VPO 2017

The Travels and Reality of Griff
Griffin Salyer
Virginia Program at Oxford
England 2017

Section One:

What is your commute like from home to class? What do you hear/see/smell
on the way?

Well, fortunately for me, both my lectures and my tutorials (meetings with my professors where we discuss our essays and arguments) are inside the college I am staying in. Some people have to walk into city-center Oxford (about 10 minutes) to get to their tutorials. Every single day, I get to walk out of the courtyard behind our “bevs” (the street our dorms are on is Bevington Road) and smell the morning dew and sweet flowers that are growing there. The next immediate smell is the “bacon” – the Ham really – that they cook for breakfast. I always hear the delightful sound of bees on the flowers and cars passing by in the early morning.

What’s your living space like? Who do you live with? How is your home
abroad different from your home in the US?

Again, I am fortunate. My room is one of the largest rooms with three large windows and a beautiful view of Bevington Road. I live without a roommate, but I share a bathroom with the people on my side of our apartment style living complex. My home here is wildly different than in the US mainly because it is a dorm room! Otherwise, I’m living in England, so many things are different – all the way down to the way you flush the toilet.

What did you pack that you wish you’d left behind? What do you wish you’d
packed?

I packed 4 pairs of jeans, lots of sleep shirts, 2 floral pattern shirts that everyone loves, some sweatpants, some workout clothes, my tennis shoes, my loafers, my white converse, and a pair of Sperrys. All of which are essential to the fiber of my being here in England, as I rely daily on every single item I brought. I wish I packed more shoes because my shoe game can always be better. I brought nearly everything I needed and I probably should have packed just a little less, so that I had more room to bring things back.

How do people dress in your study abroad location? How did you expect
people to dress? Have you changed the way you dress?

People dress similarly to the United States with a few differences and influences from Europe. On the whole, everyone looks just as you would expect – except with more sweaters. Ken Fincham rocks a mean sweater game (our UK Director). The influences from Europe usually include very tight clothing, but tight clothing that looks stylish and great on youthful people. I’m pretty fluid with my style – often on the forefront of stylish opportunity – and have indeed adapted some of my styles to match a more European look. I absolutely love it. I like to think that I look extremely good rocking the blond European (Handsome) youth look.

Does your host culture have a different concept of time or space than you’re
used to?

The time is right about the same, the only difference is their use of “half past the hour, quarter past the hour and so on.” Space use is a little bit different, almost everywhere space is a little bit more valuable than in the US. Since the Island is much smaller than the US, the space they use has to be used more efficiently. One of the biggest differences is their use of little plots of land and their caring for small gardens. It is a part of the culture here to keep small plots of land, but it takes years to get one!

What’s your favorite food you’ve tried so far?

Classic, Scotland made, beer-breaded fish and chips. Best choice I made for dinner, had with my friend Dalton (also an H-SC junior-rising senior), and a wonderful recommended Scottish ale to enhance the flavor of the fish.

Section two:

Academics. The academic situation has been steady and work-heavy as one might expect. As I get a hang of everything, my studies become much easier and more natural. I was yelled at for whispering in the Bodleian Library, so that was great too! The history is incredible and the literature we are reading is beautiful. All in all, I think (hope) my tutors like discussing with me and enjoy my arguments. I am doing well, and overjoyed to be studying at Oxford.

Section three:

Subsection one:

My thoughts.

I love the UK. My favorite part about this place is that it’s always temperate, always lovely, and the sights to see are always incredible. Scotland is now my favorite place on earth and the accents are wonderful. I have rediscovered my passion for bagpipes while visiting Scotland and now plan to buy some bagpipes sometime in my near future. There is a wonderful amount of time that we have when we do not actually have to do work and it’s a perfect balance between being completely free while keeping ourselves busy. I met an extremely nice and wholesome English man who is homeless and paints every single day right outside of the college I am staying at. A few days ago, I commissioned a painting of his for my one year anniversary with my wonderful girlfriend! The painting was spectacular and Henry was awesome about how he made it and kept it nice and safe until I could get it from him. Henry is BBC famous after a small short they did on him, and is generally known around Oxford as a pleasant man with a passion to paint. My feet are extremely sore. Sounds a bit odd, but I am certain I’ve walked around 100 miles in the last few weeks (maybe slightly exaggerated) and my feet are dying. I continue to learn small life lessons everyday, and one of my most recent lessons taught me about how darn expensive it is to travel – importantly the traveling itself is not expensive but everything while you’re traveling costs money. I have continued to find within myself an ever-growing love for my incredible parents. It feels as if I am maturing every day, and as each day passes I receive a small but significant perspective from the traveling I have done, the people I have met, and the lessons I learn daily. I love my school. I have been able to take a fine look at how other schools and universities operate and I can definitively say that I love my school more and more each day. H-SC is undoubtedly a unique place and I am thankful I made the choice to go there, and to stay there.

Subsection two:

Travels!

This is the detailed story of all my wonderful travels while here in the UK. By the time I finish my studies here in England I will have traveled to Bath, Glasgow, Edinburgh, London, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Oxfordshire (Oxford), Dover Priory (White Cliffs of Dover), and Cornwall. I’ll start off with my first couple of weeks here – my adventures exploring Oxford and my time in London and Stratford. Next blog I will detail Scotland and the glorious bagpipes that originate from that beautiful land.

Oxfordshire – A wonderful town an hour away from London and in the center of England. Oxford is where – you guessed it – the University of Oxford is located. To give a brief overview, the University of Oxford is composed of many different colleges that piece together to make it a university. The colleges generally have different areas of expertise and many have their own libraries separate from the main Oxford library – The Bodleian Library. Every one of these colleges are scattered throughout the city, while many remain concentrated in or around the city center, a good number require a good walk to get to. Every college has their own pub, and every college has a good number of pubs within a 10 minute walk. As I said before, many of the colleges have their own libraries, while the colleges that used to be women’s colleges have the best libraries (this is because of their dependence on a separate library as many other libraries would not allow entry to women). The University town is entirely dependent on the university itself, as it has become a sort of tourist center due to the history, prestige and beautiful architecture housed within the city limits. Many of the buildings in Oxford are over 500 years old, with some being a millennia old and integrated into the college itself. Some structures still stand from before Norman conquest (that is pre- 1066 AD) and act as a reminder of the fort that once stood as a foundation for the now remarkable university. I would give the Radcliffe Camera the floor for the most memorable sight, simply because it is a beautiful artwork that is a part of the Bodleian library. The library itself is only accessible to students and the public is not allowed to see the absolute wonders that are the ceilings, books, and atmosphere of the inside of the library. Also notable are the gorgeous fields and rivers that surround Oxford and give it that English feeling. There are many more sights to describe, but for right now I will tell you readers that the best part of Oxford and maybe England is the difference you feel from the US. As I look into the partly cloudy and beautiful Azure sky, I reminisce on the feeling of the culture in Oxford. Everything added together is what makes this place inviting and lovely – as I sit on my computer I can feel the study abroad experience enveloping my thoughts, and becoming an integral part of who I am. Not only is Oxford a place to see, but it is also a place to grow. The real sight to see in Oxford is the growth in oneself while here – and I am beginning to take on a different sense of who I am while here. The feeling is much more a cultural revelation, than it is a tourist sight-seeing extravaganza. I hope by now you can understand how, when I describe Oxford, and I hope you can read this as I am in my mind. More on Oxford coming soon!

London – London is a beast of its own. I will be able to describe more about it in my last and all-encompassing blogpost – post number four – but for now, I can tell you that it is worth at least going to. I didn’t stay long, but the time there was nice and memorable. While in London my VPO group watched a reproduction of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” and it was interesting to say the most. Unfortunately, it was not the original version that Shakespeare had formed with his talented hands, but an adaption by a newly hired director at the original Globe Theater on the Thames river. My buddy, Sam Farley and I got to have a blast together, while separated from our group in the theater. The experience was something worth it, but one that I might not try recreating. Once was enough. The city itself is ginormagantous, and the bus we were on took about 45 minutes just to get from one end of the city to a third of the way through its diameter. The food was expensive and the people were not particularly inviting. All in all, London is something to see, but not my cup of tea.
In addition to the Globe Theater we visited the Hampton Court Palace that was built by a high-ranking church official under King Henry VIII (who it was later confiscated from). The palace itself is extravagant and an awesome place to begin understanding the Early Modern English development and royalty. There my trusty buddy, Sam Farley and I got to walk around and see bed chambers of the royals, tennis courts with current aristocrats, beautiful gardens, and the extraordinary wealth held by powerful people at the time. Sam and I had a blast. During the trip we talked about everything under the sun, then some, and then some more. The history we had learned in our lectures from wildly intelligent men and women prepared us for our visit. Overall, it was a worthwhile trip and something I look forward to telling my kids in the future!

Stratford-Upon-Avon – In Stratford we saw another Shakespeare play (and we will be seeing another soon as well). The entire group went to watch Antony and Cleopatra – a tragedy about the downfall of Marc Antony and his love affair with Cleopatra. I liked this production much more than the Globe Theater production as it stayed close to the original play by Shakespeare. The town itself is cute and cozy, not too big, and no lights later than 11pm. All in all, for my first trip there it was nice and I also ate one of the best burgers I have ever had, while relaxing in a pub waiting for the show to start.

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.

A Year in London 2016/17

March 2017: EMs and the World

Guy Cheatham

The recent weeks have arguably been the busiest thus far during my time here in London, primarily consisting of summative papers, presentations, and interviews, but the main highlight in which I want to discuss would be my experience at the 2017 LSE Emerging Markets Forum. Taking place at the Millennium Hotel in Grosvenor Square, the EMF is the largest event of its kind globally, and I had the pleasure of meeting and connecting with students from London, Europe, and areas outside of the continent. The purpose of the forum is given in the name itself, which was to discuss the future of developing economies in the coming decades, and how the current political and economic atmosphere will affect their development, in addition to approaches taken by investors in developed economies to these markets.

For those unfamiliar with Emerging Markets I will give a brief background on the subject. Emerging Markets are economies, mainly located in Asia, Africa, and Latin America in which are experiencing significant population growth, urbanization, and fast-paced industrialization, among other growth factors. They provide huge opportunities for installing lines of production due to cheap labor and growing populations, in addition to new markets for companies to expand to. The four largest EMs are the BRIC economies (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), and they are growing at significant rates (maybe not Russia at the moment). To put this growth into perspective, China’s rate of development is extraordinary; the soon-to-be largest economy is building cities in which will not be inhabited for at least a decade. The rate of urbanization in China is fast, yet that cannot even keep up with development. As an investor from a developed economy, it is easy to see why China, among other EMs, are attractive opportunities. Because of these growing economies, we are seeing a shift of wealth from north to south, and west to east, which will dramatically change the global economy in the coming decades.

The Forum opened with a series of questions, mainly concerned with Trump and Brexit, and the first question for the audience was rather bold: the opening speaker asked us to raise our hands if we thought that the EU would collapse within a decade, and over half of the room thought so. This moment reflects the changes seen in the international landscape, and many speakers would center their talks around uncertainty and how it will affect EMs in the coming years.

The speaking lineup at the forum was strong;LSE Emerging Markets Forum it included Gary Coombe (President of Procter and Gamble Europe, who talked about gender equality in EMs), Simon Sproule (Vice President of Aston Martin, who talked about the role of the luxury auto industry in EMs), and Leslie Maasdorp (VP and CFO of New Development Bank). Other topics in the forum ranged from international security, global real estate, and central banking and macroeconomics. My experience at the forum came with the following takeaways:
Given the economic, political, and technological progress we have undergone in the previous 50 years, there is no reason that we should not be rational optimists about the future, despite the uncertainty we face today.
Expect new players to become key decision makers in the global in the near future. China will be the most important case, as its economy is will be 150% the size of the US economy by 2040, should current trends stay constant. Africa will also become an increasingly influential player on the global stage, as its population is expected to reach 2 billion by 2050. These economies will become key decision makers on the global stage; investors from developed economies will want to invest in areas of significant growth, and the world economy will become more integrated.
Whether or not one wishes to have a career relating to EMs, going to these countries is important, just in terms of meeting the people there, and seeing how their societies operate.

The third and last point came from Ian Hannam, former partner at JP Morgan and mining titan, a man who has made a fortune off EM investment. Hannam’s point about traveling is important; he told us at the EMF that it is one of the most important endeavours for young adults to take up, as it helps people understand where others come from, and how they developed their views. The EMF was a lovely experience; it taught me quite a bit on a topic I was not familiar with, in addition to how important EMs are for the future. I hope to learn more about developing economies more, as they become increasingly important to the future of the global economy.

A Year in London 2016/17

Guy Cheatham
February 2017: Barcelona, Brexit, and more

My first four entries have consisted of my experiences both within and outside of London. I have discussed in depth my initial thoughts when first moving to the UK five months ago, the following weeks in which I was acclimating myself to a new way of life, and the unforgettable experiences in which I have had in other locations throughout Europe. The constant theme throughout the past few months has pertained to how my experience in Europe has changed me, yet a missing piece I have yet to touch on has been the things I began to notice during my time here, and how my experience here changed my outlook on the world.

The first few weeks of term for me has consisted of essays, stacks of reading, preparing for internship interviews, and preparing for the LSE Emerging Markets Forum in March, the largest of its kind. The academic climate at LSE has begun to pick up pace. Students are flooding in greater numbers into the library, and the thought of exams inching closer by the day worries some, while motivating others to spend the following weeks devoting even more time to academics. Preparing for exams is a race against the clock; you must be prepared when an assignment in which could determine your entire class mark arrives. A relief amidst the stress came in a trip to Barcelona this week, where Adrian and I visited Aaron Dawley, who is currently studying there. It was great being able to have an H-SC reunion (even though PSG shutout Barca 4-0 while we were there), and I wanted to give a shoutout to Aaron for showing us around some. He certainly picked a wonderful city to study at.

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

In the midst of being buried in books, other changes have contributed to the change in the LSE climate, in addition to overall climate of London. As substantial political developments continue to unravel worldwide, I can hear people along the streets discussing these developments, some with praise, and some with concern. I never truly understood the global implications of the change in the US presidency until moving to London, especially when witnessing large protests on every bridge during Inauguration Day. Following the election in November, students at school (some who are good friends, and some of whom I have never met) would pull me to the side to ask me, the American, about my thoughts on the election. My response would be something along the lines of how I cannot rationalize the decisions made by the ~125-150 million individuals who decided to vote, and that if the individuals who talked to me would let a few days, maybe a week pass, maybe some new developments would provide the proper explanation for Trump’s victory. It will be interesting coming back to the states following a year of being away from these developments, but for now I can interpret them through the words of others.

I have been keeping a closer eye on Brexit ever since moving to London, since the PM’s push to trigger Article 50 is occurring 15 minutes west of my residence. Despite my opinion on this debate, I think that being in London allows me to access this political development (most important one in 21st century Europe) in a way in which I can not elsewhere. When Theresa May was forced to publish an actual “Brexit bill” following the government’s defeat in a landmark case against London-based business owner Gina Miller, Miller began to receive threats all over social media and throughout the streets, as Brexit supporters flocked in droves to Westminster to protest the prevention of the immediate triggering of Article 50. I walked by these protests, and seeing the reactions to a landmark case in one of the most important political developments in recent history in person is indescribable. Most, well just about all of the people I have talked to in London, whether they be in finance, government, or academia, are against the decision to leave the EU, and with good reason. Firms throughout London are at risk of losing their passporting rights, which in turn would prevent them from being able to conduct business efficiently with other states in the EU. As Article 50 is triggered in March (maybe later), it will be interesting to observe how the actual process of leaving the EU will affect the climate around here, something I will continue to discuss in my next entries.

The following weeks, academic-wise, will be the most difficult at the LSE thus far, yet following my trip to Barcelona I hope to continue to explore new parts of London, as I realize that I do not have much more time here before I go home.

A Year in London 2016/17

Adrian Guerra
February reminded me that the sun and blue skies do exist. Since my arrival in September, I had not seen the sun or felt relatively warm weather and in that sense, February has been amazing. London is becoming livelier and less grim, which had been the vibe for most of January. School is only getting tougher, but I seem to be adapting to the European style of study, which makes this semester feel much better than the last one.We are currently on Reading week, which means we have a break from non-quantitative classes, unfortunately for me that means I only get a break from one of my courses.
I managed to get ahead of my classes so that I could take a trip with some of my friends, and Barcelona was our chosen destination. Barcelona was beyond amazing, the people were so welcoming, which is a nice change compared to the more closed off environment found here in London. The Sagrada familia has become my favorite building in all of Europe, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as breath taking as the magnitude of this church which has been under construction for one hundred and thirty one years, as odd as that may sound. The food in London is not very good, so it was also nice to eat better food in Barcelona, I think I might have eaten my body weight in paella and tapas. We spent a whole day on the beach drinking, eating, and soaking up the sun. This trip was exactly what I needed, just coming off exams and classes starting to get overly difficult again, this was the break I needed so desperately.
As much as I am enjoying my time abroad, it’s hard to say I don’t miss good ol’ H-SC, there really is no place like home.

A Year in London 2016/17

Adrian Guerra
January has been a tough month so far. Unlike in the states, LSE Students take their midterms during the first week of the month. I have spent weeks holed up in the library before the exams and all that is left is to hope I did well on them. I had two days off after taking my exams and then resumed with my classes. LSE’s classes are yearlong, so fortunately starting this semester did not require a big transition from last semester. Working and studying has proven to be a handful and very time consuming; however, it has been a wonderful experience and I believe this opportunity will definitely help me next year when I am applying for jobs. London is starting to feel more like home now, I feel more familiar with the city, the lingo, the culture, and most importantly the school. Compared to H-SC the weather here is phenomenal, it’s not warm by any mean but at least there is no snow here in London. Reflecting back on my time here, it’s crazy to think that I have already been here a full semester, time just seems to be flying by. I hope to get to travel more around Europe this semester and I am making it my goal to also explore London to its fullest.

Chin Chin

Chin Chin Lab

Last week, I went to the Lion King musical and it was outstanding, they use the whole theater to their advantage and it was just a phenomenal experience. Afterwards, I went to a very renowned ice cream shop here in London called Chin Chin Lab and had the best hot chocolate and ice cream cookie sandwich I’ve ever had. This past Sunday I decided to visit the James Bond Museum, which as a huge fan of the movies, was something I have been meaning to do for a while. The museum is composed of every car, plane, gun, or gadget ever used in a James Bond movie. Being a LSE student and living in London has been an amazing experience and I cherish this opportunity more and more every day.

James Bond Museum

James Bond Museum

A Year in London 2016/17

Guy Cheatham

Exploring New Places with Family and Friends

Michaelmas term ended back in the beginning of December and the students at LSE were relieved that they could spend the coming weeks relaxing while rejuvenating their minds to take on another intense term. Some took trains back to their hometowns throughout the UK, some flew back to other areas of the world to be with their families, while others decided to either stay in London and relax or travel. Understanding that there was a whole continent to explore, a friend and I decided to embark on a fast-paced journey, covering five countries in a span of twelve days, ranging from adventures in the frigid Icelandic tundra to sunny Venice. Following the trip my family and I decided to approach Christmas differently this year by exploring what the great city of London has to offer while enjoying each other’s company for the first time in months.

When my friend Sanjay and I planned this cross-continental trip, we focused on selecting places which we never thought we would go to in our lifetime. We wanted to diversify this trip, making each location as different from the previous as possible. A goal was to see completely contrasting cultures and landscapes, and based on the locations we selected, I believe we achieved said goal. On December 10th, we were on a plane to Reykjavik, Iceland, a city of 200,000 people, constituting approximately two-thirds of the entire Icelandic population. Iceland has seen a significant boom in tourism in the past decade (there are more tourists on the island at a given time than inhabitants), and considering the adventures on which visitors can embark, there is no need to question why. The country has a beautiful landscape, ranging from snowy glaciers to green pastures which appear to come right out of Game of Thrones. The horses there are indigenous only to Iceland, and we were able to see them run in unison along the countryside on the way to go snowmobiling in Lanjökull, the second largest glacier in Iceland. The conditions were rough that day, as there was a severe blizzard, yet we thought of it as a part of the adventure, making it feel like we were truly in the tundra. When combining this experience with witnessing the Aurora Borealis, Iceland was truly an unforgettable experience, one of which I would recommend to anyone who hungers for adventure in the Arctic.

Snowmobiling in Lanjökull

Snowmobiling in Lanjökull

Following our adventure in Iceland, we made short stops in Amsterdam and Venice, touring the Dutch city’s illustrious Heineken Brewery and meeting our friend Allison in the Italian port city, where we embarked on a gondola ride and toured around San Marco. Our next destination was in Slovenia to meet our friend Matic, who is a Masters student at LSE. We spent the first day hiking at gorgeous Lake Bled, followed by a nighttime trip to a Christmas market in the capital city of Ljubljana, which was filled with delicious food and drinks in addition to lively music. The final destination of the trip was in Budapest, a city filled with ruin bars (abandoned warehouses/homes which were turned into bars), Christmas markets, art galleries and museums, and the infamous Buda palace. It is difficult to pick a favorite destination among the ones visited since each is quite different from the other, yet each place was fantastic in its own way.

Overlooking the canals in Venice.

Overlooking the canals in Venice

 

This trip did not mean the end of my winter break adventures, as my family arrived in London 36 hours after I returned. We were ecstatic to see each other, as it had been months since the entire family had been together, and I was incredibly excited to show them a city which has become another home for me. We spent the week touring the city, visiting art galleries, pubs, and common iconic locations like 10 Downing St. and Trafalgar Square, making that week an unforgettable adventure. Between my cross-continental trip and adventures throughout London with my family, winter break was an experience which I will remember forever. Now that term has started back up, I am back to focusing on my studies and overall making the most out of the LSE experience. I hope everyone’s New Year has been off to a fantastic start! Cheers.

A Year in London 2016/17

Adrian Guerra

On November 22, the British Parliament honored John Hampden for his patriotic acts during the British civil war. Miles Buchinghamshire, the earl of Buchinghamshire and descendant of John Hampden, invited Guy and me to the ceremony and to lay a wreath in front of the statue of John Hampden.

john-hampden-wreath-ceremony

Honoring John Hampden

I woke up really early, since we had to be there by 8:30, and the commute was roughly about an hour. When we got there we couldn’t help but to admire the stunning scenic view that was in front of us. Parliament was a sight to behold and looked massive in size. We got a special tour of Parliament from the earl, Dominic Grieve (Conservative and former Attorney General), and Ruth Cadbury (The Labour Party’s spokesperson on Housing).

We learned a lot about the British government and about John Hampden’s role in the civil war. Did you know the Queen cannot go into most of the rooms in Parliament? She mostly stays in the House of Lords. I don’t think she has much to complain about though, because she has a fairly impressive golden chair in there. In addition to the House of Lords we went to the House of Commons, and that is as small as it looks on the television.  We found out they are planning on moving the House of Commons to a bigger venue to accommodate more people. We were not allowed to explore more of parliament on such short notice, but the trip was well worth it anyway. The architecture was beyond beautiful and the history that this building has was awe-striking.  The connections we made were incredible and the experience definitely once in a lifetime. It has almost been a full semester and I am beginning to feel completely immersed in the British culture.

british-parlament

Westminster….a view from across the Thames in the morning.