Alan in London

Alan, a junior from Austin Texas, is majoring in economics and foreign language. He is spending the 2006-07 school year studying at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Ok Ok, I know it’s been quite awhile since my last entry but so much has happened in the last four weeks. Currently, LSE is in the middle of its Easter holiday, which is a five-week long break between its Lent term and the Summer term, when exams are held. During these five weeks, much can be accomplished in terms of studying for exams, but most tend to get away for a little bit before hitting the books. As for me, I spent a week in Scotland and also traveled to Geneva, Switzerland for several days before returning to London.

SCOTLAND
My first week of break, I went up to Scotland with a friend and stayed in Edinburgh. Being in London for so long, it was nice to get out of the city for awhile. The train system in the UK is very extensive, very convenient, and if you buy early, quite cheap as well. In addition, you get to see more of the British countryside, which is quite a contrast to the skyscrapers of London. Based in Edinburgh, we took two tours (these are daily tours that take you to the highlands to the West and North of Edinburgh) to see the Scottish countryside. Our first surprise, snow! Some parts of Scotland, even in late March and early April are still covered in snow. Being the lone Texan on board, it was quite a shock to see the tour guide walking around in a short-sleeve shirt. Their tolerance for cold weather is certainly way above mine.

I think one of the most interesting things about Scotland is its history. Throughout the tour, the guide talked about the history of Scotland, its sometimes violent conflict with England, and the famous figures that most Americans seem to jumble all together. From William Wallace to Mary Queen of Scots, it was fascinating to hear the continuous history that eventually led to the creation of the United Kingdom. Even Hollywood was incorporated into the tales, with Mel Gibson and Braveheart to Scarlett Johansson and the upcoming movie on Mary, Queen of Scots. Scotland also remains, to a certain extent, a separate state, with its own Parliament and can even print its own version of the pound sterling. I was able to find one with Jack Nicklaus on the back as a tribute to the British Open.

But, the most incredible thing about Scotland was its natural beauty. From Loch Ness, the famous lake, to Glencoe, Scotland has an endless stretch of natural beauty that was wonderful to see. The weather was cooperative when we were there and it provided for some incredible photos.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
My second trip of the break was to Switzerland and the beautiful city of Geneva. Located in the French speaking portion of Switzerland (an opportunity for me to practice my French), the city is built around a lake that Switzerland shares with France and is surrounded by the Alps. Being one of the few countries in Western Europe to not use the euro, Switzerland operates by using the Swiss franc, which is one of the most colorful currencies that I have ever seen. There are also four national languages in Switzerland (French, German, Italian, and Romansh), which made many signs very interesting to read, although most signs in Geneva are printed in French only.

Geneva is a very important international center, with the United Nations and many other international organizations being located there. But my impression of the city is one that is very relaxed, where the locals make time in their day to sit by the lake, to take a coffee break with a friend, or to throw a Frisbee in the park. It seemed like everywhere we went, there were people relaxing in the middle of the day. Men and women in business attire would sit on one of the many piers for lunch and stay there for hours. It was the perfect place to take a vacation!

LONDON IN BLOOM
Spring time in London is why I came to London. The weather has been spectacular, just unbelievable how much difference a couple of months make. This last week has seen all sunny days with temperatures in the high 60s (Fahrenheit) and lows in the low 60s. You simply cannot resist going to Hyde Park and bringing lunch or a Frisbee to spend the afternoon. Londoners are also out in force during these great days. Hyde Park was filled with people out to enjoy their day, with people bring footballs (or what we call soccer balls), badminton, and many other activities to do for the afternoon. I finally got to put on those pair of shorts that I brought way back in September. Hopefully, this will last for the rest of the time I am here because now is also the time for revision. With exams in a few weeks, it is hard to balance enjoying London life with studying. But, all the work now comes with the knowledge that there is still so much left to enjoy. Until next time, Cheers!

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