Tag Archives: London

Tips for Visting London

16 Dec

Last week is what is known as “Revision Week” here at St Andrews.  It’s basically Dead Week at Purdue, minus that whole having class thing.  Which means I had a whole week free dedicated to studying for my three finals that are coming up.  Instead of cracking open all my notes on British History and Ancient Israel, I cracked open my wallet and bought an overnight bus ticket to London.  I spent 5 days roaming around London getting to experience it at my own pace.  It was one of the best decisions I’ve made studying abroad.  Not only did I get to take a nice break from academics, but I got to do it in a city I’ve dreamed of visiting since I was a little kid.

Now that I’m back in St Andrews, still not studying, I wanted to share my tips on visiting London with y’all.

  • Buy an Oyster Card
    • If you plan on using the Tube at all, you will have to purchase an Oyster card from inside any of the stations.  It is a thin plastic card that you load money onto for your subway fares. The card is way faster than trying to pay for each individual journey separately and it gets you a cheaper rate. You “top up” the card in three ways.  You can add more money to it with your credit card via a machine in the station, pay cash to a teller, or with a card online.  It cost about £2.10 for a single journey in central London.  If you go outside what they call Zone 1, it will be a bit more.
  • Ask for Student Price
    • A student price is sometimes called the Concession price. I thought they were talking about snacks for the longest time, but its actually just the cheaper enter rates.  At all things that aren’t free to do in London, ask if they have a student price.  8/10 times they will (The Globe Theater does. The London Eye doesn’t).  You’ll just have to flash your student ID and you will save a couple £££.   It doesn’t hurt to ask at retailers too.  Some shops will have a 10%  student discount.
  • Go places early!
    • “Go Ugly Early” isn’t just for Harry’s.  After a late night out about in the city, you might want to sleep in past 9am, but don’t do it.  To save time, get to big tourist spots early in the day so  you won’t waste time in the long queues (lines).  My guidebook said the average wait time for the London Eye was one hour.  By going early I spent an hour total at the London Eye.  That included a short wait to buy my ticket too.   On the other hand, I decided to go to the Natural History Museum  in the mid afternoon and had to queue for a half hour just to get inside and another 30 minutes to see the dinosaur exhibit.
  • Get to know the people in your hostel
    • Because I went solo I figured the only time I would get to speak to someone was when I was buying something.  Not true at all.  The girls that I met in the hostel where great! There was Rachel and Ragen from Ireland, a super sweet Brazilian girl whose name I never caught, Amber also from Ireland, two German girls, and the two Maria’s from Greece.  Not all of these girls where at the hostel at the same time, but they all were some of the nicest people I’ve met here in the UK. We would share advice about what was interesting to see in the city, how to get some place, where the best shopping was, ect ect ect.  Amber and I even teamed up one day and walked around the city.  She took me to the British Library and I took her to Kings Cross.  Because of the girls I met in the hostel, my London experience was that much better.

I hope these can help you out if you ever plan on visiting London or anywhere you travel. Sadly, I’ve actually got to study now for my finals.

BOUNS TIP: Don’t be afraid to travel alone! I was, but seriously being on my own in London was an amazing experience. You can read what I wrote about traveling alone over on my own blog.


Second Time = Success

22 Jun

As I’m preparing to leave London for the second summer, I can’t help but appreciate every moment I’ve had in this wonderful city. I studied in London with the same program last summer, so I was a little hesitant to come back. However, my professor worked specifically with me to create a program that filled my requirements and goals as a student going into her senior year. Yes, I was “with” the same program as last summer, but I did something completely different.

I read some of the same texts as I did last year. You may think that this sounds like an easy task, but it was incredibly challenging. I had to look at things I previously read in a new light and focus on the writing to get a new experience from it. Reading things for a second time allowed me to grow deeper as an intellectual. I went to some of the same places that I did last summer, and I got a completely different experience because I was looking at things with a new perspective. In fact, many times I was able to step back a bit and tune into the culture of a place because I was visiting it for a second time.

Studying abroad is necessary for every student to do before they graduate. Not only do you learn about a different culture than yours, but you learn a lot about yourself; there is a lot of intellectual and personal growth in studying abroad. I highly encourage anybody who hasn’t studied abroad or hasn’t given it a thought to look deeper into it. I guarantee it will change your world and open you up for some experiences that you couldn’t get anywhere else.

Stars and Skyscrapers

21 Jun

I’ve posted a lot on my exploration of the city of London, however, I’ve failed to mention one of the best parts of living in London: my flat. I have been living at Nido Student Living in Spitalfields; if you know the city, it isn’t far from the Brick Lane Markets. Nido is the tallest student accommodation in the world with its 33 floors.  It’s practially brand new and stands out from most buildings in London. Every Sunday there was a street market right outside our building, incredible!

My room is on the 18th floor and it offers up the most incredible vantage point. There is a window ledge where I put my books and journal while I read, write, or just enjoy taking in the city. My bed faces the window, so when I go to sleep at night I can look out  and see the stars and skyscrapers. Being so high up in the city makes me feel like I’m on Aladdin’s carpet soaring over the city.

They say NYC is a city that doesn’t sleep. Since I’ve visited both cities, I can say with confidence that London is also a city that doesn’t sleep. Quite literally, actually; the sun rises at approximately 4:45 am. It took some getting used to during the first couple of weeks when I would wake up to the sun pouring in my room and thinking I overslept for class when in fact it was only 5 am. Part of the study abroad experience is making a new home. Not only do I feel at home with my fellow classmates, since we live and study together practically 24/7, but my room in London has become a new home to me. I will miss this view once I get back to The States!

“Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.” – William Wordsworth

19 Jun

For our last week here in the United Kingdom, my class took an overnight excursion to the Lake District of England. Knowing very little about the Lake District, I packed very little, not expecting to be hiking up grandiose mountains and trekking through forests and rivers. But, here we were, we London city-slickers, heading down the homestretch of this amazing program, surrounded by natural beauty that I’d never seen before in the United States.

After arriving in the Lake District and getting settled into our youth hostel, the first place we visited was Dove Cottage: the home of William Wordsworth. Now, if you’ve read any of Wordsworth’s poetry, you’ll know that he’s constantly referring to, and talking about, nature. After visiting his cottage, I’d write about nature, too. He once said, “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” Now, I know what this means. The natural beauty that surrounds Wordsworth’s cottage is amazing; no picture could ever do it justice. The mountains, the greenery, the lakes, the wildlife, it’s all absolutely breathtaking. Wordsworth’s small cottage rests outside a small mountain village enveloped with large lakes, meres, streams, and estuaries. No wonder Wordsworth found nature to be one of the only things to write about.

The rest of the trip consisted of hiking up mountains, trekking along baths, and boating on Lake Windemere. It was such a change coming from all of the hubbub of the city to the serene beauty and peacefulness of the Lake District. This gave us a chance to see two different perspectives of England. Cultures, accents, and people are different within all areas of this great country, as well as in our own. It’s interesting, now, to be able to make comparisons between the environments, and realize that London is not the only thing in England. I’m very glad that we ended our trip this way. It’s always good to have another perspective.

“In War: Resolution. In Defeat: Defiance. In Victory: Magnanimity. In Peace: Good Will.” – Winston Churchill

18 Jun


Today, my class visited the Imperial War Museum. Now, I understand that, to some of you, this may not sound appealing. But to me, this ranks as one of my favorite places in London. For the past few days, my class has been studying literature from both World War I and World War II, as both wars had a major impact on Britain and the citizens of this great country. We have been studying the effects of the wars, and the repercussions that Britain faced in the years following the wars, as well as what they still may face today. The results are different than you may think: World War II happened fairly recent in Great Britain’s history, and the outcome of the war is still seen around London today. We still walk the same streets that were once raided by the Germans. We still pass through the same Tube stations that Londoners once took shelter in. We see plaques and statues adorning the city, commemorating those that fought for their country during Britain’s time of need.

And we also see World War II’s British memorabilia around the United States. You may know the saying “Keep Calm and Carry On.” This saying actually derives from Great Britain, believe it or not. During the second World War, the British government passed these fliers out to citizens in hopes of raising morale during the event of an invasion. However, at the time of the War, the flier saw very little distribution, and was soon forgotten. However, it reappeared again around the year 2000 and has since been in the public eye.

“England expects that every man will do his duty.” This statement was said by Lord Nelson during the Battle of Trafalgar Square in 1805. Today, in the Imperial War Museum, I saw a poster that stated, “Your country still expects you to do your duty!” We should always remember those who fought and served their country.

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“We few, we happy few, we band of band of brothers”

14 Jun

For those of you who don’t recognize my title quote, it is from William Shakespeare’s Henry V. I know there are a lot of mixed feelings for Shakespeare, but hopefully everyone can at least appreciate everything he did for the theater world. My program assigned Shakespeare’s Henry V for class. We did our usual discussion of the text and related it to how we would teach it as future educators. What was the cool thing about our discussion?  We went to The Globe Theater later that evening to see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform Henry V! After seeing the play performed at The Globe, my whole class agreed that Shakespeare should never be taught simply using the text.

Shakespeare wrote plays. Why teachers continue to teach Shakespeare by just reading the play is a mystery to me. I realize that it is impossible for every student to see a performance at The Globe, but if students could see any sort of Shakespeare production, or even a movie of the play, then I know Shakespeare would come to life for them. Seeing the Royal Shakespeare Company perform Henry V confirmed my love for his plays. When I studied in London last summer, I saw Much Ado About Nothing at The Globe. That play is a comedy while Henry V is history. However, I enjoyed them both for the differences they offered. I should mention that my class and I stood in the “pit” of the theater. We stood the entire play on the cement ground in front of the stage. This allowed us to interact with the play (as actors extended their stage to the ground during some parts of the play), and it allowed us to experience what is was like for the peasants who couldn’t afford seating back in the day. They were called Groundlings.  All in all, The Globe was an incredible cultural experience for us. In fact, some of us are going back on Friday to see Hamlet performed!

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The View from my Window

13 Jun

Everyone keeps asking what I’ll miss most about London. The answer is easy. It’s not the pubs, shops, or little bookstores (though I will miss those quite a bit). It’s the view outside my window. I currently live on the 22nd floor of a residence hall.  As you can imagine, the view from my window is amazing. I can see, without a problem, the entire East End of London.

The East End is home to many immigrants, making it a place full of culture, youth, and life. I can see people walking home, traveling to work, or heading to dinner. I can see people socializing at Christ Church in Whitechapel after a Sunday morning service. I can also see the Ten Bells pub, otherwise known as  the “Jack The Ripper” pub. Legend has it that Jack The Ripper’s victims used to drink there, making it quite the tourist attraction for this area.  I can hear the Bow Bells ringing on early Sunday mornings, and the people laughing on late weekend nights.

The view from my window is quite easily my favorite part of living in this great city. I feel like I’m taking in everything at once: the sights, smells, and sounds of London. I look forward to coming home to it every day after class, and falling asleep to the sirens and car horns every night. I’ll miss this view the most. A view like this comes only once in a lifetime.