In retrospect, living abroad in Europe for half the summer taught me many important things. The most pressing of which is that no matter where we are we all have similar goalswe just choose to approach them with different methods. Our daily lives consist of getting from A to B, working hard to maintain our standards of living, interacting with others, and spending time with people we love, no matter on what continent we reside or what language we speak.
While studying abroad has opened the world to my eyes and mind, I learned just as much about myself as I have about the United Kingdom and Europe in general. I’ve grown in my ability to reach out to people and set aside my own opinions and perspectives to consider those of others. I’ve never been more spontaneous in my life, and this experience tested my ability to be flexible and adjust to plans beyond what is most effective and/or timely. My patience exponentially increased, another aspect of renewed flexibility. Most importantly, I’ve become more open-minded and aware of my surroundings while still retaining the ability to make independent decisions.
From this study abroad experience, I learned the importance of communication more just by residing in a foreign country for a month and a half than in any journalism class or media internship I’ve held to date. Just sitting back in a pub, coffee shop or on the bus or tube and listening to others converse is the best way to get an immediate education. Listening is by far the way to learn about a location’s culture. That is where culture and the foundation of a community existsin its people and their daily lives.
I also learned that home doesn’t have to be a tangible location. Rather, home is found in the people with whom we surround ourselves, those individuals we can ultimately rely on, talk to and trust, regardless of circumstance. We can always find that home, even if we happen to be 4,000 miles away from its physical location.
Today was bittersweet as it was our last day in London.
Since our final day is a Thursday, we finished our time in London at our internships rather than visiting more of the city. While it was unfortunate that I didn’t get to see London one final time on my last day (my internship site is approximately 90 minutes outside of central London), the last three days focused solely on concluding my internship has provided time to prepare for the journey home and adjust to life after London. I certainly made up for the anticlimactic conclusion by filling the previous weekend with every last-minute stop possible and re-visiting favourite locations, though.
As I prepare for my journey back to the United States, I’m dreading the return to 95 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures and 80 percent humidity. I will miss the cooler climate and cloudy, dreary days of London so much, but at least the autumn season will arrive soon!
Returning to a culture with mediocre transportation is not a welcoming thought, either. Riding the PRT will be even more of a bother after the convenience of the Underground (which only broke down once in my entire month and a half stay), and single-level buses in Morgantown are going to be rather dull forms of transportation after traveling via doubledecker bus so often!
I will also need to revert to looking the opposite direction when I cross the street, but London has provided a constant and urgent reminder that pedestrians are not king in a metropolitan city! Hopefully I won’t forget to drive on the right side of the road rather than the left, either…just kidding!
Another thing that simply won’t be the same at home is coffee. The British seem to know exactly how I prefer my coffee—foamy cappuccinos with no flavouring, rather than the overly artificial and sickening sweet American style! I will also miss having a sandwich shop or cafe at every corner. Freshly made soups, salads and sandwiches just taste so much better in the UK, and no one makes honey flavoured yogurt like Costa!
The thing I’m going to miss most about London is the city’s cultural and historical atmosphere as well as its political activism. Having easy access to dozens of museums, shows, concerts, sports and locations filled with history has been my favourite aspect of the study abroad experience by far. Even the gigantic green spaces and parks provide their own sense of history and social culture—pedestrians just need to look up on occasion and take in the sights.
While I have enjoyed every moment of my time in London, I definitely feel ready to return to the United States. In addition to preparing for the fall semester, the Pride of West Virginia’s marching band camp, leadership positions in student organisations, and my internship with WVU’s Office of Undergraduate Student Recruitment, I am so excited to fully be an AMERICAN again. The lack of an Independence Day celebration earlier in the month and watching the Women’s World Cup final last weekend reminded me just how passionate I am about my home country and its traditions, politics and history, and my overflowing pride is difficult to properly maintain overseas.
Of course, I substantially miss my family, friends, boyfriend, dogs, church and life in the best state ever—West Virginia. I look forward to catching up with all of them upon my return and sharing my joyful memories of London.
While I will always look fondly on my memories of studying abroad in the United Kingdom, I won’t have to reminisce for the rest of my life. God willing, I will return to Europe at some point, and I look forward to expanding upon my experiences elsewhere as well. The world truly is my classroom, and I will always be a life-long student.
Thank you all for following my blog throughout the summer! I appreciate your support, eagerness to keep up with my journey and interest in the various excursions and travels. Also, thanks to Kimberly Brown, Christa Vincent, Matt Carson and Jason Broadwater in the P.I. Reed School of Journalism for contributing to the blog’s logistics and supporting me throughout the summer. Lastly, special thanks to Dr. Diana Martinelli for encouraging me to pursue the study abroad program more than a year prior to departure! I am so thankful for this opportunity, and I could not have done it without you all!
This post may be my last update in London for now, but that doesn’t mean I won’t write from London in the future! Cheers for now!
My final week at Totally Sporty was met with an astonishing accomplishment. Since beginning the internship a month and a half ago, Totally Sporty visitor traffic has increased by 25 percent. According to my supervisor, this is a remarkable feat, since websites’ traffic statistics rarely increase by more than three percent at a time. The Sport of the Month section of the Totally Sporty site received 10,000 visitors in the last month alone, and the main website has reached “official” status on Google’s search results because it not only shows the meta description and title, but links to each toolbar listing on the Totally Sporty homepage.
The increase in site traffic can be attributed to all of the content I have written for and published to the Totally Sporty site since I began my internship. My article count has increased to more than 20 articles. This week alone I’ve published content on track and field, fencing, lacrosse, golf lessons, tennis lessons, squash and badminton, which you can view here. I am currently researching and developing two general pieces on opportunities to participate in sport in London because after completing updates to the search engine optimsation search yesterday, general keyword searches such as “sport London” produce Totally Sporty’s weakest SEO data and page ranks. The other article features specific events for participation in London’s most popular sports.
As the internship comes to a close, I realize how much my writing has improved, especially in terms of writing for an online audience. I am far more proficient with information and technology efforts now, too, thanks to learning about the behind-the-scenes operations of websites and digital marketing strategies throughout the summer. I am looking forward to applying these newly found skills and knowledge once I return to my academic endeavors in the School of Journalism and my university-based internships.
With just four short days until our return flight to the United States, today was our final opportunity to see London with just internship days left in the schedule.
Beginning the day with a tour of Westminster Abbey, this morning was a final time to see Big Ben, Parliament, the London Eye and other surrounding sites. The inside of the church was stunningit’s hard to believe how many royal weddings, funerals and coronations took place inside that very same church. Its grandeur is even more astonishing in person than what was viewed during William and Kate’s big day, though the television crews definitely did the interior justice because I felt like I had already visited the Abbey once after watching the wedding and comparing it to my in-person visit.
We visited the memorial sites of not only the more well-known monarchs such as The Queen Mum and King Henry VIII, but contributors to the arts and sciences: George Handel, William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer (author of The Canterbury Tales), Robert Browning, Thomas Hardy (author of The Mayor of Casterbridge), Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton. The Abbey even recognises U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt!
The Hard Rock Café was a spontaneous lunch destination. I learned today that London’s Hard Rock is the original, and the first autographed memorabilia (a guitar from Eric Clapton!) hangs proudly from the centre of the restaurant. Of course, British greats like the Beatles and The Who were featured, as well as B.B. King, Queen and Bob Dylan, much to the delight of classic rock fans in our group.
I opted to spend the rest of the afternoon taking in sights of London both previously visited and new to methree of London’s Royal Parks. I started in Green Park, which is just down the street from Hard Rock Café and ventured over to Buckingham Palace once again since the area was so crowded during our first full day in London. On my way to Hyde Park I stopped at the various World War II memorials and walked through the Princess Diana Memorial Park and rose gardens. A beautiful pond divided Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, the latter of which is home to the Peter Pan statue, which I finally visited! I also stopped in a tiny and very modern art museum, Serpentine Gallery. Unfortunately, Kensington Palace is undergoing major reconstruction in preparation of William and Kate’s move, so I couldn’t see much of that part of the park.
From the parks I walked a short distance to Exhibition Road, home to three of London’s finest museums: Natural History Museum, Science Museum and Museum of Instruments. I met up with my flatmates at the first two museums. While I thoroughly enjoy exploring their exhibits (especially the two on minerals and memory), but I know that a career in hard science is certainly not for me! The band geek in me really wanted to visit the Museum of Instruments as well, but its steep charge of 15 pounds turned me away, which was rather surprising since almost all of London’s museums include free admission.
On our way home we stopped in the famous department store Harrod’s. Spanning seven floors and 330 departments, the store is a giant department store in addition to a grocery, bakery, pet store and coffee shop. Food options, both grocery-based and ready-to-eat selections represented almost every country in the world. It was rather impressive even though I’m not much of a shopper, but the store was terribly crowded. Harrod’s is one location that should definitely be visited once but is not necessary to see again.
Visiting two of the most historic places in the world was the perfect way to conclude my final weekend in the United Kingdom. Julie and I first ventured to Stonehenge. While many individuals I’ve spoken to have written the site off as a pile of “rubbish,” the information I learned through reading, observation and listening was far more interesting than I expected based on previous conversations. Analyzing the construction of each hinge and the connection and placement of the rocks to establish their exact locations is difficult to fathom at times, especially since each individual stone ways at least 50 tons.
While the exact purpose of Stonehenge has never been determined, much speculation exists about the site first constructed around 3,000 B.C. The most sensible is the idea of a memorial or religious centre because of the dozens of mounds within the fields surrounding Stonehenge. However, the calendar and time concept constructed because of the sun’s placement in between individual rocks is also fathomable. No one can ever convince me that aliens are the solution, though!
Next we traveled to the Georgian city of Bath, which was first built as a spa by the Romans. The architecture was stunning, especially considering that every single building is made with bath stone, which varies in shades of tan based on age. Since the stone is so porous, it is difficult to clean the surfaces. Because Bath is registered as World Heritage Site, any new buildings proposed for the city must be constructed with the same stone to maintain its reputation.
During our tour, we visited Bath Circus, which is a three-sectioned complex of town homes that form an exact oval because each section is identical in size to represent similarities to the Colosseum. Owners of town homes in the front section of the circus include Nicholas Cage, Johnny Depp, and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
The Roman Baths are the highlight of the city, other than its architecture. The hot springs that are at least a million years old are the only hot springs in the UK, and many of the ruins of the temple are still located on site, including the large altar that sat outside independently of the temple that was originally on location.
The city itself is something to behold. When Julie and I stepped off the bus, we thought we had left the UK for Rome! It contains an aura of Italy with the architecture, stone streets, live music, and gardens, but the food and social culture are still very British.
The weather today and yesterday provided the ideal settings for some final sightseeing directly in the city.
Yesterday’s mild temperatures and breezy winds were comfortable and refreshing for a full day outdoors. We spent the morning touring the Tower of London, but my flatmates and I returned for a few more hours in the afternoon after lunch at our favourite pub, Wetherspoon. There is so much to see at the Tower: at various times in history, the site included a military line of defence, prison, palace, moat, torture chambers and dungeons, menagerie, jewel house, and a chapel.
During the first half of the day, the entire group completed a Beefeaters’ tour, which provided substantial insight of the Tower’s history and details of each location. We also saw the Crown Jewels in the Jewel House. While the jewels are magnificent, the video of the Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation was just as intriguing. The torture tools exhibit was not extensive at all; it simply showcased three mechanisms. While the minimalistic nature of the display disappointed many in the group, the descriptions of each were sufficient to grasp the horrific tortures that once took place in the Tower.
After lunch we returned to complete the “wall walk,” which allows visitors to walk along a footpath throughout the entire complex. Since it is connected to almost every tower, the walk was a good way to refer back to the details of the history as we saw the specific spots mentioned in first. The most interesting aspect was the engravings made by prisoners in the walls of the Tower, which included signatures, initials, statements of desperation, and Biblical references. Such personal works are the best way to grasp what really took place in the Tower of London so many years ago.
Since we were so close to the Tower Bridge, Julie and I opted to walk along the Thames and across the bridge since we had only viewed it from afar and in the boat to Greenwich. We also spent time browsing the gardens in Regent’s Park. While we had visited the park earlier in July with our flatmates, using the entrance closest to the tube station rather the one nearest our neighborhood gave us another perspective of the park since it is so expansive. The gardens are gorgeousif I had more time, I would bring a book down to the park for a relaxing afternoon or evening after work.
On our way back to the flat, we stopped at Abbey Road. Since Julie is an avid Beatles fan, Abbey Road was a must-visit location for her. We signed the wall near the studio and even stopped traffic for photos on the crosswalk!
Today was completely different in terms of weather: with rain pouring all day, there is no better place to visit than museums! We spent the late morning and early afternoon browsing the British Museum. I opted to venture on my own so I could view the exhibits on my own pace, and made it to every public exhibit, which spanned six continents.
The Enlightenment exhibit stood out the most to me, mostly because it is designed to reflect King George III’s library. Bookshelf after bookshelf surrounded the walls, and the various books were just as interesting to me as the actual displays! I especially enjoyed perusing the manuscript section, which showed how language was first interpreted through inscriptions on not only tablets and scrolls in the form of writing but also engravings on stones, amulets, rings and other precious artifacts in culture. The displays reflecting discovery of sea shells, rocks and other natural elements brought me back to my geology days, and the various instruments for calculation and measurement were also fascinating.
I particularly enjoyed viewing the Australia room with sketches and drawings throughout its history because it is not a country traditionally reflected on in a historical sense. Most of what is projected about Australia reflects pop culture and stereotypes, so I appreciated a sense of true culture and history displayed through the drawings.
The African exhibit on life and death was by far the most modern of the exhibits. In general, museums focus on the past, rather than the present living social culture. The British Museum did an excellent job blending history with current sociological and political dilemmas with the African exhibit to give a perspective of comparison.
We spent the evening viewing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II. Even though this was my second time seeing the film, I was still ecstatic because with so many intricate details, I knew I would miss things while watching it bleary-eyed at midnight. The second time around was even more fulfilling just for that reason, and seeing the film much closer to the front of the theatre provided a better viewing and audio experience. I’m impressed with the screenwriters’ and producers’ abilities to reflect the book as literally as the film did while infusing so much action and intensity. The series’ integrity was maintained throughout, with the representation of so many key characters allowing the film to provide closure in a clear and comprehensive fashion.
While our time is drawing to a close, I am looking forward to one last excursion beyond LondonStonehenge and Bath! Tomorrow Julie and I will bus to southwest Great Britain for a full day of touring the area, and we are excited to get out of the city and see another part of the country before we depart for the States. The Women’s World Cup final is also tomorrow, and I can’t wait to catch the match when we return. GO USA!
My focus for Totally Sporty this week was continuing to research various sports and create articles and other types of web content to reflect opportunities for Londoners to participate in them. The subjects were determined once again by search engine optimsation research results, with the intention of improving rankings of weaker sports in the page rank results.
Topics included many sports that I am aware of but have minimal knowledge of in terms of game rules, playing style, competitiveness, and the like. Examples include rowing, track and field (called “athletics in the UK), lacrosse, fencing, horseback riding, kayaking and canoeing, ultimate and sailing. As a result, these articles required me to complete thorough background research to gain information about the sports in general as well as organizations and teams in London.
With the exception of the water sports and horseback riding, some of these are not well-known in the United Kingdom and are just taking off in popularity. Lacrosse and ultimate are recent trends for recreational athletes in London, so the timeliness of this promotion is ideal. The summer season is also the primary time for water sports participation, so that timing combined with the popularity of those sports should also result in improvements in future SEO data.
Lastly, I am contributing to Totally Sporty’s monthly newsletter by completing research on both spectator and participation sports events to develop a comprehensive database and calendar. While Totally Sporty already tracks some events on its website, the database is intended for use in conjunction with the strategic communication plan I assisted with two weeks ago to ensure both the website and Totally Sporty’s visitors have access to all of London’s top sporting events in one convenient location.
An end of an era.
In approximately five hours, doors will close on one of the most important aspects of my childhoodthe Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Myself and thousands of others will traverse London tonight to take in the final film in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II.
Lucky enough to purchase a midnight premiere ticket even though they had been on sale for almost a month prior to arriving in the UK, four WVU students and I will experience the final chapter together in the most exciting atmosphere possible: Leceister Square, the theatre district in London. We are excited to see it a whopping five hours before anyone back home in the States, especially in the city where it all began.
Another exciting aspect of tonight’s premiere is an article I was given the opportunity to write by my previous editor at the Charleston Gazette, Amy Robinson. Reflecting on Harry Potter fandom across the world as well as the series’ impact on youth turned young adults, please read on via the Gazette’s website. Thanks for the opportunity to share my experiences in London, Amy!
Tonight’s premiere will also kick off the start of another conclusion, the final week in London. It is still difficult to fathom that we only arrived just four short weeks ago and have just one week ahead of us. However, the weekend ahead is jam-packed with fun London spots we have yet to visit: Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, British Museum, Abbey Road and many more. A few of us are even planning a trip to Stonehenge and Bath on Sunday for one last getaway.
While tonight may be the beginning of the end, reflecting on where we began has shown just how much the experience has taught us and how far we’ve come since the start of this journey. I am so blessed to be a part of a diverse group of students who have not only learned from the places we explored and the people we met along the way, but just by simply interacting with one another.
The major dilemma I have faced throughout the study abroad programme is the concept of communication. Within my academic major and future career field, the constant communication of up-to-date and correct information is the centre of every action taken.
While in London, that has not been the case.
Hindered by incredibly expensive pre-paid phones, internet limited by time, megabyte usage and general operations as well as the push to be isolated from United States-based interaction in order to properly experience a new culture, I have faced a real oxymoron between communicating and not communicating that has proved to be an entertaining challenge and concept to ponder this summer.
While the media junky in me is desires to be constant contact, I’ve found the break from regular internet access and phone-based communication to be a welcoming relaxation from my typical pace and actions in the states. While this goes against everything I learn both professionally and in the classroom, I have chosen to use my limited media access for academic and professional purposes far more often than for social instances.
I have grown to not constantly check my phone for a missed call or text because I have learned not to find anything in return and accept that as the temporary norm. In fact, my mobile phone is rarely used as anything more than a clock. After almost a month without frequently conversing and texting, I realise that there isn’t any harm in the break and that I actually welcome it. However, I know I will be looking forward to having that convenience of regular communication back in the States as our time in the UK draws to a close.
There is nothing more rewarding than pushing one’s self beyond expectations, especially when such a situation involves physical exertion to push through a boundary. I appreciated the human body’s ability to move and support in so many ways more than ever today as I successfully climbed straight up the side of a mountain on the steepest and most unstable path available. There are few more satisfactory feelings than pushing the limits and far surpassing your own assumptions.
I always enjoy hiking, but this morning’s adventure to the top of Arthur’s Seat, the highest point in Edinburgh, was the most rewarding experience yet. The view of the city, the rural areas beyond it and the North Sea were impeccable from the very top.
What I appreciate the most about the Scotland excursion is our ability to travel to the most remote locations in the country and venture into them far more than expected. Simply moving beyond the crowded, bustling cities to peaceful places captured by their uninhabited nature are precious experiences to behold.
The peak of Arthur’s Seat
Following our hike we ventured to Rosslyn, a town about 45 minutes outside of Edinburgh. Home to Rosslyn Chapel, a church famous for being built over the course of 40 years and never finished because its proprietor perished before full plans could be established, we experienced ancient architecture at its finest. A structure more than 500 years old, we saw the pros and cons of a building primarily constructed with sandstone, which is now undertaking one of the most substantial architectural preservation movements in all of the UK.
Well-known for its intricate carvings and masonry details, the most unique aspect of Rosslyn for me was the designs that reference North American inhabitance, including maize and flowers, despite the fact that the building was constructed far before 1492. While Christopher Columbus not being the first individual to discover the Americas is now a common fact, just another example of corrected historical assumptions is rather intriguing and always begs the question of what else could be incorrect.
Another aspect of Rosslyn is the ruins of Rosslyn Castle, heavily bombed in war. While little of the structure remains today, its previous size is shown by two sets of ruins not only distance from each other in area but in height. The ruins’ primary location is a short walk from the chapel and museum, but we randomly ventured down a steep hill only to find more. That journey also brought us to a footbridge across a river with a waterfall nearby. Our spontaneous exploration reminded us that there is always something more to see for those willing to seek it!
Each day is a new adventure, and something unexpected always seems to come up along the way. That’s often a good thing, too! Scotland is showing us world truly is our classroom this summer, and we are taking full advantage of it.
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