Travel Journal #2 – London, London, London

Big BenThe classes that I’m taking here in London are taught by two Centre professors, and I’m here with 27 other Centre students. It’s a pretty unique program, and going abroad with such a large group of people definitely has its pros and cons. The only con that I can think of is that it’s a bit more difficult to get to know any international students. The pros are tremendous — the group is full of absolutely incredible people, the professors are enthusiastic and really want us to become completely comfortable with London, the classes sound interesting and will keep our minds working, we have a diverse group and therefore you’ll usually be able to find someone who would like to do something that you’d like to do too.Waterloo bridge
I imagine that in my time here, I’m going to find that some days are going to be more worth writing about than others. And I think that today was one of those days.
Centre rents classrooms at Birkbeck University that we use during the day since Birkbeck is a night college. We weren’t able to book classrooms for our English classes today, so instead we went to the British Library and went through a couple of exceptional exhibits (and we’re to write about them by Friday): Evolving English and The Treasures of the British Library.
Evolving English. The exhibit was about the history of the English language and how it is constantly changing. It was a fascinating look at dialects, how certain words and phrases have come about, the idea of trying to control a language, and so on. It was really wonderful. One of my favorite parts was listening to speeches by people like Muhammad Ali and Gandhi. It was interesting to observe how different their dialects were, and also how vastly different they spoke — one with short and passionate sentences, the other in a very logical way, no power punches (pun intended). Then there’s the idea of dialect being an indicator of class, etc. It was a great exhibit. And, Leah and I recorded our voices for their databases, as well as learned that our friends (and ourselves included) commonly abbreviate words in day-to-day conversation and that we also designate things in a superlative sort of way. Such as: “The adventure today was the epicest.”
bicyclesThe Treasures of the British Library. One of the first documents that I saw in this exhibit was handwritten by Darwin. The next, handwritten by Freud. Other works I saw: The Gutenberg Bible, sheets of brainstormed lyrics, The Magna Carta, handwritten lyrics by The Beatles, drafts of pieces by Handel, sketches by Leonardo da Vinci, manuscripts by Shakespeare, and a prayer scroll of Henry VIII. I’m blanking on what else I saw since there was just so much to see. It was overwhelming and absolutely incredible. Actually seeing those things somehow makes them so much more real. Breaking down those degrees of separation. Remarkable.
That was all before lunch. We took the 10-minute walk back to our home (Nido Student Living), had a bite to eat, and then we were off again. The atmosphere near Waterloo Bridge was so lovely. I enjoyed seeing people reading on benches beside the river.
Wednesday is the last day of Fashion Week in London! Naturally, a few of us had to head down to the Somerset House to see what the fuss was all about. And, well…we didn’t really get to see much. The Somerset House has a big courtyard inside of it, and when we walked through the gateway and into the courtyard, there were a decent amount of people inside, but most seemed as if they actually belonged there — quite unlike us. Folks in designer clothing from head-to-toe were gliding around, some having their photos taken. It was quiet. We walked around for a while, definitely looking a bit lost and out of place. I’d never been to a fashion event before, and you had to have tickets to see any of the runways. But even just the outside area was a pretty different world — so much obvious and intense focus on appearance. It was easy to begin to feel self-conscious in such a place.
breakdancerAfter about 20 minutes, away we went. And we finally got around to seeing a few of the classic London sites that we hadn’t been to yet. We strolled along since we didn’t have anywhere in particular that we needed to be. We went down beside the Thames. There were bikes leaning up against the railings, books for sale on tables along the sidewalks, people jogging by, and simply a type of calm that is the complete opposite of what we experience every day on our way to classes and around the Kings Cross area.
Well, it WAS quiet until we walked closer to the London Eye where there were swarms of folks. But that was a nice kind of crowd — people were smiling and excited to be there. We saw the London Eye and all of the street performers around it (which always amaze me, by the way), and then we walked on to see Big Ben and Parliament.
Let me backtrack for a moment. While we were strolling past vendors selling books on the sidewalks, we came across a wonderful place — a small skate park! Now, I’ve never been on a skateboard, and I’ve only long-boarded once in my life (which was a blast), but I love watching people do both. And I love graffiti when it brightens up a dull area — and there was a ton of graffiti at this park, not to mention folks on bikes, skateboards, and a small crowd watching breakdancers. It was awesome — I’ll definitely be going back there.
After taking a photo with an Abraham Lincoln statue close to Westminster Abby, we continued our walk towards Trafalgar Square. There was a protest going on — signs showing support for Egypt and Libya. There’s so much chaos happening in that part of the world right now.protest
After observing the rally in awe for a good 10 to 15 minutes, we made our way to Trafalgar Square and then wandered a bit further. Afterward, we hopped on the Tube to head back to Kings Cross. It was a long and wonderful day. Dinner was perfect, just like home…well, minus the bread that I burnt…hah. But I had baked chicken, peas, corn, potatoes, bread, and cheese — a taste of home.
There’s this pub close-by called The Rocket that has been a Centre student favorite in years past. So after having done some homework in the cafe downstairs, some of us headed to The Rocket for the evening. And man, it was packed!
Today was a pretty wonderful day. An exceptional day.
(Apologies for this blog being so long; I’ll be impressed if you’ve made it all the way through.)
by Anne Evans ’12, currently participating in the Centre-in-London study abroad program. Learn more about study abroad in England.
PHOTOS (top to bottom): Big Ben and Parliament, Waterloo Bridge, bicycles along the Thames River, an impressive breakdancer, and a rally for Libya.

By |2011-02-22T14:35:40-05:00February 22nd, 2011|News, Study Abroad, Travel Journals - England|