As I sit on my bed, looking out the window at red double-decker buses passing by and having just come back from an illuminating discussion with one of my British professors on Jane Austen’s clergy, I can’t think of one good way to sum up how great my experience here in London has been and how I can thank the people who helped me get here. I lived on St. Philip’s Street in Charleston last term, but living on Gower Street in London has a different tone completely. When I hear drunken students go by at night, they have British, Indian, Italian, French accents. When I walk out the door of my flat, I smell curry and fish ‘n’ chips mixed together while looking up at the white-stone anatomy building that is both modern and nineteenth-century at the same time.
Anyone who tells you that Britain is not a different culture is fooling you, especially concerning London.
I am a history major at the College of Charleston who is minoring in British Studies, so London seems an obvious choice in which to study abroad. When I realized that affiliate programs existed outside of merely College of Charleston programs, though, I felt a little overwhelmed by the numerous universities vying for my attention.
But you know what’s great about the College of Charleston? Our college is small enough to have close professor-student interaction, and that interaction ended up being one of the most important factors in my choosing to study at University College London for this term, Spring 2014. Because of our small-college feel, I had the opportunity to do an independent study on class-consciousness and the Victorian working class with Dr. Jacob Steere-Williams, who would take time at the end of each session to teach me a little bit about London and British culture. Other professors in the British studies department instructed me in British culture as well, jumping to give me places to visit in Britain and advising in the best places to go in London.
As I said, it’s difficult to sum up my amazing experience here in London. I’ve met so many people from different cultures, visited so many places, and learned so much from my lectures at university that one blog post simply won’t cut it. It goes beyond what we see on the BBC and what we get from movies and books. It’s being right at the bottom of Elizabeth Tower and looking up at Big Ben in real life, riding the Tube while listening your favorite British artist on your iPod, visiting the tomb of Anne Boleyn in the Tower of London. That’s what studying abroad is about, after all: experiencing different cultures face-to-face and breaking free of the hum-drum of American university life for a bit. Spend five months studying abroad, and you’ll understand how great it is.