Have you ever heard the phrase “Nobody comes to London for the food or the weather?” Well, it’s definitely true. However, living in one of the world’s largest cities with a whopping population of 7.5 million people makes this experience a very cultural one.
Nostalgically gazing back on my previous semester abroad in Italy, it comes as a relief to currently be in a city where English is the native language. Everything you could ever possibly need is compacted into this one city. Trying different foods from all around the world is only a few Tube stops away, and hearing more than two or three different languages while strolling through Piccadilly Circus becomes the norm. Speaking of the Tube, Charles Tyson Yerkes was a genius for helping construct such an amazing means of transportation. It’s incredibly easy to use, but just stay far away from it during rush hour and on the weekends unless you enjoy claustrophobia.
Although the English pound dominates the American dollar, London is kind enough to offer free entrance into the majority of its museums. I can’t count how many times I have visited the Tate Modern to stare at Warhol and the remarkable art of Gilbert & George, but by far my favorite has to be the British Museum. Being able to walk into world renowned museums — for free only adds to the knowledge London study abroad students can o-tain during their out-of-class time. There is so much education being offered not only inside the classrooms but outside as well.
In my Shakespeare course we not only read and analyzed a play, but then went and saw it performed by an all-male cast. I can’t imagine seeing Taming of the Shrew without Kate being a buff spiky-haired man in a short dress resembling young Madonna or Cindi Lauper.
There is another type of knowledge I am given the chance to absorb, and that’s having the opportunity to learn about myself and about the millions of different types of people living around me. I am slowly becoming educated in foreign cultures through the friends I have made, the major one being my roommate, Tina, who is Bulgarian. Being housed with a foreign student whose second language is English made me feel anxious and nervous. I was told to live in a room with a girl I have never met before, from an entirely different country, who has completely different customs. Looking back, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have learned so much about her culture, language, family, life and views on the world. We love the fact that although we seem so different, we are completely the same in so many ways.
Learning outside the classroom is possible just by visiting another city or country. France, Scotland and Ireland are all beautiful, but the one place that caught my eye and the eyes of fellow Rider friends, who are abroad in London as well, was Greece. Last week six of us were gallivanting around sunny, warm Greece soaking in as much knowledge, sun and food as possible, knowing we wouldn’t be returning for a long time after, or ever.
In Athens we gazed at artifacts dating back to 86 B.C., saw the Parthenon and visited The Temple of Olympian Zeus where one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, The Statue of Zeus at Olympia, supposedly sat. Since spring break is really supposed to be about relaxation, we decided to spend a day on Poros and Aegina, two of the Greek islands, but upon returning to Athens we couldn’t help but be fascinated by all of the history we were soaking in that no classroom could ever supply us with.