Amie in London

Amie is a sophomore majoring in communication studies in Meadows School of the Arts, with minors in fashion in media and religious studies. During summer 2011, she is participating in SMU-in-London, which focuses on communications and the arts.

Harry Potter turns into reality

Radcliffe Camera

This is our last weekend of the program, which is saddening because there are still so many sights that I want to see! We wanted to make the most out of our weekend, so we headed out to Oxford after class on Thursday.

Unfortunately, due to delays at the train station we arrived in Oxford at 5:30 instead of 2:30, when we planned on arriving. I was highly skeptical about the amount of sightseeing we could get in with only 4 and half hours left before the train left to London, but it was totally worth it.

Outside St. Catherine's College

Oxford students are currently sitting for exams during their second term (or spring semester) so we were able to meet up with a friend from SMU who is attending Oxford for the second term. She took us around the quaint and historical, yet modern city. We noticed Oxford students walking around with black capes, which are the norm since graduation season is occurring. There are commoner’s robes and scholar’s robes. Scholar’s robes are for selected students who make exceptional grades.

While walking along the streets of Oxford, our friend told us that there was an underground library – Bodleian Library, the main research library for Oxford, which holds every book published in the United Kingdom. There are numerous libraries for each of the colleges in Oxford University, but the stacks for Bodleian are located underground.

After touring the town, we were given the option of eating at a pub or returning back to Jessica’s college (St. Catherine’s) for dinner. However, she described this very differently from what an American would visualize as a standard meal at a university cafeteria.

At Oxford, breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all referred to as “hall.” After we walked into the contemporary dining hall and found our seats, a group that looked like professors walked in. They were dressed in traditional black robes, which were the inspiration for the robes in Harry Potter. The group that I thought of as professors are actually referred to as tutors or fellows. Oxford students are taught under a tutorial system that provides one-on-one interaction, and class discussions are very rare.

Once the fellows walked in, we were all summoned to stand up until they arrived at their high table. A quick few words were said in Latin and someone pounded their fist on the table, signaling the beginning of hall. Waiters then came out and presented us with our first course, followed by a second course and dessert. Although everyone was dressed casually, it felt like a very formal dinner.

Afterward we walked around the University Park, and went to a local pub that Bill Clinton frequented during his time at Oxford University. We made our train on time and arrived in London to get a good night’s rest for Wimbledon the next day!

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Great minds

We arrived early to Cambridge to take in the historical town of great minds. After leaving the train station, we migrated to a church within one of the 31 schools that Cambridge houses.

While in the church we heard some historical context of the University from SMU Professor Rita Kirk, director of the SMU-in-London program. We learned that John Harvard, although a graduate of Cambridge and a great mind, is loathed by Cambridge. Harvard borrowed many books from Cambridge’s library that began the Harvard library. Till this day, Cambridge asks Harvard for the initial books.

William Wilberforce, the main character in our common reading novel, Amazing Grace, as well as three signers of the Declaration of Independence and 80 Nobel Prize winners call Cambridge University their alma mater. These scholars all studied for three years before their final exam, or tripos. The term tripos is derived from the three-legged stool professors would sit on while students gave their oral examination. In earlier centuries, that examination was given in Latin. This significant culmination was meant to illuminate the entirety of knowledge students learned during their studies at their respective school. All of us were in awe of that idea, and many of us inquired how that type of learning would work in American colleges and universities.

We lightened the mood by exploring the quaint, yet sophisticated university town and visited many shops and markets. The abundance of fresh food and authentic gifts made us excited, as we all wanted to bring back trinkets from Cambridge.

Afterward we headed to Magdalene Bridge to embark on a Cambridge tradition, punting the cam. My first thought after I heard the phrase was football, but it is far from that. Punting the cam means to take in the sights of Cambridge from a boat, led by a punter.

The scenery was breathtaking and everything was very serene. We were able to see all of the regalia from the various May Balls that were happening throughout the campuses. May Ball is a graduation celebration that is reserved for the elite of society, and tickets start at 180 pounds (equivalent to $288).

We ended our Cambridge visit with a discussion of our common lecture novel, Amazing Grace, at The Orchard. We delved into amazing scones with homemade jelly and clotted cream along with fresh teas. The Orchard was planted in 1868 and became an ‘up-river river’ resort for Cambridge men. We ate and discussed in the same orchard that many philosophers, aristocracy, and great minds have and will continue to do for many years to come.

I’ll end this entry with the impact that Cambridge has left on the world.

“Cambridge has won more Nobel Prizes than France or Germany, and still today, as Bill Gates of Microsoft says, contains the biggest brains in the world.”

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Land of the Irish

This weekend was allotted as a travel weekend for our program, so six others along with myself traveled to Dublin, Ireland, for a two-day adventure.

We started off Friday by taking the Britrail to the port city of Holyhead and taking a ferry to Dublin.

Before boarding the ferry, our group was noting how the British aren’t the most hospitable of people, as we have become acclimated to the Southern charm of Dallas. Ironically, while on the double-decker bus from the ferry to our hostel, we encountered a group of Irish gentlemen who were beyond entertaining. They found out I was from Nashville and proceeded to sing Johnny Cash to our group, then we all sang in unison. It was quite hilarious, and a fantastic event foreshadowing our time in Dublin.

Performers at O'Shea's

After checking into our hostel, we ate at O’Shea’s, a traditional Irish pub with great food and cool live Irish music.

The next day, Saturday, was our only full day to explore the city, so we started out early and ventured to Trinity College. One of the girls in our group retraced the steps of her father, as he studied at Trinity during his undergraduate career. We then visited Dublin Castle, which was underwhelming compared to the other castles we have visited during our program. The fact that we have seen so many castles is unbelievable in itself and really reflects the extensive history of Europe that is still intact.

Visiting St. Patrick's Cathedral

We then went off to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the largest church in Ireland. Outside of the edifice is a beautiful park where we regained energy from all of our walking. Although the weather forecasted thunderstorms during our stay, it was sunny as ever. It was a nice break in the middle of our day to reflect on our thoughts and also get some great pictures.

Next stop was the Guinness Factory. From our first dinner at O’Shea’s we learned that Guinness is a way of life for the Irish and a true sense of identity. There is even a bridge shaped like a harp (Guinness’ logo) on the river. The storehouse was very interesting even with my extreme disgust toward beer. The founder of the famous brand, Arthur Guinness, signed a 9,000-year-lease that we were able to view.

At the Guinness Factory

We were taken on an interactive tour of how the stout is made. We were able to see, feel, and even taste some of the ingredients. There were floors that encompassed the history of the company, advertising, and much more. The tour culminated with a stop at the Gravity Bar that allowed a 360-degree view of Dublin.

Afterward we walked across town to the Street Performance World Championship. We saw a pretty graphic act that included putting a two-edged sword down a throat and the juggling of three sharp knives while on a nine-foot unicycle. My stomach can’t handle things of that sort, so I resorted to taking artsy photos of my surroundings.

We returned back to the O’Shea pub, where we made lovely friends. The same musician from the previous night was playing, so we had no choice but to sing and clap along with the traditional Irish songs! By the end of our two visits he referred to our group as, “Texas.” We couldn’t be more proud of that, as we left a wonderful representation of not only Texas, but also SMU.

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Trip to Edinburgh

Today we headed off to Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, as we are embarking on a 3-day tour of the country. Edinburgh is a fascinating city in itself, and we were thankfully able to spend an entire day there before heading to our hostel for a night’s rest.

We took in the sights of Edinburgh castle, which was simply beautiful. The castle, which is very much like a little city, is still in full use today by the Scottish Army. It was very surreal to see military personnel running around performing daily duties in a place I viewed as a historical landmark.

We saw the Great Hall, where celebrations were held. We were also able to see the Scottish Crown Jewels, including a crown, scepter, and sword. There was also a church within the premises that serves as a center of remembrance for any Scots who have been killed in war. Even to this day, if a Scot is killed, his name is inscribed in a book that is housed in the church.

The rest of the day was spent buying gifts, eating great food, and preparing for our weekend adventure throughout Scotland!

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Day trip to Dover

At the Cliffs of Dover

This morning we departed for the beautiful coastal town of Dover, England, famous for its castle, white cliffs, and dense history.

We first visited the actual White Cliffs of Dover, which my grandmother briefed me on before I left. The cliffs face toward continental Europe and were the brunt of attacks during wars. Because of that history, the cliffs are recently most famous due to the World War II song “(There’ll be Bluebirds) Over the White Cliffs of Dover.” We trekked up the cliffs and soaked in the simply gorgeous views. Thankfully it was a clear day and we were able to see France!

After that phenomenal experience, we headed over to explore Dover Castle, which was an experience for me and fully exposed the history geek within me. The castle is the largest in England and dates back to the 12th century. The castle covers a large area, and due to our time constraints we weren’t able to view everything. I could’ve spent an entire day there, but what I saw sufficed my history craving for the day.

Dover Castle

Our first stop was the Napoleonic war tunnels. The troops needed more barracks and store rooms, so the Royal Engineers constructed tunnels underneath the earth. Keep in mind that this type of engineering was executed during the early 1800s. That simple fact blew my mind. During World War II the tunnels emerged as there was a dire need for a bunker because of nuclear bomb scares. We were able to walk the same footsteps as Winston Churchill and Admiral Ramsay.

On our tour, the tunnels were decked out as though they were still used as a bunker. There was a mess hall, barracks, surgery room, and meeting rooms. It was literally an underground city that allowed for comfortable living.

Afterward we roamed the castle grounds, looked at some additional exhibits, and enjoyed the fantastic views. Then our entire group went down by the piers of Dover and ate a fantastic meal by the sea, and it was by far the best way to wrap up our day trip to Dover.

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Birthday celebration

SAM_1767.jpg Today was my birthday, and I’m already trying to find a way to top it for next year since this one was amazing! Our day started off at Stonehenge, which is a surreal experience. The actual structure was about 30 minutes away from our hostel, and we left extremely early in the morning to catch daybreak.

Because of our phenomenal advisers and professors on this trip, we were able to walk among the stones, an experience that many Stonehenge visitors aren’t able to partake in. It is still a mystery as to how the constructors carried massive rocks to and from the site. I’m a complete history buff, so it was a pretty epic way to start out my birthday.

Afterward we traveled to the posh city of Bath and toured the architecturally genius Roman baths. It is unbelievable how intricate the engineers were in the designing of the baths during a period where everything was manual. The baths are all located underground and enclosed within a traditional Roman edifice. The baths have been renovated many times since their origination, but the brilliance behind the initial engineers is fascinating.

SAM_1775.jpg Afterward we had lunch at the adjoining restaurant, the Pump Room, and felt quite English while doing so. Some of us ordered tea and crumpets while we all sat outside and enjoyed the talents of the street performers.

The train ride back was strictly set aside for sleeping, as we experienced the London nightlife later on. People say New York is the city that never sleeps, but they have it mistaken. Following our night out we had to ride the buses because the tube (underground transportation) closes at a certain time.

Someway, somehow, we ended up at Abbey Road, which is the title of The Beatles’ last studio-recorded album. We had no choice but to re-create the original album artwork and take many photos late into the night. And with that, my 20th birthday was complete. Celebrations mixed with history, friends, and a remarkable day across the pond.

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Amazing Grace

SAM_1669.jpg Today we visited St. Mary Woolnoth Church in Central London for our first lecture on our common reading novel, “Amazing Grace” by Eric Metaxas. The novel deals with William Wilberforce and his campaign to end slavery in England during the 1800s.

The church has been an integral part of London for almost 300 years. John Newton, the songwriter behind “Amazing Grace,” penned the universal hymn at St. Mary Woolnoth.

Our lecture was given by the director of the SMU-in-London program and Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Rita Kirk.

SAM_1674.jpg She reminded us of the vast history within the walls of the church we were sitting in. How the exact man we are reading about came here to worship and have discourse with John Newton. Wilberforce was only a college student when he first addressed slavery in an essay contest and 21 years of age when he first took office.

Wilberforce took on the institution of slavery, which has never been completely abolished throughout the world. Dr. Kirk cited numbers of present-day slavery that elicited a sense of trauma in all of us. During Wilberforce’s time, slavery was amplified much more, yet he still chose to bring down the immoral establishment.

Dr. Kirk reminded us to take intellectual responsibility of the precious time we have in the historical city of London, as we are the world’s cream of the crop. Only 4 percent of the world has a college degree, so we must use our experience to its full potential.

An amazing way to start our lectures on the common reading novel, and an even more invigorating way to appreciate our education.

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With love from London


At Hyde Park

It is currently almost 1 a.m. on a Sunday in London and I have been awake (give or take 3 hours of sleep on the plane) since 7 a.m. Central time Friday, and I still feel like I can stay awake for hours. My flight experience was not the best (kudos to Delta for making me wait a total of 6 hours for my connecting flights … not), but what matters is that I arrived safely.

My first thoughts: Everyone smokes, it looks dreary, and someone is going to get hit with these narrow streets.

However, as I ventured past Heathrow airport into the urban sphere of London, I became infatuated. Within 2 hours of exploring the city I made the decision that London surpasses New York City as an international metropolis.


Trafalgar Square

London is huge and extremely diverse, like NY, but the quaint nature, cascading trees, historical buildings, and international vibe is something that I have never experienced in the States before.

Yesterday there was a HUGE soccer match that England was playing in, so everywhere you heard fans screaming, holding flags, and singing in unison. It was fantastic to see the pride of this nation in full effect.

I’m still trying to get my bearings straight, but tomorrow will definitely help me out. I’m really going to try to write every night since experiences will be fresh in my head, but there is a FULL day planned with some amazing visits so I am off to bed!

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Summer in London

The time has finally come to pack my bags and head to London for five weeks. Time has definitely crept up, and I was able to get a stop in Nashville before making this big departure.

This trip does coincide with my 20th birthday, however, that is not the reason I’ll be in lovely London town. I am taking two courses (Post-War European Cinema and Philosophy of Freedom of Speech) within my major of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs. I’m used to filling my summers with internships and other learning experiences, but this is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will aid in the progression of my degree since I will a junior in the fall (crazy)!

We are staying at the beautiful Regents College and have some amazing professors traveling with us from SMU. The program already has trips planned to Scotland and Wales, but we are allotted two travel weekends, so I will definitely make the most of those.

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