Spring Semester in London

Yafet Cole
Richmond the American International University
London 2019

I had been wanting to experience a semester away from Hampden-Sydney just to witness what it would be like. After I spent the summer of 2017 in Ethiopia, I thought it would be beneficial to travel a bit more. The idea of studying abroad came along, and it was then that I began to start the process to get myself to my destination. The process was honestly straightforward. I narrowed it down to whether I would spend this time in England or Australia. Australia seemed more of an adventure because it has such a different culture. Its’ climate is very different, and there are more excursions to take part in. I also have family there, so that would have made it easier. But, then I began to think more realistically. I wanted to pick the place that would suit me best. I have always dreamed about living and spending a majority of my life in England. I saw this opportunity as a trial for me to discover if this was what I actually wanted.

The reason why I chose Richmond the American International University in London was because I had previously heard of this school. Also, the school is right in the middle of London. These two factors made me feel comfortable enough to come here. My dad grew up in London, so I view London as my home. I see myself living in the city and this made the decision a no brainer.

The best part about being at this program is that I am only two stations away from Stamford Bridge which is my favorite teams’ stadium. I have already been to one football game, and I am going to two more this week. The benefit about living in London for a semester is that I am still able to travel around Europe for good prices. For example, I found plane tickets to go to Switzerland for spring break and it will only cost 91 GBP. Being in this city will allow me to really get out there and see many different cultures and customs.

A year in London

Christian Blankenship
LSE
London, England 2018/19

I decided to spend my Christmas break in London so that I could experience the city without the responsibility of school, and also to travel a little through Europe. Admittedly, it felt extremely odd being away from home for Christmas, but my brother came to visit for a week at Christmas which helped. He spent a total of four days in London, and we also visited Paris for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and then we traveled to Brussels for two more days. While in London, we attended an Arsenal match which was extremely fun and also the first match I attended while in London. I also tried my best to show him as many famous London sights as possible in only four days while also doing less touristy things.
We only had two days to experience Paris and two days for Brussels, so we were crunched for time to see everything worth seeing. We also did not plan our visit to Paris very well which resulted in some complications for us. Our biggest problem was finding restaurants that were actually open without a reservation made in advance. We had so much trouble that we ended up searching for almost two hours trying to find a restaurant for dinner on Christmas Eve. Luckily, we did end up finding an open restaurant for dinner and we did not have a problem finding places to eat for the rest of our trip. In Brussels, we did not have any problems finding open restaurants or stores since we went on the 26th. Our Hostel was also in the center of the city, so we had easy access to a huge amount of restaurants, museums, and shops.

The Atomium

While in Brussels, we visited the Atomium which was an interesting monument to say the least. It was constructed for the World’s Fair back in the 1950s and depicts nine iron atoms together. The coolest part of the Atomium is that each sphere is a room with specific information about the Atomium’s construction and the World’s Fair it was built for.
We arrived back in London on the 28th and spent my brother’s last two days experiencing the insanity that is the Boxing Day sales. After he left on the 30th, I figured it was time to get back to work for school. I needed to finish a marketing project, do research for a fashion show being organized by the Fashion Society, and start studying for my Macro exam that’s on January 11th. Staying here for Christmas has been a new and odd experience, but it has also been nice to have some time to chill by myself and relax before becoming swamped with work again.

A year in London

Christian Blankenship
LSE
London, England 2018/19

After living in London for three months, I can now claim, rather confidently, that I have effectively adjusted to living here. Aside from developing a brisk walking pace to replace the traditional slow saunter that I have known my whole life, I have also found myself walking to practically every destination. I rarely use public transport, such as buses, taxis, or the underground, even though there are numerous stations surrounding my residence. The ease of navigating the London streets and the experience associated with it is much more valuable to me, and worth the longer travel time. Before becoming severely bogged down with schoolwork, I would walk the streets of London any free moment I had. I was averaging over 10 miles walked daily, and this was primarily without any purpose other than learning about the city. Even though I am much busier now, I still try my best to explore different parts of London I haven’t seen yet whenever I’m free.
Exploring the city and walking everywhere is very different from what I’m accustomed to in the US. Back home, I tend to drive to all of my destinations, though this is primarily due to living in a smaller town where everything is more spread out and there is little to no traffic. Back home, my free time was primarily spent either playing holes on a golf course or hitting balls on a driving range, but I have not been able to do that as frequently here. I have played golf three times since I arrived, at a golf course named Worplesdon Golf Club. This is a private course, but I am allowed to play there because one of the golf pros working there attended university in my hometown. He became close with my family because we played at the same golf course together, and he even attended Thanksgiving at our house while he was in the US. Even though I have only played 18 holes a few times, I still try my best to practice by visiting a driving range on the weekends. This can be difficult because I live in “Inner London” and the closest range is an hour train ride from where I live. However, I still have found the time to go at least every two weeks, and Winter Break is beginning soon so I’ll have plenty of time to play golf and hopefully travel before next term.

A year in London

Christian Blankenship
LSE
London, England 2018/19

It has now been nearly two months since I arrived in London and began my studies at LSE. It has been difficult adjusting to the different class format here at the school, but it’s been a refreshing change. I’ve had to improve my studying habits and time management skills in order to properly take advantage of the many activities present in London, and to also keep up with the rigorous schedule here. Aside from the different class structure, I do slightly miss the short 5-10 minute walk to class from the ABC’s that I had last year. It currently takes me 25 minutes of brisk walking from my dorm in order to reach the closest lecture hall. However, I very much enjoy the walk to class every day. It’s a pleasant experience to prepare for class and the coming day. During that walk, I cross the Blackfriars Bridge, which provides me with a view of the River Thames along with the London Eye and St Paul’s Cathedral. This view has become especially nice the past few weeks when the sun is setting.
Adjusting to the different pace that people move and act here in London is much faster than back home. Aside from lunch and dinner, where people seem like they have all the time in the world, everyone seems to be in a huge rush to get wherever they’re going. It’s like everyone is running five minutes late to work at all times and cannot afford to be late anymore. This rushed attitude is extremely different from the sauntering that’s commonplace at Hampden-Sydney and back home in Danville. It’s taken quite a while in order for me to speed up my walking pace so that I can keep up with the people I’m with. Another thing about London that has surprised me is the food. Before I arrived, I was warned by many people who had previously visited London that the food was not very good. I came into the city extremely worried because we are not provided catered meals in a cafeteria and I’m a rather picky person. However, I have been pleasantly surprised by the food options. I have not yet had a meal I didn’t enjoy, and I’ve only resorted to eating McDonalds three or four times. Unfortunately, there is no Chick fil-A in England and that has been a huge struggle to deal with. Overall, the food has been delicious and the huge variety of cuisines has me excited to try new things every meal.

The view from Blackfriars Bridge at sunset

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.

 

 

 

London in the fall 2017

David Arias Hernandez
UCL 2017

December was the last month of this amazing opportunity to study abroad, and I really took advantage of it.

St. Basil's Cathedral

St. Basil’s Cathedral

At the beginning of the month I went to Moscow, Russia, where, I was able to visit various iconic places. On the first day, I went to the Red Square, where I was able to visit The Iberian Gate, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Statue of Minin and Pozharsky, Kazan Cathedral, Kremlin Wall, Lenin Mausoleum, and GUM. The ones I liked the most were St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin Mausoleum, and the Kremlin Wall, although GUM, a Harrods-like shopping center, counted with several souvenir stores with tons of beautiful products. Clearly, St. Basil’s Cathedral was the highlight of the Red Square, as its architecture would attract any tourist                                                                                      regardless of his/her origin.

Lenin's Mausoleum

Lenin’s Mausoleum

Lenin Mausoleum was also a really interesting place to visit, as it provided me with an opportunity to be incredibly close to one of the most iconic characters in world history. Nevertheless, one of the most interesting things about the Red Square, which genuinely caught my attention, was to see how some locals would dress as Stalin to charge tourists for taking pictures with them. Tourists, excluding me, would get really excited about such picture, and therefore, would pay a considerable amount ($20). On the next day, I took a tour around Moscow’s metro. Moscow’s metro is known for the beauty of its stations. Each station has a different architecture, and tourists, just like me, often take some time to take a tour around some of the most important stations.

Display of Russian Nesting Dolls

Matryoshkas ( Russian Nesting Dolls)

After the short metro tour, I went to a Russian market 15 minutes away from the city center, where I was able to purchase very famous souvenirs like matryoshkas and eggs. It was also really interesting to see how many of the t-shirts sold in this market had Putin’s face printed on them. The president is really popular amongst citizens, and such particularity was evidenced on the merchandise sold not only at this market, but also at many other souvenir shops located in the Red Square. On that day, I also went to Gorky Park, which is the equivalent to Moscow’s Central Park. The park was neatly decorated by Christmas lights, and most of it was turned into an ice skating rink. On my final day, I visited the Kremlin, where I was able to see wonderful cathedrals, the palace where Putin lives, and the Senate, apart from several sculptures from the period before the Bolshevik Revolution.

Wembley Stadium

Wembley Stadium

After coming back from Moscow, I was able to attend my first UEFA Champions League game. It was a wonderful experience, as I had dreamed my entire life as a kid to listen the Champions League’s anthem live. The game was an easy 3-0 win for Spurs, and it was a great opportunity to visit one of the most important stadiums in football’s history: Wembley Stadium.

 

 

 

Countdown to the World Cup in Russia

Countdown to the World Cup in Russia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Concluding my entries, I have to say that there are many things that I will take from this amazing opportunity. It is true that I had already experienced studying abroad when I decided to leave Colombia for the U.S., but the magic of studying abroad is never lost. This period in London taught me that studying abroad is never an opportunity one can miss, and I will definitely recommend studying abroad to every H-SC student that is doubting about taking this opportunity. Experiences like the one I’m about to finish are the ones that make us grow as a person, and definitely the ones that help us becoming good men and good citizens.

London in the fall 2017

University College London 2017
David Arias Hernandez

It’s been another month living in this amazing city, and so far, this has been the busiest month not only for the workload of my courses but also for the different trips I’ve completed.

Parthenon in Athens, Greece

Parthenon in Athens, Greece

With less than a month of classes, the deadlines for my different courses have come closer, and with them, the stress of putting sufficient effort to excel in my classes. I have already presented the business I created with my group for my New Venture Creation course and I have also completed the individual assignment for that class, which allowed me to focus on my other courses. Out of the other three courses, I have already started the assignment for Economic History and Ideas, and I have also planned the outline for the other four assignments I have to submit for Emerging Market Economies and Politics and History of Central Eastern Europe. Although courses at UCL have been very demanding, I have enjoyed them and learned from them the most I’ve been able to, and I can’t wait to go back to H-SC to share all I’ve learned in the courses I will take next semester.
During this month I’ve also enjoyed my time with the boys from the UCL Football Club, apart from the four matches I played, the club carried a series of events, like the initiation night, in which I had a great time, full of laughs and joy, with my teammates and the guys from the other six teams the club has.

Nico and I visiting the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Istanbul

Nico and I visiting the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Istanbul

However, the most interesting part about this month was all the traveling I was able to do. During this month, I went to Istanbul, Athens, Bruges, Brussels, and Amsterdam.
I went to Istanbul for two nights and I was able to visit important places like Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Hagia Sohpia, and the Grand Bazaar. The food of this amazing city was clearly the highlight, as apart from being really cheap, it was delightful. After Istanbul, I went to Athens and stayed at this amazing hostel for two nights, where I was able to have a great time with people, apart from visiting tremendously historic places like Acropolis and the Ancient Agora. The highlight of this city was the amazing people I was able to meet, who I’ll probably see again in the future. After Athens, my next trip was Bruges. This town in Belgium is probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to, and although I only stayed there for less than one day, I was able to make the most out of it by walking through its beautiful streets and tasting a delicious Belgian beer at the main square. The next stop was Brussels, where I stayed only one night. Here I visited important places of the city like the European Union Headquarters, the Grand Pace, and the Cinquantenaire.

Delirium Pub in Brussels

Delirium Pub in Brussels

The highlights of this city were not only the beautiful sights, but also the amazing beer I had at Delirium Pub, said to be the best beer in the world, and the street waffles I had next to the Manneken Pis, which are also very famous. After Brussels, I went to Amsterdam, and although the weather was terrible, I was able to have a great time. I went to many places including the Heineken Experience and the I am Amsterdam sign. The highlight of this city clearly was that I was able to visit some family that I had not been able to see in almost five years.
Although this month was full of great experiences, I am looking forward to December. It will also be a great month, as not only I will get done with my classes but also I will visit one of the cities I have wanted to visit since I was a kid. Such trip could be the highlight of December, but it will compete really hard with another important event, as I will also be attending my first UEFA Champions League match at the mythical Wembley Stadium. However, I am extremely conscious that December will be the last month of my study abroad experience, and that makes me feel really sad, as all the experiences I have had and all the wonderful people I’ve met, will make it really hard to get on that plane heading back to the U.S.