Well, it seems I have failed to be timely yet again. In my last post, I said I hoped this update wouldn’t have to cover a week and a half of activities. Unfortunately, this one covers two full weeks. A lot has happened in the fortnight it’s been since my last update (hence my inability to post before now), but I’m going to do my best to cover everything as concisely as possible without leaving out any of the juicy details. I’ve also recalled a few things I failed to mention from the first week simply because it was so jam-packed with busy-ness, so I’ll try to cover those things too.
The day after my last post was a Sunday, so I’ll start by talking about the churches we’ve visited so far. The first Sunday we were here, we attended service at All Souls, an Anglican church, which I mentioned briefly in my last post. The Sunday after, which was the Sunday immediately following my last post, we attended service at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church. This past Sunday, we attended service at St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is High Anglican, meaning it was very similar to a Catholic church. These three services were a scheduled part of the London Semester Program. From here on out, though, our Sundays are completely free, so we can choose for ourselves where we would like to attend.
The Monday following my last post was the start of our second week of classes. I barely talked about the first week of classes in my last post, but there’s no better time than the present, so I’ll do it now. We are taking five classes while we are here in London. Three of them are being taught by British professors: London History and Culture, Theatre Appreciation, and Art Appreciation. The other two are taught by the two Mississippi College professors who are here with us: Landscape and Legend in British Literature and Elementary Statistics. For all five of our classes, we are given assignments that require us to visit various galleries and museums around the city and look at certain exhibits in order to answer the questions our professors give us. We also go on “course related excursions” (CREs) for each of our classes. For example, our art teacher takes us to a museum or art gallery each week after class and shows us a few of the pieces there, telling us all about their history and purpose.
For our theatre class CREs, we get to see lots of plays. So far, we have seen The 39 Steps, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Little Light, A View from the Bridge, and The Grand Tour. Every play we’ve seen so far has been absolutely phenomenal. We have had the chance to see a lot of very talented actors perform. After seeing A View from the Bridge, I even stayed after and got the autograph of the lead actor, who just so happened to be Mark Strong.
Tomorrow night, we’ll be seeing Man and Superman, and I’m sure it will be equally wonderful. Never in my life have I gotten to experience so much great theatre, and it’s really given me a new appreciation for it as an art form. I intend to see more plays when I get back to the States.
The Tuesday after my last post was our first “open day,” meaning no events were scheduled, so we were free to do whatever we wanted. I spent that day exploring Camden Market, which is a lot like a big flea market. It’s a huge conglomerate of street vendors. I had so much fun that day.
I’ve noticed I always have a ton of fun when I go shopping here in London. I’ve always liked shopping, but I’ve never been quite this passionate about it. London is just a really fantastic place for shopping. I also spent the last two Friday afternoons after class shopping. Last Friday, I visited the M&M Factory (a huge store full of only M&M-related things); this past Friday, I went to Hamley’s (a huge toy store).
The Saturday after my last post, aka Saturday a week ago, was Valentine’s Day, so we got to go to a concert and see an orchestra perform classical love songs live. It was beautiful. This past week, of course, we had another full week of classes, complete with museum, gallery, and play outings. More interestingly, though, we moved out of the hotel this week and into homestay. For the next few weeks, I am living with a British family in a suburb of London. This means I have to get up earlier in the morning because it takes almost an hour to get to class from here, but it’s much nicer than staying in the hotel. In homestay, we have dependable wifi and home-cooked dinners, and the family I’m staying with is super cool. Not much more one could ask for, in my opinion.
Yesterday, we went on another day trip, this time to Dover and Canterbury. We saw the Dover Castle, and I even got to walk on its roof, which was absolutely incredible (I had been wanting to walk on a roof for a long time, and to walk on a castle roof was doubly awesome). Then, we went down to Dover Beach, where I collected a few rocks to take home and thought of the Matthew Arnold poem of the same name (“Ah, love, let us be true to one another!”). After Dover, we went to Canterbury and toured the cathedral, which ended up being my favorite part of the day. I saw the candle that burns where Thomas Becket’s shrine used to be (before King Henry VIII had it destroyed after Becket, who had been dead for 600 years, failed to show up for his trial). I think yesterday was my favorite day of the trip so far.
The biggest difficulty I have had these past two weeks is finding time to be alone. If I don’t have some time to myself now and then, I find myself becoming exhausted and grumpy. Hopefully now that I am in homestay with only two other students rather than at the hotel with the whole group, I’ll be able to get away sometimes and just spend some time alone. I have already made plans to spend my next open day alone. That will be Saturday the 7th of March, and I’m planning to attend an AFC Wimbledon football game (football as in what we call soccer in America). I’m also hoping to visit places like the bridges over the Thames River soon, both in the daytime and at night so I can see them lit up.
Got ideas for other places I should make sure and visit while I’m here? Let me know! Any and all suggestions are welcome. Thanks for reading!