Bonjour mes amis! I just found out that I’ve been accepted to an Oregon State University Honors College study abroad program in France this summer! I’m extremely excited to join 17 fellow HC students (including friends from last year’s London program as well as other awesome people I’ve met through the HC) and faculty members for a term in Paris and Lyon. I’ll be using this blog to document my adventures, so please subscribe and I’ll look forward to your comments!
After pulling an all-nighter on Friday night, I was already up bright – or rather, dark, since it was 4:30 and the sun doesn’t rise in London until about 6 – and early yesterday morning to catch a cab with a friend to Heathrow Airport. We weren’t on the same flight, but since he left at around the same time, we got to share a ride, which was a lot of fun! We also got to see the sun rise on the way there; the sky was streaked with gorgeous pink and golden hues, a phenomenon of which, thanks to my Isaac Newton class, I now understand the physics.
The odd thing about traveling home when compared with the flight to London is the nature of the time change. Despite traveling for over
12 hours, I arrived in Portland only four hours (local time) after departing from Heathrow… I effectively chased the sun for most of Saturday. The plane I was on had a fascinating feature built into their TV screens that essentially served as a digital map of the route we took across the globe, including live measurements of things like altitude, speed, distance traveled, sun position, etc. It was very interesting to follow our progress live! Also unlike the way to London, I
wasn’t able to get any sleep because it was daytime for the entirety of my flight. Instead, I used the time to write down more memories from the past weeks, and go through all of the pictures I took (over 1,000!). After a brief layover in Vancouver, BC, where I cleared US customs, I flew the short distance to PDX (it felt very odd to be surrounded by American accents again!) and was greeted by my parents with big hugs and smiles. Actual face-to-face time with them is far superior to the Facetiming we’d been doing! By the time we were home, after swapping many stories, I was pretty tired, and as I got ready for bed, I realized I had been awake for 45 consecutive hours… Needless to say, I was out like a light a bit before 8 o’clock!
I slept for 17 hours and was woken up after 1 pm. This afternoon, I did several loads of laundry and unpacked, slightly delirious from the time change. I kept noticing little details that reminded me of where I was, or
rather, where I wasn’t. For example: the air. The wind blowing off the ocean still smells like the ocean, but the air in my house doesn’t smell like home. It’s like visiting a stranger’s house and being very aware that the scent is different. Even though I slept in the same bed last night as I have for years, it didn’t feel like my bed. At present, ‘home’ is still the fourth floor of Scape, with its unique smell and bed framed with windows on two sides. I was talking with a friend who flew back a few hours after I did, and we marveled at how quickly our definition of home adjusted to fit where we were. He thinks it will be similar when we move into our dorms next week, particularly since all but three first-years who went to London will be living in the same dorm!
The extensive gratitude that I feel for this program continues to reach me in waves. I’ve talked with a bunch of the others these past few days about what the last three weeks would’ve been like with a different group of people and social dynamic, if so-and-so hadn’t been able to come, etc. I feel (as most of my classmates do) so lucky to have shared this experience with so many outstanding people, all of whom I’m looking forward to seeing again next week at OSU! I’d like to send out a big thank-you to everyone involved in the organization of this study-abroad, as well as the other students; this was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I’m so glad to have been involved with such a great group of friends!
I’d also like to thank everyone who has been reading these entries – I loved sitting down at the end of each day to think about what to write and pick out pictures to share with you all. Merely creating this blog was a great learning experience, and I’m happy that other people enjoyed checking it out as much as I enjoyed updating it!
Today was unusual in that it was the first day wrought with finality. Prior to waking up this morning, I think a lot of us took our time and the possibilities available to us here for granted, myself included. It wasn’t until my alarm went off this morning and the first rocking chords of “Rory And The Hurricanes” by Ringo Starr reverberated through my flat that the realization hit me: in a matter of hours, I wouldn’t be in the city that I’ve grown to love. I also realized that my To See/Do List of places around London was not nearly completed, so that just means I’ll have to come back! My Oyster card (ie tube pass) can always be reloaded, after all…
One of the works we read in preparation for this course epitomizes this odd awareness of time, or lack thereof: “Thus, though we cannot make our sun / Stand still, yet we will make him run for it.” (Andrew Marvell, To His Coy Mistress). Even though we can’t stop time, we can sure make it fly with fun! We spent our last English literature class discussing the last few poems we read, delivered our Capstone (in essence, a final project) presentations to the class and took several surveys for Scape, INTO London City University (our hosting campus) and the OSU Honors College.
From the classroom, we proceeded on foot to the Perkin Reveller (the name is also conveniently a reference to Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales), a very nice restaurant almost directly under the Tower Bridge and next to the Tower of London along the Thames. We all got afternoon tea, which was a lot of fun! I tried Earl Grey for the first time, and despite my orthodox avoidance of tea, I was thoroughly impressed with this one. The tea was accompanied by a variety of little sandwiches and cakes on elegant miniature trays. I truly felt right proper! Plus, most of us dressed up for the occasion, and that really made it special.
After tea, we headed briefly to the
Victoria and Albert Museum. I would’ve loved to have spent more time there, but unfortunately I felt fairly museumed-out after the past few days. Also, I needed to finish packing between our officially planned excursions and our own, late-night adventures.
For dinner, we found a new pub not far from the one we visited a few nights ago, except this one featured an amazing live blues/jazz/swing
musician and singer. He even serenaded one of my friends! After that, we returned very quickly to Scape to pick up some more people to go to a fantastic club called Jamboree. Tonight’s featured music act was called Des Was A Bowie Fan, and it was yet another outstanding music venue. It was nestled into a courtyard, and the interior looked like a cross between the quirkiness of décor of Central Perk (from the T.V. show, Friends) and the grungy din of a typical sports bar. The focal point of the
room was a short wooden stage, upon which stood a piano off to one side. Below the stage, a large dance floor connected the musician’s quarters to the bar and seating area. We danced on the stage, elevated above the crowd, for several hours to tunes by everyone from the Beatles to the Smiths to the Beach Boys, and even the B52’s and the Temptations, until the heat inside was overwhelming and we were forced into the cool air amidst a crowd of only locals. It was easily one of my favorite parts of the trip!
This evening’s entry is going to be on the short side; since this study abroad is essentially a condensed, three-week version of the orthodox 11-week courses offered at OSU, the past few days have essentially been wave after wave of coursework. It’s midterms and finals rolled like a burrito into a series of intense days, but I don’t mind the work, since the assignments are all interesting and allow for some creative freedom. It just means that I’ve been spending more time studying and less time going on adventures outside of the group activities.
On Wednesday, we went to the Millennium Bridge to investigate the retrofitting they did after some instability issues that began on opening day (when people walked in step, the bridge wavered from side to side, despite being designed as a very solid structure). As part of the excursion activity, I got to dust off Ye Olde Calculus skills from math last year, and it felt very good to get back into the swing of math!
Yesterday, we visited Westminster Abbey. It’s a gorgeous building, and is
the final resting place of many influential people. Everyone from Queen Elizabeth I to Charles Darwin is buried there! I really hoped to get a picture of me with Elizabeth’s grave and post it here, captioned with “Queen Elizabeth and Jane Elizabeth”, but alas, photography isn’t allowed inside out of respect, which I completely understand.
This morning was my morning off, so I went with several friends to an adorable café for breakfast, which was surrounded by lots of very cool graffiti. Another thing I’ve noticed about London: graffiti is rare, and when it is present, it’s typically only constructive and
artistic. Then I went back to Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross to get a picture with the Harry Potter trolley, since the queue was too long the last time we were there. I
also went shopping on Oxford Street, a very trendy area of town, which was a lot of fun! In the afternoon, I had my last physics class here. It’s odd to type those words! We essentially wrapped up and went over our departure schedule and the plan for tomorrow’s activities after English lit class in the morning. Before returning to Scape, I stopped at the Science Museum and went through a bunch of fascinating interactive exhibits about psychology, engineering and data farming – yet another place to add to my list of recommended spots in London!
As the program winds down, I keep feeling so glad to have this experience. Not only is the opportunity great (who wouldn’t want to study abroad in London?), but so are the professors and my fellow participants. We’ve all become such good friends in a very short time, and I’m so happy to share all of these memories with awesome people. More tomorrow!
I began my Sunday with a morning trip to Costa’s (the UK equivalent of
Starbucks, except less commercial) to work on several assignments for my English lit class – including one highly entertaining essay justifying my use of a completely random photo of one of my friends as the cover for Spencer’s The Fairy Queene – while
enjoying some smooth jazz. There’s a Costa’s just up the road from Scape, across the street from Mile End (the nearest tube station). It was a lot of fun getting to appreciate the local atmosphere and people-watch while being productive!
In the afternoon, I met up with a group of friends to go wander through Chinatown and Soho before an event in the evening… More on that later. Chinatown is very ornately decorated, and polycultural despite it’s specific faction-oriented name. It is because of this synthesis of cultures that we happened upon a delicious (and inexpensive) lasagna restaurant sandwiched between bubble tea shops and Asian markets. From Soho, we wandered south toward the Thames.
Yesterday marked the 350th anniversary of the end (roughly) of the Great Fire, and in celebration, a giant fire was started. Except, unlike the original, last night’s fire was on a barge in the middle of the Thames, and instead of acres of land or logs, a scale model of the affected portion of the city in 1666 was consumed by the flames. The riverfront was absolutely packed; an estimated 200,000 people lined the streets to watch, and from where we were standing, that
was nearly impossible to imagine two-thirds of the city awash in fire. The constant glow alone would be enough to set people on edge, not to mention the added stress of protecting one’s livelihood and family.
Today was slightly more structured, with the addition of a pseudo English lit class in the morning. Rather than hosting class in our usual classroom at Into London City University, we met in front of the Globe theatre to take a tour and learn about Shakespearean-era history. This was made a more interesting experience due to some delays on the tube, which rendered it necessary for my friend and me to sprint from Blackfriars Station, down through the financial district and across Millennium Bridge toward the Globe in order to make our appointed meeting time. Even though it was a bit stressful, it was a gorgeous route!
After touring the Globe, several of us headed over to a large covered
pavilion that houses the Borough Market to find lunch. It was packed with people, and the stalls ranged in types of wares from French cheeses to local flora. I tried an English vegetarian pot pie with spinach, paneer cheese, potato, mango and peas… Yum!
We then went back to Soho to do a bit of shopping (mostly of the window variety), stopping in any places that suited our fancy. We also happened upon the Bag O’ Nails club, which is where Paul McCartney first met Linda Eastman in 1967, in addition to where The Jimi Hendrix Experience first played in 1966! Very cool!
I’m currently hanging out in the common lounge area at Scape with a bunch of friends watching Casino Royale; hence… 007, out.
Crepes, Hemispheres, Art, a Marketplace, a Palace and Schoolwork. These are what have dominated the past few days, primarily the latter.
One of the most astounding facets of this study abroad experience is that I can earn six credits in only three weeks (for those of you readers who are
unfamiliar with how OSU’s credit system works, a full-time student takes between 12 and 15 credits in 11 weeks during the fall, winter and spring terms), however, this also means that there is a significant amount of schoolwork that takes up my time outside of class. I’m really enjoying all that we’re studying, though, so it doesn’t feel like a chore. Thanks to everyone who checks this blog frequently, even when I don’t post for a few days!
Thursday morning was spent doing miscellaneous chores around my flat followed by a coffee date with several of my friends, and then in the afternoon, my Isaac Newton class traveled to Greenwich to visit the Greenwich observatory. While there, I saw a series of clocks that revolutionized navigation at sea and calculated my longitude using calculus, a sextant, and Greenwich Hour Angle charts. I also stood in both hemispheres of the globe, straddling the Prime Meridian! Now I can check that off my list! It was also very interesting to watch the clock that dictates what time it is across the globe, which is accurate to fractions of a second.
Yesterday morning, my English lit class met, and we talked about
Edmund Spencer’s The Faerie Queene, the Tudor dynasty – more specifically, Henry VIII’s terrible treatment of his wives and country, the rise of Bloody Mary (not the alcoholic beverage), and how utterly awesome Elizabeth I was as a monarch – and scansion (analysis of syllables) of poetry. We spent the afternoon perusing the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, both outstanding collections! I was most excited to see the Vermeer, Van Gogh, Monet, Michelangelo and Turner pieces, and they certainly exceeded my expectations!
I adore the atmosphere of museums, particularly art galleries; there’s something about the hushed appreciation for subtle techniques and the unthinkable amount of hours spent hunched over a canvas perfecting a piece that permeates the crisp moldings, the calm and collected attendants, even the demeanors of easily upset infants are affected by the awe-inspiring masterpieces.
Today we took a train to Hampton Court Palace, one of Henry VIII’s places
of residence and spent nearly five hours exploring the grounds. Most of the rooms remain in their original condition, complete with massive tapestries and stained glass, and the gardens were immaculately cared for, including the maze that we navigated. We were also given cloaks to wear while walking around the grounds, and they really contributed
to the ambiance… I was able to appreciate the palace more, since I felt tied to it via the period article of clothing. This was another place where I could have easily spent several days, yet I am so glad to have experienced it for the time that I did! Later this afternoon, I went with some friends to Portobello Market, which was an adorable one-way road that was chock full of vendors in stands and shops, showing their wares and socializing with the neighbors.
Bedtime! Good night from London!