Learning in London

Thomas Salamon
LSE 2019/20
London, England

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

Blackfriars Bridge over the river Thames

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

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

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

Sunset view from Blackfriars Bridge.

View from my room

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

Learning in London

Thomas Salamon
LSE 2019/20
London, England

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

Spring Semester in London

Yafet Cole
Richmond the American International University
London 2019

There are several different things that I am going to miss when I go back to Hampden-Sydney in the Fall of 2019. The lifestyle and the friends I have made are most likely what I am going to miss the most when I leave London. I have gotten into such a routine here and it will be difficult to transition back once I return to Hampden-Sydney. Due to the private nature of the campus, I will not be able to walk out of the dorm and head down to the coffee shop. I have to get into my car and physically drive down to the café in Farmville. The luxury about living in London is that everything is close, or you can at least get somewhere easily whether it is through the tube, bus, or even Uber. Being so close to everything just makes it so much easier to live life. With it being a city as well, there are a lot of different activities that people are able to partake in. There is also so much that needs to be seen in the city. As for Hampden-Sydney, the campus is secluded from the rest. Plus, after a night out in London, there is the benefit of being close to food instead of having to drive down 10 minutes into town if you do not want to eat at the moans. A part from all of that, I have truly met some great people since I have been here. Leaving them will for sure be a difficult task, but I know I will keep in contact with them. I am already planning a trip back to see them once I graduate next May. Although, I am looking forward to seeing everyone that I have left at Hampden-Sydney. It will be nice to catch up with them as we all enter our final year of College.

Spring Semester in London

Yafet Cole
Richmond the American International University
London 2019

My commute to class in London is a whole lot different than my travel to class at Sydney. Surprisingly, it is actually a shorter commute, which is a bit of a surprise when you think about how small Hampden-Sydney is. At Hampden-Sydney, any student can walk to any building within about five to 10 minutes. But, at my school in London, I’m able to get to my classes within about three to five minutes. My classrooms are about a block or two over from my dorm building. Instead of walking out of Venable and seeing open space with nature, I walk out and see multi-million dollar apartments with such intricate but simple designs. As I see all of these buildings, I think to myself that I want to live in one of these houses in the future. Outside of these million dollar buildings are the most luxurious cars. Every other car is a Porsche, Bentley, Mercedes, BMW, Aston Martin, and occasionally I’ll see a Rolls-Royce. That is not a sight that anyone sees every day, especially at Sydney because it is filled with just college students and faculty. The mornings are usually quiet. The only noise I hear is either birds chirping, cars driving past, or people talking to each other. Other than those three, there is not much going on. Also, I usually walk with my headphones in so that shuts out the noise from the outside world. I pass several bakeries on my journey to class, so I smell the delicious pastries that are being made every morning. I normally stop by one of the bakery shops for a croissant, they are always so warm and flaky. Just enough to get me through the day. The smell of fresh air is always refreshing; it gives me the motive to be productive, every single day.

Spring Semester in London

Yafet Cole
Richmond the American International University
London 2019

 

The way I spend my free time in London is way different compared to the way that I spend my free time at Hampden-Sydney. It is nice because there is always something to do. There has not been a day where I spend my whole day in my room or in my bed. Usually, when I am at Hampden-Sydney, I go hang out with friends or just hang around in my room. London is such a bigger area, so I am able to go out and do more things if I am bored. England is a big soccer nation, so there are typically games in every single day. It is very convenient for me because I love the sport, so I typically just go down to the pub and watch whatever games they have on the television. Even if there is not a game on, once we all are done with classes, my friends and I head down to the pub to just hang out as well. It has basically turned into an everyday thing. Over the past couple of weeks, London has seen great weather, so instead of going to the pub, we all go to Hyde Park and spend our days there throwing the football or kicking the soccer ball around. Those are usually what we all do to take a break from school.  There is so much history within London. Sometimes I’ll head out with my friends and go see the museums or historic landmarks. We even just travel throughout all of London. This area is so big that we can travel an hour and still be in London. Sometimes, we travel to the different parts to eat different types of food. The city is so diverse, so we all travel to these places and eat the ethnic food whether it is African, Chinese, Indian food. With it being finals, I have spent most of my time in the labs and library studying.

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.