyed their photo exhibits. With this, we also spent time at the British Museum and the Science Museum as well. Riding bikes in Hyde Park was definitely one of my favorite activities of the weekend as well. I haven’t ridden a bike in way too long, and to get back on one on the streets of London and then through a beautiful park was so fun! Of course, we had to see the London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and Buckingham Palace.
The last day we visited the Camden Markets and Brick Lane. Seeing these places put London in perspective for me, and brought the city together as an entirely more eclectic place than I ever imagined. Overall I was totally impressed by London and the intriguing and abundant culture. It was so beautiful and nice, especially in the area my friend lives (South Kensington), but at the same time there was a sense of rebellious youth and the most diverse population I’ve witnessed. It was clearly much more Americanized than Italy, but still certainly had a European feel to it. Overall, I’m so happy that I made the decision to travel there this weekend while I had the opportunity. I can see that, when comparing the two programs, the students studying in London can integrate themselves much more easily into the city, especially since they each have internships as well. In Rome, it is much more difficult, if not impossible, to fully integrate into the city because most of us can’t communicate with the natives! But, I’m glad I took this opportunity to put myself out there and really took advantage of this wonderful opportunity in Italy!