A year in London

Christian Blankenship
LSE
London, England 2018/19

For the next 10 months, I will be studying at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Studying here for the entire year was one of the factors interesting me the most because most programs do not last for the entire year. One of the things about studying at LSE that excites me the most is the different method of instruction practiced here compared to back at Hampden-Sydney. However, this new instruction style is also one of the things worrying me the most. Unlike in the US where there are typically two to three sessions per week, LSE has one lecture session and one class session per week. This type of instruction places much more responsibility on the student to learn the material outside of class. However, I have much more free time to explore the city, which I intend to take advantage of as best as possible. Most of my exploring so far has revolved around getting lost 1-2 miles away from my dorm and trying to find my way home, which has really helped me acclimate to the lifestyle of living in a major city.
Aside from studying at a prestigious university and living in the heart of London, London is also a travel hub, which makes traveling throughout Europe easy and cheap. The ease of traveling around Europe, also the rest of the United Kingdom, is one factor that I plan to take advantage of as much as possible. I also am an avid golfer, and many of the most historic golf courses are located in the United Kingdom. Courses like the Old Course at St Andrews, which is considered the home of modern golf, Carnoustie Golf Links, Kingsbarns Golf Links, and many other historic courses call Scotland their home. I also will have easy access to travel anywhere else in Europe for short weekend trips or during vacation after terms have ended. Overall, there are so many new things I’ve needed to adjust to coming from a small area like Hampden-Sydney because London is so different, but it’s a tremendous opportunity being able to study here that I intend to take advantage of.

Studying, “Across the Pond” 2017/18

Jamie Agnew
LSE 2017/18

This semester has been going great! It has also been flying by. We are on spring break right now, which is much different than spring break in the United States. We have an entire month off for the break, which means we have manage our time efficiently because we have exams when we return from break. I have four exams, which are all going to be tough. There are no tests or quizzes over here, so the exam is your entire grade, which adds even more pressure. I plan on traveling a couple times during the break, but when I am not traveling, I’ll be studying for exams.

I have been traveling a lot over the past couple months. My first trip was to Budapest, Hungary. It was very Eastern European: cloudy, cold, and stark. But, it had a lot to offer including thermal baths and an elaborate parliament building. I prefer Prague to Budapest, but it was still a very enjoyable trip. The following weekend I went to Rome, which was fantastic. We were only there for 2.5 days, but we saw so much in that short time. There is so much to see in the city as it has such rich history. On top of all of this, the food was to die for. I couldn’t get enough of Italy, so I went back to Naples the following weekend. Naples itself was a huge letdown. The city was rundown, dirty, and old, but the surrounding areas are beautiful. The Amalfi Coast was one of the most picturesque places I’ve been. We spent a day on the coast. The first half of the day we were in Sorrento and then we took a boat out to Capri, which was unbelievable. The next day we went to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, which were both very cool to see. One thing I noticed about Naples was the language barrier that existed. Of all the places I have travelled to, Naples was hardest to communicate with English in. Nonetheless, we made it work.

The following weekend, I went to Krakow, Poland. We were only there for a couple days, but we were very impressed with the city. It was quite clean and the city center was packed. We took a day trip to Auschwitz, which was extremely eye opening. It was a very moving experience and it put the Holocaust in a brand new perspective.

Last weekend, I went to Dublin for St. Patty’s Day. This was a blast to say the least. Everyone was dressed in green and drinking Guinness. I had a blast that weekend. I also met alot of great people as everyone was American. I was planning on coming home for a couple weeks during spring break, but my exams end fairly early compared to others, so I decided to stay.

The time is winding down here, which is tough to think about because it is so much fun over here. London has been a great city to spend the year in, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. With less than two months left, I am trying to make the most of my time here. While I am going to be sad when I leave, I am excited to return to the United States.

Studying, “Across the Pond” 2017/18

Jamie Agnew
LSE 2017/18

I returned to London on January 2nd, 2018. The London School of Economics’s calendar is quite different from Hampden-Sydney’s as well as other colleges in the United States. You take four classes for the entire year all of which have a final exam in April or May. The only exception to this rule is if you take any Economics classes: they also have a midterm exam in the first week of January. I am not very fond of this setup because, unlike Hampden-Sydney, you enter winter break knowing that you have an exam at the end of break. Nonetheless, my midterm exam was on January 4th, so I returned to London on the 2nd. The exam was quite tough, but I believe I did alright.
Since my exam, I have really tried to focus on school as much as possible. Last semester I traveled around Europe a lot, and it became hard to stay on top of school work. I told myself that I was going to spend the first month or so in London to make sure I get all my ducks in a row for the second semester. I am currently planning several weekend trips in later February, March, and spring break. We have a month off for spring break, which is unheard of in the United States, and I am trying to figure out my plans for that month. I might come home for a week or so, but I am definitely planning on playing golf in Scotland and traveling with a bunch of friends to Greece. Some of my other trips this semester will include Amsterdam, Rome, Barcelona, and Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day.
The study abroad program through the London School of Economics is quite unique because it is a year-long program. Most study abroad programs are a semester, which is great, but I am very happy that mine is a year-long. Not only does it allow me to find a good balance between staying in London versus traveling around Europe so that I am not constantly traveling every weekend, but it also has allowed me to meet so many different people. In the first semester, I traveled around Europe with my buddies and their friends, but they were only here for a semester. This semester, I will travel around with a new set of buddies and friends, which I am really looking forward to. Even in London I have met so many new friends just in the first three weeks because UCL and Kings College have one-semester study abroad programs. Nonetheless, I am having a blast over here, and I can’t wait to see what this semester entails.

Studying “Across the Pond” 2017/18

Jamie Agnew
LSE 2017/18

My study abroad experience was unbelievable. Between the things I saw, the friends I met, and the memories I made, the entire semester was all I could have asked for and then some. I had a rough idea of what the experience was going to be like because I talked to kids that had done the program already. But words can’t describe how much fun I had. London was a fantastic city to live in, and the easy ability to fly to other countries is something unheard of here in the United States. I knew going into it that I wanted to balance school in London with travel to other countries, and I think I did that pretty darn well. I split my time 50/50 between London and traveling, which was the perfect amount.

snapshot 2I can’t speak highly enough about London. It was a huge relief not needing to learn a new language for my time abroad. Londoners loved talking politics with my friends and me. They all assumed that because we were from America that therefor we were Trump supporters, which was an interesting assumption for them to make. The stereotypes I had going into it were that the British had good beer, bad food besides fish and chips, and that it rained a lot. The first two were spot on, but the bad weather wasn’t as much of a problem as I thought. Unlike the mid-Atlantic, the rain over in London was often a light, spitting rain, which isn’t unbearable like the downpours we get here. And on top of that, it didn’t rain all that much; rather it was cloudy most of the time, but there were plenty of nice sunsets to compliment the bad weather.

snapshotThroughout the semester, I traveled to 5 different countries. I began my travels in Amsterdam with friends to experience the city as well as go to the music festival occurring that weekend. Amsterdam is like no place else in the world for many reasons. It was an expensive trip but a memorable one at that.

I then traveled to Prague the following weekend. Prague is a fantastic city, arguably one of my favorites in Europe. It is so cheap and so medieval. The architecture there is quite neat and there are major landmarks like the Prague Castle and the Lennon Wall, which are very enjoyable to visit. Coming from the expensive city of London, Prague was a huge relief because the dollar goes so far there.

Next, I went to Berlin to visit a couple friends from Washington DC that were studying there. While the company was great, the city wasn’t my favorite. It was very dark, cold, and wet. On top of this, the city is very spread out, which makes it unfriendly for tourists. Nonetheless, we saw major landmarks like the Reichstag and the Berlin Wall, so I am definitely glad I went but not sure I am going to go back.snapshotv2

Next, I met up with kids who I went to Amsterdam and Prague with in Florence. A good friend of mine from high school was studying in Florence so we went out with her every night, which was super fun. Florence was a very nice city. Great architecture and even better food. Italian pasta is substantially better than any pasta in the United States. We had a really good time touring the city during the day and going out to the clubs at night. All around a great weekend.

mountainsDuring my last weekend abroad, I went skiing with friends from Washington DC in Chamonix, France, which is in the southeast portion of France (30 minutes from Switzerland and Italy). The French Alps were absolutely gorgeous. The first day we were there, we took an old cable car up the mountain and had lunch up there with an unparalleled view and went to a hockey game in downtown Chamonix that night. The next day was the first day of the season for the mountain, so we rented skis and skied all day long. The mountain blew away the mountains out west even though the conditions weren’t as good as they are in the depth of the winter. It was an amazing trip all together, and I’m so glad I decided to go on it.

As you can see, I had a blast this semester. I feel confident that I could navigate myself around any airport to get to any destination after all the traveling I did this semester. Now that I am back at home, I miss the drinking age being 18 over there since I am still 20 for a couple more months. It was so nice to never worry about being underage and now it’s a rude awakening that I am back in the states.

My best piece of advice for kids studying abroad is to save up a lot of money and don’t ever hesitate to take a weekend trip anywhere. There were a couple trips that I was on the fence about, and ended up going, and it was the best decision. There will be no other time in your life with no obligations besides school where you have the freedom to travel around Europe with your friends, so take advantage of it. But, also save a lot of money because the unforgettable memories cost a lot sometimes.

 

 

 

Studying “Across the Pond” 2017/18

Jamie Agnew
LSE 2017/18

Harrods in London.

Harrods in London.

Everything has been going great over on this side of the pond. Classes are really picking up pace, which is keeping me busy. LSE has classes and lectures for each class. Lectures are two hour presentations on the material, and you are normally with 200-300 other kids. Classes feel much more like Hampden-Sydney because there are only 20 kids in each class and it is much more interactive. The nice thing about lectures is that they don’t take attendance because they are recorded online, so you can watch them at your own convenience. That is a big plus because I have two lectures on Friday, which I don’t like going to and therefor can watch them on Sunday. Wednesdays are my full-days off, which is common over here because they like to allow    sports teams to practice on Wednesday afternoons.

Big Ben at sunset.

Big Ben at sunset.

So with all that being said, I only walk to school on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. The walk is about 25 minutes door to door, which seems like a lot, but it is actually a very enjoyable walk. I’m living on the south side of the River Thames, and LSE is on the north side, so I walk across the Blackfriars Bridge everyday. I could technically take the tube, but it would take the same time door to door and would cost more. Plus, it is great exercise to walk.

Two friends from home (Washington D.C.). Vincent Kardos (center) and Jim Hurston (right).

Two friends from home (Washington D.C.). Vincent Kardos (center) and Jim Hurston (right).

 

 

The dorm I am living in is called Bankside House. There are only LSE students living there, but I don’t really know that many kids in it. Most of my friends live in the other housing options around the city. I have a single room with an en suite bathroom, which I enjoy a lot. I have had a roommate the last couple years, and it’s nice to have a room to myself for once. The room is much bigger than the ones at Hampden-Sydney.  Bankside House is in Southwark and is directly behind the Tate Modern. I prefer my location to all the other housing options because it is quiet. The area that I live in used to be considered a bad part of town, but in the last 20 years it has really changed for the better, making it a very trendy place to live.

View from the rooftop of Urbaneast. My friends dorm.

View from the rooftop of Urbaneast. My friends LSE dorm.

The culture in London is much different than the United States and much different than Hampden-Sydney. Everyone wears dark, skinny clothes. No one wears shorts. Chuck Taylors are the most common shoe. And, no one wears baseball hats. It is quite intriguing to see the differences in fashion on both sides of the pond. I would say I have conformed somewhat to the way people dress over here, but there are certainly things that still make me stand out as an American. Given all of this, I wish I hadn’t packed some of my pink and red polo shirts, because I haven’t worn them once. It will certainly be interesting when I return home, because I will have to change my style back to the US style.

Studying “Across the Pond” 2017/18

Jamie Agnew
LSE 2017/18

I am studying at the London School of Economics in the General Course, which is their year-long study abroad program. Given that I have travelled to eight different countries thus far, I have always wanted to study abroad. When it came around time to apply, I focused all my attention to LSE for several reasons. One, I wanted to push myself academically in the fields of economics and finance, and LSE has a strong reputation in those subjects. Second, I didn’t need to learn a new language to live there, which took a lot of pressure off the situation. For those two reasons, I never really looked further than LSE.
I am really excited to get over there. All of my buddies have been in school for 2-3 weeks now, and I feel like I am left out of the fun. So, if nothing else, I am just anxious to have fun. I am also looking forward to meeting new people, which is also where some of my nerves are stemming from. While I am a sociable kid, anytime you go somewhere without knowing anyone, it can be scary. According to kids that have studied at LSE before, they have a good program to integrate the kids in my program including a boat party. I am also excited and nervous about living on my own. It will be nice to have quiet time, but I love to socialize so that is something I am going to have to adjust to.
Lastly, I am REALLY looking forward to traveling. I have buddies studying in other countries in Europe, including Germany, Italy, and the Czech Republic. Airfare is quite cheap over here, which encourages me to travel as much as possible. I have plans to go to Oktoberfest one of the first weekends I am there as well as Prague for Thanksgiving. Nonetheless, I am really looking forward to expanding my cultural horizons by traveling to different European countries.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

 

A Year in London 2016/17

April 2017: Reflection and Growth
Guy Cheatham

I have had several moments of reflection in the past month, even if at times they are difficult to come by.
I was in Prague a few weeks back with a friend, sipping on good pilsner and looking out over the city (the Czechs know how to make excellent beer). We were talking about what we were going to do upon our return to the states, and at the time I was not thinking about this much, as I still had over two months in Europe before my departure back to the states. One month later, in the midst of exams at LSE, that reflection is starting to mean more, and I understand that it is necessary to make time for such, to think about my experience in London, how I have grown as a result of the environment here, and readapting back into American culture after being away for a year. I was grabbing a pint with a good friend on Fleet Street this past Thursday night at a pub called Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a quintessential seventeenth century pub with aged wooden floors and ominous lighting. We both came back from a final event at one of the LSE societies we’re involved in, and considering how busy the exam period is, I realized that I may not see some of the people I have formed such good relationships with before I fly back to the U.S. in early June. That feeling began to hit both of us there; it made me realize that despite the intense environment at LSE and the gloomy weather, leaving London is going to be difficult.
London is a city in which you can love and have issues with simultaneously, but it grows on you, and it is a city with a competitive intellectual environment that forces you to grow up fast, if you want to succeed. It is a city with a stressful academic environment, especially when you face the pressures of getting a 2:1 on an exam, in which determines your final mark. Despite these pressures, it is important to keep a positive outlook and take advantage of what LSE and London offer, and the possibilities are endless. It is a place in which you can walk out your front door and do just about anything, and as my friend and I were discussing why leaving London is going to be difficult, we knew that it was because of the friendships formed. Having friends from all corners of the world is an absolute treat; I have been grateful of having the privilege of learning where people come from and how that affects the development of their views of the world. This is my favorite part about the endless possibilities this city has to offer, and it has certainly refined my outlook on the world. Leaving will be difficult, but I am looking forward to being back with friends and family back in the states.
I entertain the idea of coming back to London in the future, perhaps living here as well, as it has become a second home for me, but in the meantime I must focus on my revision, and I am excited about taking what I have learned here over the past year and apply that thinking to wherever my path takes me in the future.

LSE

A Year in London 2016/17

Adrian Guerra

April has been a good month, we are out for spring break and I took some time from studying to travel a bit. I visited Crete, a small island in Greece, Athens, Budapest, and Vienna. Greece was just so beyond beautiful, we visited Elafonisi beach, which is known for its pink sand and clear waters. The ruins in Athens were definitely something I would recommend anyone to see, given the opportunity. The sights from Acropolis were definitely breathtaking. Budapest surprisingly had the best cuisine, and since the Hungarian forint is at approximately 369 for every 1 British pound it was also the least expensive meal. Vienna was unfortunately only a day trip, so I did not get to explore it fully however, I did see some great sights and bask in the sun, that is so often hidden in London.

In my earlier blog’s I mentioned how the food in London was not so great; however, now that I have been here for more time I can admit I was wrong. I am a huge fan of food markets here in London, and you can find the most amazing foods there. My favorite meal here is from the Camden market, it is a fettuccine Alfredo pasta made in wheel of cheese.

I think my greatest accomplishment here is passing all my classes, I never imagined they would have been this challenging, but it has definitely helped me out in the long run. Classes are very different here. We have both lectures and classes separately for the same subjects. Lectures are usually given in large auditoriums, I have my Econ lectures in an actual theater so it’s very nice. Classes are a lot smaller and are usually given by a graduate student, so unfortunately the availability of teachers outside of class is not as great as one would hope.

 

A Year in London 2016/17

Adrian Guerra
March has been fairly hectic since it marks the ending of our lent term here at LSE. All my classes have crammed assignments due for this last week of class before spring break so my time management skills have definitely been tested. London has definitely cheered up and the parks seem so lively now. I took advantage of the warm weather and set out on an adventure around London. I feel like I have been so caught up with schoolwork that I have forgotten to explore and appreciate my time here. I decided to be a tourist in this city that I’ve had the pleasure to call home for more than half a year.

The London Eye

The London Eye

The view from the London eye is spectacular, granted once you’ve reached the top the way down is not that exciting, but still definitely a worthwhile ride.

Churchill's Map Room

Churchill’s Map Room

Afterwards I made the commute to the Churchill War Rooms, which is a museum that tells the story of Churchill’s life and even has a WWII bunker to explore. The neat thing about this bunker is that it has the map room, which has remained untouched since 1945, where Churchill used to meet with his cabinet to coordinate movements during the war.

Frued's Library

Frued’s Library

Another museum I ended up going to was Freud’s house which was preserved by his daughter Anna until her death in 1982. What I found fascinating was his library, all the books were completely worn out. I can’t even begin to imagine how many times they were read and featured authors like Goethe and Shakespeare. This month I also starting playing with a recreational basketball team composed of several students from the states and a couple grad students. As a team we decided to challenge the LSE teams and managed to beat the third and second team, which means we will have the chance to play against the best team here at LSE soon. School is wrapping up and the anxiousness of the upcoming exams is definitely visible on most students already. I definitely cherish this opportunity to have come to such a great academic school and fully realize how amazing this opportunity is. I would encourage everyone at H-SC to at least consider coming abroad, it’s an experience they will never forget.