study tour — london, uk

Helloooo everybody! I come to you live from Stockholm, freshly returned from my Long Study Tour in London last week. I wanted to give a little background on what the long study tour is before I jump in on a day-by-day for the past week, so here it is!:

(I’m gonna call the Long Study Tour the LST from now on — for typing purposes)

The LST is a trip you take with your core course to another city (I think all European — other core courses this semester went to Athens, Edinburgh, Geneva, and Berlin) for an entire week. The best way to describe it, I would say, is a week-long field trip consisting of daily mini-field trips — super unique, a wonderful experience — my absolute favorite week of the semester so far.

We did walking tours, bike tours, saw some famous and not-so-famous sights, saw some Shakespeare, recited some Shakespeare, spent time together learning and exploring a new place, all the while gaining a richer understanding of the lessons we had, seeing a whole new perspective on what we thought we had seen clearly.

As a reminder, or in case you didn’t know, my core course is titled Imagining the Other in European Literature, so each of our activites showcased the place (or, really, the lack of place) of the victims, the prejudiced, the other in English and altogether European literature and, thus, the history it embodies.

Ok! It’s time for a day! by! day!

Day I: Arrival

My core course is a relatively small one: there are 7 students (myself included), and we all met at the airport at 6:15 Sunday morning, which wasn’t as painful as we thought it would be. We landed in London around 9:30 AM, and headed straight to the tube and toward our hotel in South Kensington. It was a great location, and we were provided week passes for public transit, so we could travel wherever we needed to go for classwork and in our down-time outside of class hours.

First stop: lunch! Italian food! Can’t go wrong!

Next stop: the National Portrait Gallery.

Each student was assigned a portrait or era of history to discuss — there were guidelines to the assignment and our discussions, so feel free to ask for details if you would like to know what we discussed!

It was nearly unbelievable to see some of these famous portraits in real life, to see them jump off the textbook page and directly in front of you. A form of star-struck-ness, maybe? I will say I was a bit stunned when I saw this one of Shakespeare:

Next was dinner then bed after a nice easy start to a busy and wonderful following week…

Day II: Biking and British Museum

Bike tour! Bike tour! Bike tour!

The weather was agreeable this fine Monday, and we had an equally agreeable tour guide lead us to Kensington Palace, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, and a few more must-sees.

After lunch (An aside: 1-2 of our daily meals was provided by DIS. We were often left to go on our own for dinner, except Wednesday, which I’ll get to.), we headed to the British Museum, which has such items as basically the whole Parthenon, a thorn from the Crown of Thorns, the Rosetta Stone, an Easter Island head… there’s so much to see, and our excellent tour guide showed it well.

And the place is beautiful!

Our school day ended at 4:30, giving us plenty of time to explore and see what we wanted to see that was not a formal part of the LST.

Day III: V&A and Grenfell

I can’t believe it’s only day three! Typing this it feels like we’ve already done so much. But the week is only still just beginning!

We started our day with a visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum, an art? history? design? museum that has… a lot to see. We were given a tour of the fashion history exhibiton by our visiting instructor from Copenhagen, and all was spectacularly interesting. We had some time left after the tour to explore the museum, which is immense and full of beautiful, wonderful exhibits, including:

these are replicas, but still! look hor beautiful!
theatre! arts! ads!
the jewelry exhibit is beautiful — dating from ancient egypt to lady di
nothing beats a good ceiling!

After the V&A, we visited the site of the Grenfell Tower, the deadliest structural fire in the UK in 3 decades and an event of contention, controversy, and revelation. You can learn more here and here, and by reading this haunting poem by Ben Okri that we read at the site. I didn’t take any pictures of the memorial, but it was powerful, emotive — a reminder that these people will never be forgotten.

That night I met with a friend from Boston College who’s in London for the semester, and we got a (late) afternoon tea at sketch, which I’m really just saying because I wanted to show you how cute this place is, and to say that we are given a perfect amount of time to see London outside of class —

it’s work, but it can be a bit of a vacation, too.

Day IV: Art, East End, Shakespeare!

We had a free morning this Wednesday, so a couple of classmates and I went to the National History Museum, which was about a 10ish minute walk from our hotel. It was definitely aimed more toward children, but we enjoyed it too! They had the moon! And the original On the Origin of Species! London has some good stuff in its museums, it goes without saying.

After the museum, we went to the White Cube and saw some modern art, which isn’t always my thing, but our discussion was incredibly eye-opening to an art world I never really understood on my own before.

We got coffee (a fika, perhaps?) and then had a walking tour of East London, known best for its immortalization in the works of Charles Dickens and by the infamous murders of Jack the Ripper. It has a history of great diversity, and is filled with wonderful galleries and architecture and shopping, which I never got the chance to take advantage of, but it gives me another reason to go back.

London at this point was beginning to reveal its rich history and polarity — each of our class sessions deepened this understanding of one of the world’s largest and central cities, each session gave me a new thing or two to think about, to consider, to continue thinking about for a long while, a much longer while than simply the rest of the tour.

It’s time for Shakespeare!

After our walking tour we had a class dinner and saw As You Like It at the Barbican Theatre — it was dazzling, as Shakespearean comedies so often are, and in my opinion quite well performed. Live theatre is something I love, especially when I go with others so we can discuss our opinions of what we’ve seen, which, of course, we did. There was a big, forest nymph (?) puppet involved, which is always a good thing, and if you want to see it for yourself, here’s the official website for the play.

Day V: More Art! More Shakespeare!

Happy Halloween!

We started off the day at another art gallery, which to be honest wasn’t super my thing before this study tour, but all the discussion of artwork has made me appreciate galleries much more than I did just a week ago. You can learn so much more from art than simply the life of the artist — I’ll always be thankful for that lesson.

But anyway! The gallery we visited was really, truly powerful and different than many of the galleries you’re used to seeing: all the work was done by men and women and boys and girls in prisons, both in the UK and abroad. You can view artwork of many different media on the associated charity’s website — really beautiful, haunting, thoughtful and thought-provoking.

After the exhibit, we went to lunch, and then we went to Shakespeare’s Globe — there was a bit of a mix-up with our tour reservation and it got lost in the shuffle, but the nice people at the Globe were incredibly apologetic and gave us a last-minute tour and a very great workshop onstage (!).

The people were accomodating and understanding, our workshop was really great (especially given its last-minute-ness) and it was altogether a worthwhile exploration of Shakespearean acting.

Feels like the 1600s!

Day VI: Charles Dickens, Afternoon Tea, Farewell

Last day! I will say, at this point, I was exhausted.

Each day was packed full of activity, discussion, and thought. Everything we did was worthwhile in its own way, and, given that there is so much to do in London, really well-selected. I would relive this week ten times over.

We had our first rainy day all week, and it wasn’t really even properly raining, while we adventured to the meeting spot for our Charles Dickens walking tour.

The area was the center of law in London, basically, and the architecture was varied and beautiful. If not for Charles Dickens, the tour was worthwhile just for the architectural eye candy.

And we got coffee! I took a picture because my barista heart can’t resist a cute, colorful coffee shop.

I forget what this place was called, but they had gingerbread men out on November 1st, so I like them.

I am SO beyond upset I didn’t take photos at our afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason, but it was a bit fancy and I didn’t want to be improper by taking, like, a flash photo of finger sandwiches. Here’s a picture I took from this website, to give you an idea of what it looked like.

Tea was the perfect finale to our time in London — it felt apt and wonderful and I couldn’t have asked for a more lovely, thought-provoking, and altogether enlightening week with my classmates and instructors.

I wouldn’t have changed a thing — get excited! And remember to make the most of everything, to take advantage of each lesson, to spend time exploring a new city and all it has to offer, no matter where you go.

At this time, my class went back to Stockholm, but I stayed behind for the weekend to spend some time with friends from my home university. So that is an option! You can take an extra free weekend to stay behind or go elsewhere, since the program ends on a Friday.

Thank you so much for reading! I know there was quite a bit of text, but please do let me know if you have any questions or want me to elaborate on anything. It’s hard to capture an experience in a few words, so I am more than happy to talk more about whatever you want to hear!

Bye for now!

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