LONDON: Week I

Well, I'm here!!!!  The moment I've been waiting for for the past 7 months is finally here!

I moved into my flat (LSE residence hall) on Sunday and it's one of the closest dorms to campus.  It's a few blocks away from the tube, several grocery stores, and some decent chain restaurants (they're big on chain restaurants around here, but they're quite good!).  High Holborn is organized in flats of five or so people sharing a kitchen and bathroom, and each person has a sink in their room.  Here's the weird thing, though: you can't drink the water in the bathroom sink or in your sinks because it's collected rain water!  How's that for being sustainable?  :)  You can drink the water in the kitchen, of course, so I have a nice filtered pitcher that is my new best friend.  Here's a picture of my room:

It's got a ton of storage (the year I become a minimalist!) and is one of the refurbished rooms so it's brand new and very clean!

 

On Monday, I ventured onto campus for the first time.  It's definitely more "urban"-esque than Fordham is, meaning it's not a huge sprawling campus, but I'm liking the atmosphere.  I checked out the student services fair and walked around a bit before I headed to Kensington to run some errands.  I went to the Whole Foods there and it's HUGE!  It's one of the largest Whole Foods and is stocked with literally everything I could ever need; there's an entire wall of chocolate.  Kensington is the "Royal Borough" and I think Mom said she saw Princess Diana there when she was studying abroad, so that should give you an idea haha.  It has a lot of high-end shops and is gorgeous.  

 

Tuesday was a fun day since there was a big welcome presentation for all of the General Course (study abroad) students on campus.  I have a friend from my summer at Andover here, as well as a guy I worked with when we were on a State Student Advisory Council on Education I did senior year.  Immediately after that was the boat cruise on the River Thames for all of the GC students, which was such a fun night!  I have a slight obsession with night views of cities so seeing everything lit up was absolutely incredible:

IMG_2548.jpg

On Wednesday, the Government department had a little welcome session for all its students so I got to hear from the tutors and current students and get an idea of what the program is like.  That evening was even more fun because I went on a scavenger hunt around the city!  My friend Dave (the guy I knew from State BOE) was on my team and we had to answer a bunch of trivia questions like finding out how many capsules are on the London Eye, how late the National Gallery is open on Fridays, what's on tap at the Sherlock Holmes pub, etc.  We came in 4th place, so we didn't win anything but we had fun running around the city for a little while!

 

Thursday was super busy since it was the Freshers' Fair that morning.  Unlike Fordham, which has their club fair around the quad and you can amble as you please, you have to wait in line (queue!) to get into the Students' Union to view all of the clubs.  I was in line for about an hour, but I didn't mind since I made friends with a guy from Canada who's doing a one year master's in Philosophy and Politics.  There are soooo many clubs here but I think I'm going to do Model UN, Women Leaders of Tomorrow (less active than Model UN) and I signed up for the emails from the running club so I can find some good running routes around here.  I also went to a training session given by the library which was quite exciting. The library is ENORMOUS!  It's the largest library of social science in the world and is absolutely gorgeous.  There's a big spiral staircase right in the middle that winds up and up to the different floors, so it's this beautiful open floor plan.  The curriculum at LSE is such that you have an hour of lecture and an hour of seminar per class per week, which amounts to 8 "contact hours" per week.  That may not seem like a lot but you're expected to do a ton of independent studying and reading, and it basically allows you to pursue your own interests.  You're given a reading list of about 80 or so books per class, as well as the topics for the final exam and essays for the course, but you have a choice for all of them, which I love!  You can make the class whatever you want, so that's going to be fun.  The library is so well-equipped because you're encouraged to spend a lot of time there, so there's an entire section with bean bag chairs, cafes, self check-out, no late fees, a borrowing period of 3 days for course books and 3 months for regular collection books with indefinite renewals, and designated zones depending on what you need (silent, quiet, and group).  You can even reserve study spots ahead of time and the library is open 24 hours during the Lent and Summer terms.  WOW!  That definitely merited a training session, right? :)

 

I had a group meeting with my advisor after that, and then we all had General Course registration.  Now, you would think that the London School of Economics would have moved past a circa-1980 registration method, but…. my (new thanks to registration!) friends and I were queuing for over two hours!  The queue started at the seventh floor (which is basically like the eighth floor because there's the ground floor and then the first floor) and ended in a big hall where they scanned your passport and then handed you your ID.  Yup, that was IT!  I actually didn't mind because I met a really nice girl from my program, and a guy who's at American University and we bonded quite a bit.  

 

That evening was a tour of the South Bank and a ride on the London Eye!  I found out that the London Eye has 32 capsules and it's entirely clear, so you basically float above the Thames and get the most gorgeous views.  Then, we had a walking tour of the South Bank which is right on the Thames and includes the Tate Modern Art museum, the Globe Theatre, and some great restaurants.  It was also a pub crawl (my first pub crawl!) and a friend introduced me to "shandy" which is sprite and stout and is soooo good!  I got a half pint which was the perfect amount.  I only made it to 2 out of the 3 pubs and I don't know how people do this regularly!  I could barely handle the half pint and a birthday shot and that was only at the first pub! (I got chips at the second pub haha).

Friday was a very quiet day, as I had a ton of work for Smart Girls Group, SamePage, and the political review to catch up on, but I did venture out a bit to get some hangers from Primark.  I had to order a silverware set from Amazon as I'm still using just one plastic fork that I stealthily stole from Pret a Manger because I could only find 4 person sets for about 24 pounds and who needs that much, right?  Hopefully they'll come soon!  I also spent some time at this amazing bookshop called Foyer's which is the intellectual's dream come true.  It's about 6 stories and has everything you can think of - I spent some time in the religion and history section this time.  

 

Saturday was suuuuch a busy day!  I had signed up for a "Perfect Day in London" tour and it really was the perfect day.  I got up at 7, did some yoga, and left around 8:15 to meet the group at the St. James Park tube station. Well, the District line was shut down where I normally change, so I had to go all the way back on the Central Line, switch to Victoria, and take that a few stops down, and then sprint to where we needed to meet.  I was wide awake after that!  We started out at Westminster Abbey, and I hope I can do it justice here.  It was built in 1066 by Edward the Confessor who is the patron saint of England and is one of the most incredible places I've ever been:

There are so many little chapels and tombs and famous people buried there and I could have spent the day there!  The coronation chair is there and was built in the 1200's and used to house the Stone of Scotland which the Brits stole and kept to show their dominance over Scotland.  They returned it eventually but I think they take it back for every coronation.  I saw the tombs of Elizabeth I, the Princes in the Tower, Henry VII, Charles Dickens, Sir Isaac Newton, Lewis Carroll, Jane Austen, Edmund Halley, and so many more!  At every hour, they announce a moment of silence and a short prayer so I actually got to say a prayer in Westminster Abbey!  WOW.

 

After that, we got caught in the rain (guess who wore a denim jacket and forgot an umbrella?  Rookie mistake haha) on our way to Buckingham Palace, but we got to see a bit of the changing of the guard!  It was super crowded, but it didn't take away from the beauty and precision of it all.  The new guard comes out the left side of the palace road and is led by this amazing marching band (with a tenor sax!) and the footmen all wear the quintessential bearskin hats.  

We made our way to Westminster Pier after that, where we boarded a riverboat to the Tower of London.  Let's just say it was a veeerrryyy cold and wet ride :)

The Tower of London isn't just a tower like I though - it's an enormous fortress built in the 1100s and is actually state of the art military technology at the time.  It was pretty much impenetrable!  Right now, they have a display for the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI, so they're placing 888,264 ceramic poppies out the Tower and onto where the moat used to be to commemorate the British forces who died.  Poppies spring up in the harshest and most desolate environments, so they've actually been found at major battlefields:

We saw the scaffold where Anne Boleyn and Katharine Howard were both executed, along with other high-profile prisoners, and we got to see the Crown Jewels!  They've been used since 1660, when they were recommissioned following the Civil War.  The Crown Jewels contain the largest diamond ever found from the Cullinan Diamond Mine in South Africa.  It's 540 karats and is so beautiful!  The doors guarding the area where they are displayed are over 2,000 kilos each.  Basically, don't ever try to steal them.  They have footage from Queen Elizabeth II's coronation from 1953, and did you know that if she lives through next year, she'll outtake Queen Victoria for the longest-serving monarch in England?

 

We spent the afternoon around the Tower and we ventured into the armoury and saw the weapons and armor used by most of the kings of England.  Did you know that it's the longest-running visitor exhibition in the world?  We toured and toured and toured and when I finally made it back around 6:30 I was EXHAUSTED!  What a fun day, though!

Well, that's what I was up to for my first week in London!

Inspired to be,

Katherine