Well, it was another full week here in London! I started lectures this week and I'm pleased to report that they are all fascinating and I'm literally on the edge of my seat the whole time. :)
On Monday, I only had a lecture at 2:00, so I popped into the British Museum for an hour or so, since, like all of the major museums in London, it's FREE! The British Museum is interesting because it has artifacts from all around the world - my tour guide during orientation said that, "The good thing about having an empire is that you get to take all sorts of stuff from your colonies and put it in your own museum." Typical Brit. They have the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles from Greece, an Egyptian tomb, and one of the world's most famous chess sets, dating back to the 10th century:
I had my first Democracy and Democratisation lecture that afternoon and it looks like it's going to be a great class since we're studying the processes and effects of democracy in countries around the world. We'll have different lecturers, each of whom is an expert in the politics of a specific region, so that's exciting! After that, I took the train to Camden to go to the Camdentown Market with a girl I had met on the boat tour. She's gluten free and had told me about a little place that makes gluten free vegan ice cream cookie sandwiches. YUM!
On Tuesday, I had two lectures: Politics and Institutions in Europe and, my personal favorite, Islamic Empires: 1400-1800. We're going to be studying the Ottoman (Turkey), Safavid (Iran), and Mughal (India) empires and the reading list is incredible. My professor is Indian and has a fantastic British accent so it really is the best combination :)
There was a lecture that night called "The Paradox of China's Peaceful Rise", so I went to that after class and some Smart Girls Group work. It's amazing how much the free lectures are a social event - the hall was packed and everyone was so excited to be there. They were taking notes, tweeting about important phrases, and were some of the most engaged students I've ever been around. I was actually sitting next to a girl who wasn't even a student here (she's in high school), but loves economics and takes advantage of the open to the public lectures. Amazing, right?
Wednesday was mostly a catch-up day, but I also had time to check out the National Gallery over in Trafalgar Square. From the portico, you get this incredible view of the Square and you can see Big Ben in the distance:
I saw a few pieces I had studied in my freshman year Art History class, including a series called "Marriage a la Mode" which is basically what happens when two rich families in the 18th century decide to marry their children who don't have any real-life skills. To sum it up, bills go unpaid, the husband has an affair, the wife takes poison, and everyone dies. The End!
The Teaching and Learning Center has lectures every Wednesday on how to make the most of your time at LSE so I went to one called Intro to Study at LSE and it was actually really interesting. Their advice on how to tackle your reading made so much sense: simply treat school like a 9-5 job and use the day to get your reading done in the library. Make a list, make a plan, and you won't be stressed and you won't pull any all-nighters (I haven't yet!). That was definitely a relief. There's an athletic apparel store down the street called Lululemon and they have a running club every Wednesday night, so I went for the first time and it was so much fun! I met a girl who goes to LSE but lives in a different dorm and it was excellent running weather - nice and cool and a little misty. We ran all along the Thames, across a few bridges, and right by the London Eye so it was sightseeing and a workout all in one!
On Thursday, I did some reading in the library in the morning. My advisor from Fordham was actually here presenting a paper at LSE so we met for coffee at a little cafe right near campus. I experienced the joy that is a cappuccino for the first time and I am hooked! It was great to see him since we've always gotten along very well and he's absolutely brilliant. He is teaching a class on Comparative Politics of the Middle East this semester and teaches a seminar I have to take in the spring so I'll be seeing him much more when I go back to Fordham. We were talking about post-grad plans and he wants me to look into applying for a Fulbright or the Pickering Fellowship since I'm looking into foreign service or diplomacy work. I showed him all around campus and he wants to encourage more people to apply to LSE to study abroad!
I had my first lecture for my class called "From Empire to Independence" and WOW is it going to be amazing! The whole class is about twentieth century history, but from a non-European perspective, so we'll be looking at Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, etc. and examining how the idea of development contributed to the history of the twentieth century. My professor is an expert on Japan, interestingly enough, so he'll be giving next week's lecture and I can't wait! I had my first seminar for my Democracy class and I love how small the class is: only 7 of us! This is when we go into more depth about what we learned in lecture and have discussions, so I'm really looking forward to it.
I don't have class on Fridays, but I still spent much of the day in the library so I could get ahead for the weekend. Did you know that LSE numbers every single study spot and you can reserve your favorite spot up to two weeks ahead of time? They also have an entire section for bean bag chairs on the lower ground floor, so they're definitely committed to making your library experience special. :) I took a break to get a cappuccino in the afternoon and it was gorgeous out, so I sat outside and people-watched for a little while:
As I was having lunch, I ran into a girl from my orientation group and we were talking about what we were doing that evening, and we actually decided to have the classically-British experience of getting tea at Harrods! We met up when we were done in the library and headed out to Kensington.
Now, this was probably the most refined, lovely experience I have had since being here. There is absolutely nothing like tea at Harrods. We took the train to Knightsbridge and there it was, right in front of us! Harrods is a super high-end (as in, I will never be able to afford anything there in my entire life) department store and it is HUGE. We went up to the third floor and The Tea Room was right there. We queued for only about five minutes before we were taken to a table right in the middle of the room, which was so beautifully decorated. We immediately decided on tea with scones and clotted cream and jam, since my friend (who completed her Masters at LSE) said that that was her favorite. We chose a milk oolong tea recommended by our server and it wasn't long before it arrived. The china was pristine, the tea came in a silver tea pot, and there was a little strainer to place over your tea cup as you poured your tea since it was a loose-leaf tea. What a treat! It had a creamy, warm flavor and was quite refreshing. Then came the scones. Oh my god, the scones were divine! Scones can be so tricky, as you know, since they're either too dry and crumbly, or too dense, but these were utter perfection. It was a plate of two - one plain and one with dried fruit - so we each had a half and spread them thickly with our little dishes of clotted cream and sampled jams from the selection they gave us. I was in utter bliss!
I savored every last crumb until they were gone, and it was such a treat! We walked through Kensington along Hyde Park since we had wanted to pick up a few things at Whole Foods, and it was a beautiful day so the sunset was incredible.
Yesterday (Saturday) was another big day, as it was my trip to Stonehenge and Bath! We met at the tube station at 7:45 am (yes, you read that correctly!) and took the bus 2.5 hours into Bath. I had been kept up by rowdy neighbors the previous night so I mostly slept on the way up… The village of Bath is so quaint and historic and full of pubs and patisseries, and then of course, there is the Roman Bath.
It was built by the Romans when they were in England and is the oldest surviving one in Britain. The water in this main pool is over 120 degrees and is actually not very clean anymore, so you can't drink it. There is, however, a spring you can drink from and it's full of minerals and has a really interesting taste so I think I drank about a week's worth of minerals! The most surreal thing is that I actually got to walk on paths and stones that the ROMANS walked on over 2,000 years ago. Is that crazy or what? They have all kinds of coins on display and statues of the goddess to whom the bath is dedicated, and is such a well done museum.
From there, we took the bus about an hour into the countryside to Stonehenge which was incredible! The English countryside is probably one of the most beautiful places I've ever been - so clean, and quiet, and the sky is so blue, and it was so peaceful. Seeing Stonehenge was also incredibly surreal because it was created thousands of years ago and the technology and engineering that went into its creation was so advanced for its time.
My friends and I had time leftover, so we actually walked back along a path to the visitors center, rather than take the bus, since it was such a beautiful day outside. Also, there are so many sheep! I really enjoyed that haha :)
It was another 2.5 hours to get back, but by that point the majority of us were fast asleep on the bus. Needless to say, I slept like a baby that night!
I've been having so much fun exploring the area and living like a Londoner, complete with a trench coat, so it was a great week and I'm even more settled in!
Inspired to be,