Learning in London

Thomas Salamon
LSE 2019/20
London, England

Every city has a pattern. Some are organized into grids- some about a central expressway or an intersection of those. Some are oriented in a way to divert traffic to certain districts. London is all of these. It’s a constant reminder of its rich history as an evolving city from the time of the Roman Empire. It isn’t in a grid of streets or even circled about a central location like many European cities. The river Thames cuts it in two, so it’s an easy reference point.

Blackfriars Bridge over the river Thames

Every day, I get dressed in warm clothes, and I cross the Thames on my commute to class. My first consideration, of course is blending in. The style of people over here is much different. I’ve only worn black pants since I arrived. I bought a Barbour and Burberry coat, both for warmth and because I can’t afford something like a Canada Goose. Warm clothes are of paramount import, followed by the function you’re dressing for. Suits for days with meetings- expensive outfits for going out. The people dressing for work generally prefer suits and overcoats, which reminds me of the way Peaky Blinders dress. Mostly dark colors. Other international students are usually the only ones wearing outfits out of the norm- Americans prefer Patagonia, LL Bean Boots, Sperrys or Vineyard Vines. Chinese students prefer outfits worth more than a year of my tuition cobbled together from luxury brands like Off-White, Gucci and Supreme. London is a fashion capital- you simply must consider the image you project.

Financial district downtown, St. Paul’s roof in the foreground.

My commute is an easy one mile walk (don’t ask me for the kilometer conversion). I start across Blackfriars Bridge and I look to my right, at the financial district in the background and the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral in the foreground. I’d make a comment about religions of man changing over time, if I were wittier. I take a left after the bridge- joining the throng of commuters, all looking at the ground, none talking to any other, all bound for their work, school, or play. I walk along the Thames opposite the London Eye, in the direction of Parliament and Big Ben. Every morning, I’m greeted with the sun coming over the river to my left over the House of Parliament. There’s a bronze statue, titled ‘City Worker Hailing a Cab’, to my right, past the J.P. Morgan Building. Some days, his expression seems hopeful. Other days, panicked. Still others it reflects the melancholy of a midweek commute. Perhaps that’s the art in it. I’m a math major- don’t ask me.
You can’t see the Thames, the central reference point of London, from inside the city. The distinctive skyscrapers of London offer a secondary reference for lost folks- the Shard, the Gherkin, Canary Wharf, all offer waypoints to orient yourself. But it’s often the case on the narrow streets that you can’t see anything but the buildings immediately in front of you. If your phone is dead (as mine consistently is), you resort to following the maps on bus stops and referencing signs pointing you at landmarks. I have a disposition to wanting to learn the city by heart instead of using my phone, so I’m perfectly ok with getting lost a little on the way. You get the best experiences like that, in my humble opinion. Finding little shops serving any kind of food you like. Doner, Fish and Chips, hole-in-the-wall pubs you file in your memory for later but never visit again because you can’t find them. Vintage markets selling Barbour jackets from 1980 alongside classic records. Tailors offering insane discounts due to competition from international brands.

Sunset view from Blackfriars Bridge.

View from my room

I retrace my steps back after class along the same route. The statue seems more hopeful after I’ve been in class and have the day under my belt. There’s graffiti opposite Blackfriars station reading ‘Things go right if you do all the little things right’. Someone has scratched out ‘all the little things’. Returning to my dorm, I cross in front of the Tate Modern and take the lift to the fourth floor. It’s a double, and my roommate is usually watching political videos or typing his essays. I feel bad for him because all I have are problem sets for quantitative courses- he feels bad for me for the same reason.

“Bon Voyage” 2019

Will Driskill
SAS 2019

As we enter our tenth day at sea, crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Europe and Africa, and head towards South America, I am very aware that Semester At Sea is quite a different and unique study abroad experience. Unlike any other study abroad program, it offers a college semester traveling by sea on a large cruise ship to eleven different countries, and three continents in the span of three plus months. While on the ship, more than four hundred students are taking classes, studying, exercising, eating and socializing while traversing the globe. When you arrive at each new port, you become immersed in a new culture through required field classes, optional travel programs, or free time to explore on your own or with a group.

This experience does not make classes any easier, or the experience any more beneficial than other study abroad programs; instead it offers a unique way to study and travel. There are amazing opportunities while at sea, however, the biggest challenge has been adjusting to life on a ship. The living spaces are small, and focusing on a teacher’s lecture can be extremely difficult when the seas are rough and you are seasick! Even on a large ship, the best traveler can become nauseous once or twice, which makes focusing, let alone getting out of bed, almost impossible. Another challenge is the limited WIFI on the ship. We are only allotted seven minutes of WIFI a day, which makes it very difficult to keep up with friends and family while sailing.

However, the positives of this experience heavily outweigh the negatives. With a shipboard community of nearly four hundred and fifty students, you become very close with the people around you. I have made many new friends from all over the United States, and from around the world. Living in such close quarters with students and teachers from all walks of life has really helped me reach beyond and outside of my comfort zone, and enhanced my appreciation of others’ values, beliefs and personalities.

This close knit ship environment also encourages students to interact daily with our professors, who become not only our teachers, but also our friends. They, in essence, become our second parents, who teach, exercise, give advice, dine and occasionally share an evening cocktail with us! This is an amazing community environment, and a very different way of education. The classes are not just taught by the subject you are taking, but also enhanced with a global discussion of the culture, politics, history, geography and general information of each country we are visiting.

I have enjoyed taking Oceanography as a science class, which has provided me with the opportunity to study the ocean life, the mangroves, and the local marine environment for each area we travel to. I have learned that marine lives are vastly different in Africa than they are in Europe, and each new place we visit.

One of my favorite experiences of this voyage has been the opportunity to experience the food from different cultures all around the world. Even though the ship food is probably as institutionally awful as the food we have to eat at Hampden-Sydney’s, “Moans”, the foods we have experienced off the ship has been amazing! I have enjoyed Croatian pastries, “bureks” from street vendors and bakeries, filled with sweet fruit, rich cheese or savory meats; then shared tagine chicken and couscous under a tent after traveling through the Saharan Desert of Morocco by camel. I have been served a homemade meal of beans and fish, while staying in a seaside village hut in Ghana, but favor the local plantains they serve boiled, grilled or fried. My next stop is Brazil, and I am most excited for my next meal off this ship, and maybe at a Brazilian steak house!

Sailing across the Atlantic from Europe and Africa, it is hard to believe that I am almost half way through my journey. I am looking forward to the sights, sounds, people, art, culture and food of Brazil, Ecuador, Trinidad, Tobago and Costa Rica. I have been on this voyage for about two months now, and I have made new friends from all over the world, and formed connections and experiences that I will have for the rest of my life.

“Bon Voyage” 2019

Will Driskill
SAS 2019

It has been a little over a month now since I started my journey with Semester at Sea. It is hard to believe that I have already been to five countries in Europe and am now headed to the second continent with this voyage, Africa. Starting in Amsterdam a little over a month ago, I had no idea what to expect. I have never really done solo travel, let alone traveled to five completely different countries in such a short amount of time. Looking back now, it is amazing how much I have learned not only through school but also from visiting each place. Each country I have been too is completely different when it comes to food, culture, and experiences.
Croatia has by far been my favorite place, with Amsterdam coming in a close second, and Spain not far behind that. What makes Croatia so cool is not just the insane beaches but also all the amazing natural wonders you can find off the beaten path. One of the most memorable experiences I had in Croatia was when some friends and I did a day trip to a national park. What we thought would only be a big hike, turned into two nights of camping and exploring this amazing island. It was pretty tough because we did not have proper camping gear or clothes. But at the same time, we got to see some of the most beautiful waterfalls and hike some amazing trails that a lot of tourist miss out on. My favorite part of this adventure was jumping off a waterfall into a natural pool that then, if you kept swimming went down to a underwater cave where the natural spring was sourced from. Living off the grid for a few days was definitely tough, but it was an experience that I will never forget! Croatia also had some of the best Pastries I have ever tasted. They are most famous for one called a Burek, which is croissant filled with whatever you want from a savory cheese to a chocolate filling. I probably ate about three of these a day! I do have to say that I have tried a Mojito in about every country I have visited, and Spain definitely comes out on top. Spain also came out on top when it came to some of the coolest clubs I have ever been. My favorite was in Lagos Spain. This was a club that was built into a cave on the side of the ocean. You could go for drinks or food then if you go deeper into the cave you would eventually find a underwater pool where you could swim through and come out on the other side to another bar. Definitely an experience I will never forget.

I have made tons of friends on this journey and have had many experiences already that I would not trade for anything. I was honestly a little nervous starting this journey because I knew absolutely nobody. But that has also opened up many doors and made this such an amazing experience so far. Ship life is definitely hard to get used to as well and seasickness is real, no matter how big the ship is!! I know Morocco will bring a completely different view on traveling compared to Europe, but I am excited for next place.

“Bon Voyage” 2019

Will Driskill
SAS 2019

I started my Semester at Sea adventure about a month ago in Amsterdam, Netherlands and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Most of my travels before Semester at Sea have consisted of family vacations up and down the East coast. But, my travel bug really started several years back when I traveled to Pamplona, Spain to Run with the Bulls. For many, running with the bulls would be well outside their comfort zone, but I considered that to still be well within my comfort zone because, I traveled to Spain with family and close friends. Now, when I first heard about Semester at Sea, I was in disbelief. How was it possible to travel to eleven different countries and three continents all while getting an education for only half a semester? It was too good to be true and I believe that is what made me jump at this opportunity and not turn back. I was all in from the beginning and so far, it has been one of the best choices I have made.

So, about a month ago, I packed my bags, said bye to family and friends and headed off to start my journey in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Honestly, I was a little nervous at first because I have never done solo travel before and I knew absolutely nobody going on Semester at Sea. But, I think that is what made me want to go on this journey the most. Being able to meet people not only from the United States, but all over the world has been an eye-opening experience and something that challenges me to get outside my comfort zone.

I know that there will be many challenges that I will come across while traveling the world, but that is what I am looking forward to the most. It’s not just Europe that I am traveling to, but also Africa and South America. In both Africa and South America, I will be way outside of my comfort zone and that will be the biggest challenge for me. I have to be willing to not change, but become more open minded about the cultures and the areas that I will be visiting along the way.

Learning in London

Thomas Salamon
LSE 2019/20
London, England

I only applied to one abroad program because I wanted it to improve upon the studies I was doing at Hampden-Sydney. I had already taken a May Term Abroad in order to study German with some fellow students of mine but when I chose to apply to the LSE, I knew it would be a different experience- for one, I was applying alone and wasn’t going to be abroad with a fellow Hampden-Sydney student. What I knew about the London School of Economics (and indeed, London at all) was relatively limited. I had spoken to some students who went in previous years, and they told me it was a full year at one of the most prestigious social science universities in the world. The courses were hard, and mostly quantitative. I was sold! I applied because I’m a math-econ/applied math major, and I was trying to get a career in Finance. A good half of the students here have similar goals, but I’m getting ahead of myself here. Small aside- my professor would be proud of me using statistics, let’s calculate the probability a student you randomly speak to on the street is a member of the general course & and has the aforementioned goals… go!
The other difference from my previous time abroad; and in my opinion, advantage, is that we speak English over here. That comes with a few notable exceptions, like how lifts are elevators, asking for pants at the store directs you to the underwear aisle, or when you say the name of basically anywhere out loud and find people staring at you with the full knowledge you aren’t from here. Fun exercise- try saying Thames, Southwark, Leicester, Greenwich, Gloucester or Marylebone, and I guarantee you aren’t saying them right. The flip side of this is that you’re always in a sea of people who are from farther off destinations than you. I’ve met people from all across Europe, Russia China, the Middle East and South America who all had unique experiences and all came to the LSE to improve their education. That brings me to the meaning of the full name of the LSE- The London School of Economics and Political Science. Many people here come to study (and by virtue of that, are incredibly knowledgeable about) international relations and political science. The dialogues I’ve had with people about any subject is invariably incredibly interesting, and it seems to mirror Hampden-Sydney in that there is at least respect regardless of opinion, and that nobody will attack you for who you are or what you believe. They WILL attack your arguments however, which has the result that everyone is good at defending themselves.
The discourse is so incredibly varied here that you can find any political or social ideology you wish to. The Marxist society had a booth next to the Hayek society during the fresher’s fair, and you’ll not be surprised to hear which of the two groups were wearing suits.

こんにちは “Kon’nichiwa”

Laken Williams
Akita International University

Saying Sayonara to Japan and All of My Friends

As much as I enjoyed every minute I was in Japan, I knew it had to come to end at some point. For most, the end of their adventure in Japan was the last week of July and the first few days of August. But, for me, I had an archaeological excavation that was part of one of my classes and ended August 7th. So, as one of the last to go, I had to say goodbye to everyone. Some left quietly on the first bus to the airport or to the train station; some left with a crowd of waves, and most of my friend group left to the ever dwindling remnants of our diverse crew of Europeans, Americans, and Taiwanese alike, with the token AIU student, looking sad but used to saying goodbye. Although I had planned on doing it for all my friends, I never remembered to take a final selfie with everyone before they left, so I can’t put in everybody’s pictures.

One of the first friends to leave was Eri (Japan): all of us played ping-pong together at the beginning of the year. It was a real full-circle moment for us, because we started off Orientation Week playing ping-pong, and the last thing we did together was play ping-pong. Eri was a really, quiet girl, but, apparently, she had one of the best English scores of her class: she just didn’t like talking. We had “developed” a game called “Circle Ping-Pong,” in which we would all run around the table while keeping the ball on the table, and whoever missed the table was out. The last two standing would play a best of two to determine the king of the table. All of us would play this game back to back for hours: playing circle ping-pong is one of my fondest memories of Japan.

This picture is one of the first pictures of my stay in Japan. This was the first week that we had all met each other. Eri (Japan) is the one taking the selfie with the glasses on. Next to her is Shinu (China/Japan), who was one of my other really, good friends while I was in Japan: she was one of my few AIU friends throughout my stay. Behind them are some familiar faces: Savannah (Penn.) and Martijn (Netherlands), and next to me is Danika from Alaska.


This is from that last week before my excavation. Once again, Eri is taking the selfie, and behind her is one of her and Martijn’s mutual friends, whom I met that day and whose name escapes me. And behind them is the familiar Trio of Martijn, Theo, and I.


This is effectively the same picture, but I like it, so I added it. It was an interesting circumstance because all of the guys, excluding me who wore chinos and a t-shirt every day, wore pretty “relaxed clothes.” Martijn usually wore a fancy button-down collared shirt and jeans, so this casual black shirt was rare. Theo had a wide range of apparel: he sometimes had a button-down shirt, khakis, and Sperry-like shoes, but he could also pull off this “bumming” outfit with the tank-top, swim-trunks, and shower shoes. On the opposite spectrum, Eri and her friend had the typical dressed up, loose fitting clothes that all the Japanese girls wore: she seemed almost over-dressed compared to us.


The weekend before I started the excavation, two of my best friends would leave the same Monday I left for the farm stay. It was mainly Jordan’s idea, as were most things we did (his charisma and drive in life were hard to turn down), that we watch all three of the John Wick films each night before they left. During those weekend nights, as we had many nights before, Theo and I sprawled out on the House Lounge sofa, but this time we were joined by a group of other friends to watch the films. My long-standing friend throughout my stay in Japan, Martijn, his good friend from Mexico, Jose, as well as Theo’s friend, a fellow Scandinavian from Denmark, Mikel. It was one of my favorite weekends of all time, mainly because it was so simple: we all just hung out and watched cool movies while eating an array of Japanese instant noodles and snacks. The final night was when a lot of our nostalgia kicked in, and we spent a good bit of time talking about when and how we all met, and, for most of us, it was on the first day, which made our imminent parting that much more depressing.

Both of these pictures were taken at around 2 a.m., but none of us felt very tired: we mostly wished we could stay longer. Jordan is taking the selfie, with his friend, someone I met a few days earlier, Satoshi, behind him: he was the tallest Japanese person I had met; we were the same height. Martijn and Theo are split by Jose, whom I spent a lot of time with that last week but not at all really before. He was pretty candid about America’s “strained” relations with Mexico under Trump: he was fairly charitable, since most other people were more angry about it than he was.


This picture was taken the night before Mikel left. It was confusing for me to talk to him, because he had the same name as my twin brother (spelled differently), but it was, in Danish, pronounced completely different, although he used my brother’s pronunciation for the “Americans.” He also had a girlfriend that came with him to study at AIU: her name was Nini, which was apparently a pretty common practice among the Scandanavians/Nordics. I had two other friends that were named Nana and Sisi. Mikel was probably the tallest person at AIU: I think he was around 6’6”, but they use a different system, so I never asked. He was also in the Danish military and had some pretty crazy stories about their basic training.


My best friend Theo saw me off to the farm stay before making his solo walk to the airport, because he said he wasn’t going to pay for a taxi. Our parting wasn’t as emotional as I expected it to be, but neither of us are particularly emotional people: we gave each other a bro-hug, mentioned hanging out or face-timing sometime down the road, and I ended by telling him to say hi to his girlfriend for me. With that, my class and I made our way to the farm where we would spend the next week excavating a local Junior High School that had been shutdown in the 80’s: the Junior High School was a known location of a Final Jomon site, which is Japan’s earliest pre-historic society.  Although we did a lot of fun and interesting things during the excavation, I’ll just keep it short: it was really hot and humid; there was a lot of digging; and, there was a lot of really good food.


Here is a picture of me in full Archaeologist attire. Since Japanese people are generally much smaller than Americans and Europeans, both my shirt and pants were 3XL, which did nothing for my insecurities. The hat, which was a hit with the other students and supervisors, was actually a women’s farm hat, but I just took the black-satin ribbon off of it and it looked pretty cool and archaeology-ish. The sign behind me is for the farm owners, saying it was their family’s house and it was also a boarding house.

This poster was really cool for our class. The school actually had it made for us as a promo for our work and our end of seminar project on our research/finding. This is a picture of our class trying to use a measuring device: it was probably the most tedious thing I had ever used in my life. There were so many things we had to do before using it, and it did such a simple thing: found angles to create squares. Alex (Russia) is the only other guy, and his partner, Honoka, is the one looking through the lens. My partner, Nanaho, is supervising us: in actuality, she was much better than me at levelling the device and finding accurate measurements.


This is a group photo of all the excavators. From the right is: Nishimura-san (a Tokyo Univ PhD. Student), Honoka, Nanaho, Saki (our Manager), me, Aleks (Russia), Sekine (Wasada Univ. Undergrad), and Kuma-san (Wasada Univ. Grad student).



This was the day before I left and my last day of excavation. Most of the labor had been done by then, so it was all detail work, measurements, recording, and scale-drawing. Negishi-sensei (the lead archaeologist and our professor) let me take a solo pic inside the dig site. It gives you some idea of how small the site was, but we still managed to spend 8 hrs. every day for a week digging and making measurements. It was a lot of tedious work, but it was all very interesting.


The night before my last day, I went to Akita City to watch the massively popular Kanto Festival. The Kanto Festival is an annual Prefecture wide holiday that is celebrated in the heart of Akita City. All along a huge, 4-lane highway called, Kanto street, thousands of spectators and vendors lined the entire length of the street. The main attractions were community teams of drum and flute floats, which were following behind the Kanto performers. Each paper-lantern mast would have logos that represented local communities or businesses. Our own AIU Kanto team performed as well. The sounds of the flute were quite shrill, and the shouts that were used to keep the drums in rhythm echoed down the street and off the buildings. After the performers had spread out to their respective spots, the Kanto team would form a circle and start their performance. Each Kanto mast weighed anywhere from 50-150 lbs., and many of the performers would support this with one hand, their waist-belt, or, for the truly talented, their forehead.


This gives you an idea of how many people were lining up to watch, and this was the furthest point of the festival. In the picture you can see the drum platform, on which the flutist and the singers would stand, as well as the drummers. This was taken as all the teams were lining up to start as dusk appeared.



This is a close-up of one of the teams of Kanto performers, with their mast lying on the ground in front of them.





Here is a picture, courtesy of one of the AIU Kanto member’s Facebook, of one of AIU’s Kanto performers transferring the mast, all while fighting the wind.




This is a great picture, again courtesy of the aforementioned Facebook profile, of AIU’s personal Kanto mast, with real flame-candles in each paper lantern. You can also see the vast line of Kanto teams performing. When I was walking back to the beginning of the Festival street, I saw one of the heavy masts fall into the crowd: luckily no one was hurt, but it is always a spectacle that elicits large cries and shouts from the onlookers. It is some what like a tree falling: very drawn-out and dramatic.


That night, I finished stuffing all of my clothes and souvenirs into my suitcases and said goodbye to my AIU friends and the full year international students. The next morning, I woke up early to eat my last meal in Japan: a bowl of cafeteria ramen. I met with “the few, the proud, the August 7th crowd.” With the exception of Atsuki, three of us went to Tokyo together on the same plane. I was in a different mood that day, whereas, the night before, I was very sentimental and nostalgic; that day, I was basically ready to go home. I was not looking forward to the long, twenty-hour total flight back to North Carolina. At Akita Airport, I bought some final souvenirs for my family and hung out with Ben and Mary, who were the other two flyers to Haneda, Tokyo.

This was taken the morning of our flight: I had shaved that morning, so I looked particularly pale. Atsuki was probably my best Japanese friend while I was in Japan. He loves Formula-1 racing and dune-buggy racing. He is also on the Kendo club, which is Japanese fencing with wooden swords. He is planning on becoming an English teacher for High School students and spent most of his first semester looking into ways to reform the Japanese primary education system, which he believes does not allow enough flexibility for students to explore academic interest and doesn’t put enough attention on English acquisition programs.

I apologize for the creepy face: it must’ve been a bad angle. In between Ben and I is Mary, really Hsu Ching-Hua, from Taiwan. I actually met her mom and dad in Tokyo at Haneda airport. Their English was pretty good, and her dad helped me get a limo-bus to Narita, from where my flight to O’Hare would be. Funny story: I saw her right before my taxi showed up and she asked if we could share, and I said yes, so she ran to Komachi Lobby (on the other side of campus) to cancel her cab. However, before she got back, my taxi showed up, and I didn’t know enough Japanese to ask him to wait for my friend. I later met her at Akita Airport’s terminal for Haneda, and I profusely apologized and she forgave me.


This is a pic of Akita Airport, as you can see from the hill outside, which says AKITA. It was the smallest airport of all the ones I had been to throughout my trip to Japan.



This is a picture of Haneda airport (one of their two terminals, each of which was about the size of O’Hare). I had just hugged Mary goodbye and was waiting for my limo-bus to come. It was my second time to Haneda, and it was just so huge. The ride to Narita took 45 minutes, and I finally got to see the vast urban sprawl of Tokyo City proper. As someone who has never spent any time in a proper “metropolis”, Tokyo was impossibly huge: the highway bridges were like 20 feet off the ground and hovered between vast expanses of tall buildings and apartment complexes.




This is a rather picturesque view of the skies above the U.S. before we arrived over Greensboro. This was a tiny jet, especially in comparison to ANA’s new Star Wars themed BB-8A that I landed in O’Hare in. In contrast to my flight to Japan, where I couldn’t sleep at all throughout the entire 40 hour process, on the flight back to NC, I slept most of the way.



This is a grainy pic of Greensboro before landing. I felt a tinge of comfort being back in NC, and I was ready to see my family and my dog.





Although it was sad to have to say goodbye to all of the wonderful people that I had met during my stay at AIU, it was by far, the greatest experience of my life, so far. I look forward to going back sometime in the future, but, for now, I have to make sure I graduate on time! Anyway,  I would like to sincerely thank all of the people who helped me get to Japan, not just my family, but also Dr. Widdows and Ms. Wright in the Global Education Department, who were so patient and helpful during my long process of applications and bureaucracy, Stephanie Joynes and the Career Services Department, who helped through the application process and gave me encouragement, Dr. Dinmore, who has helped me in so many ways during my time at H-SC, Dr. Irons, who took me to get my passport finished, and Dr. Eastby, who got me started on the whole process back in my Sophomore year. Without them, and many others, I would not have been able to realize this dream to go to Japan, and, for that, I am eternally grateful.


Sorry for my feeble attempt at Japanese, but I plan on going back to Japan after graduation, so, until then, goodbye!



こんにちは “Kon’nichiwa”

Laken Williams
Akita International University

Working with AUWA

Since being at AIU, I have done my best to stay busy, whether that be with studies, clubs, events, or friends. That plan has been a resounding success, but, on the down side, I have not had much time for retrospection or blogging. Nevertheless, I wanted to take the time to talk about my wonderful adventures with a club on campus named, AUWA.

The whole club at their annual Okonomiyaki, event.



The premise of the club is to connect AIU students, especially International students, with the local community.

Our club getting ready to plant at a local farmer’s, Tooyama-san’s, rice field. I’m all the way at the end with the big hat.

During my time with the club, I have planted rice and vegetables and have helped tend to them; also, the club hosts monthly events to help teach local elementary school students English. To keep it fun and interactive, the members usually participate in singing songs, in Japanese and English (usually songs like “Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star,” and in making arts and crafts, like origami.

Here, we are singing. “Nada Sou Sou” for some local elderly people. Our club president, Sayaka, is on guitar.


Some of the really, sweet Oiii-sans and Obaa-sans from the local area.














Although I have tried many different clubs and activities since coming here, the AUWA events have, by far, been the most interesting and eye-opening.

With members of the club, planting vegetables for next year’s crop.



Much of the work we have done has been very tiring, but I think that people bond more over hard word and accomplishing a task than just hanging out.

Here, I’m with a few of the other AUWA members and a couple Oiii-sans, enjoying the delicious food they helped prepare.







Also, farmers make the best food! So, after working, we all get to enjoy home grown food, which allows us to get a taste of the local cuisine from the people that make it best. It isn’t only about having fun and enjoying the food; through the work, we can gain a better understanding of the lifestyle and culture of the local people.

This is the last picture of the club before leaving: we were all sad to see each other off.

Fall’n for Oxford

Ethan Gaines
Virginia Program at Oxford
England 2019

Overall, I am very happy that I decided to study abroad in Oxford for six weeks. While the program was certainly very challenging, it was a very rewarding experience and I am grateful to Hampden-Sydney for providing me with this opportunity. The stereotype of Oxford being an unexciting city where the only things to do are study and attend lectures is very wrong. University Park and the Thames and Cherwell Rivers provide excellent places to relax and hang out with friends, and there are numerous bars and pubs throughout the city to occupy your nights. Through six weeks, Oxford was an amazing place to live, and I could definitely see myself living there in the future.
Studying abroad will most certainly broaden your perspective of the world, as you will meet new people and experience new and different cultures. For the Virginia Program at Oxford, one of the most common talking points between the students and the visiting lecturers or professors were the subtle and major differences between education in England and in the United States. You also learn a ton about yourself while abroad, such as how you would quickly adapt to a brand-new environment, and whether or not traveling interests you in the future.
What I will miss most from my time abroad in Oxford are the relationships I made with not only my peers, but with the professors and tutors as well. I will also miss the amazing food that the cultural hub of Oxford provided to us, and also the amazing pubs. What I will not miss is the four-flight staircase climb to my room every night, the complex laundry system, and the supremely English food in the St. Anne’s dining hall.
As for general advice to future students studying abroad, I would suggest researching any type of restaurant, store, or park you would like to visit in advance, and to visit it as soon as possible because time moves very quickly while abroad. Looking back on it, the six weeks I spent in England feels like a weekend, and I sometimes do wish I was able to do more with my time there.

Fall’n for Oxford

Ethan Gaines
Virginia Program at Oxford
England 2019

During my time in England on the Virginia Program at Oxford, I was blown away at the how good the food was and how culturally diverse the cities of Oxford and London were. St. Anne’s College was surrounded by amazing Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Spanish, and French restaurants that offered delicious meals and reasonable prices. As for my favorite meal on the trip, nearly every place I went to offered an amazing burger, which I would say is my favorite food of all time. Every week, a large group of us would take a short walk to the Rickety Press, a busy pub with great atmosphere, for their five dollar burgers every Monday for lunch, which were definitely the tastiest burgers I have ever eaten.
In my opinion, how you spend your free time on the Virginia Program at Oxford is very different than how you would spend it at Hampden-Sydney. At Sydney, in my free time I would either go to the gym, play videogames, or hang out with my friends after classes. Oxford did not offer a lot of those things, and with the workload being so intensive, any free time I had went towards midday naps and relaxing in my room. Of course, with the drinking age being lower in England, we spent our fair share of free time at bars and pubs, all while being responsible though.
The classroom experience and how you go about studying was also different at Oxford than it is at Hampden-Sydney. Class at Oxford was an hour long every morning, and sometimes in the afternoon, structured so that the lecturer had around forty minutes to present and go in depth into their topic, with the remaining twenty minutes designated for questions. Abroad, it is disrespectful to interrupt the lecture with questions, and the use of cell phones and laptops was prohibited.
How you studied was also very different, in that you could not wait until the late evening to head over to the library and begin your research. You really had to commit each and every week by beginning your research early and writing at all times throughout the day in order to finish a well-written paper on time. There were also more options available as to where to study. Rather than spending all your time at the desk in your room, it was very popular to walk to either the prestigious Bodleian Library or University Park to research your topics. University Park was a favorite of mine to study at because we were blessed with great weather during our time at Oxford.

Fall’n for Oxford

Ethan Gaines
Virginia Program at Oxford
England 2019

On our first weekend at Oxford, the program director, Dr. Ken Fincham, led the group on a tour all around the city of Oxford. We were able to see the majority of the colleges that make up Oxford University, and learned a little history about each. We ended our tour at the world-renowned Bodleian Library, seeing the famous Radcliffe Camera, Sheldonian Theatre, and Divinity School, which were all absolutely fascinating. Over the duration of the program we were able to use the Bodleian Library and its vast resources to help with our intense studies.

Radcliffe Camera at the Bodleian


Dr. Fincham teaching us the history of the Bodleian Library










Over the next few weeks the program went on multiple excursions to Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Here, we watched live performances of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure and Taming of the Shrew at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Also, while we were there mainly for those plays, we were able to enjoy the Stratford River Festival, which is a free festival located along the canals of Stratford that offers live music and great food.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Our view at the Royal Shakespeare Company to see Taming of the Shrew















At about halfway through our time in Oxford, the program provides a long weekend of about four days, encouraging to students to travel all over Europe and experience new and exciting cultures. Taking advantage of this opportunity, three other Hampden-Sydney students and I traveled to the wonderful city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Amsterdam was absolutely gorgeous and on our canal tour we were able see much of the city and learn about its rich history. One of the more exciting things we did while there was visit the Rijks Museum, which is undoubtedly the largest and most intriguing museum I had ever been to. Overall, the long weekend vacation was a good change of pace from our strenuous studies at Oxford.

Canal Tour in Amsterdam

The Rijks Museum















Now on our fifth week of the program, we traveled to Hampton Court Palace and the Globe Theatre in London to see our last Shakespeare play, Henry IV Part 1. Hampton Court Palace was equally gorgeous as it was enormous, consisting of absolutely stunning gardens that surrounded the grounds, and magnificent art galleries which resided within its walls. On our way to the Globe Theatre, we were able to briefly travel around London, allowing me to see St Paul’s Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge on the Thames River. The play itself was wonderful and the ambience of the Globe theatre was like no other.

The Globe Theatre

London at night