Elizabeth in London2010

Elizabeth is a senior journalism major and photography minor in Meadows School of the Arts. In fall 2010, she is studying at the University of Westminster in London with an Institute for Study Abroad (IFSA) program, in partnership with SMU Abroad.

Touring the Tower of London

I’ve created a video from a tour of the Tower of London, which includes a story of King Henry VII, a display of the crown jewels, the chapel of St. John the evangelist, and an exhibit on torture procedures in the tower.

Watch the video here.

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London Calling (Part 2)

If you survived yesterday’s tale, congratulations. Let’s pick up where we left off: Like anything in life, sometimes the hardest thing isn’t having a dream, it’s narrowing down your dream. Just saying that you’re going to do something doesn’t necessarily mean that you will. You have to put some action to the words. That may mean planning for years before stepping out on a limb, or it may mean ditching the planning process and taking a leap of faith. (I’ve done both at various times.) In this case, I can’t just pick up and move. There was a lot of planning involved. Well, planning and paperwork.

After perusing all of the potential universities in England, there were some very clear indicators that helped me narrow down where to go. First, I knew I wanted to go to school in London, thus ruling out Oxford and Cambridge, which are in a different part of England. Second, the school needed to have a program for the fall term, instead of only offering the spring term or a full-year program. My first choice of universities was actually the London College of Communications under the University of the Arts. But, alas, they did not offer a fall term for study abroad students. Third, the school had to have my major and minor. I was not going to live in London and NOT take a photo class. So though the London College of Communications was not an option, Westminster was not a bad second choice. In fact, little did I know that Westminster is renowned for their journalism program (or so I’ve been told).

I’ll take this moment to interrupt our regularly scheduled storytelling for a brief tidbit of wisdom. Sometimes the first option is not the best one. Many times a door must close before the better door opens. I love how Alexander Graham Bell said it: “When one door closes, another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us.”

So I chose Westminster. And here’s where the door I chose to go through gets really cool. I’ve lived in a house with a ton of people all of my life. I’m the fourth of six children, so there is a constant flurry of noise, people, dogs and music. I’m not complaining. I love my life. I love my home. But when moving to London, I really wanted to avoid having a roommate. (You never know how psycho they’ll turn out to be.) A host family wasn’t really an option, and I was looking forward to having my own space. But housing for university students in London is a luxury – contrary to our American “college-dormitory-for-every-student” philosophy.

I received my housing placement a few weeks ago, and I have been awarded housing at the Harrow campus of Westminster. Harrow is the only actual campus of the Westminster establishments. Every other location is a collection of flats in downtown London and you must commute to your classes all over the city. I’ll be living about 20 minutes via the underground tube from downtown London. I have my own bedroom and bathroom and will share a kitchen and common area with six other students in my flat. It’s the perfect setup: close – but not too close – to downtown and my own space. Also, the campus is quite new.

Looking ahead one month from now, I’ll be setting foot on British soil. (Remember, I’ll be spending my first two weeks abroad in Spain.) There are quite a few things I’m excited to do and see while I’m living abroad. Here are a few in no particular order: seeing all of the ways that I can spice up (pun intended) British cuisine; shopping at local markets; getting off of the typical tourist’s path and discovering various parts of the city; museums, lots and lots of museums; food in general; attending the theater, symphony and several music shows by native British artists (i.e. Imogen Heap at Royal Albert Hall); getting plugged into a community of people in a local church in London; making new friends; reading Jane Austen and not having to imagine the locale; living in one of the busiest, most diverse cities in the world where culture is thick and history is rich.

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London Calling (Part I)

There are only two weeks, one day and one hour until I leave for London. For those of you who don’t yet know the story, or for those of you who love me enough to read a story you’ve already heard, welcome to the tale of “How-the-heck-I-wound-up-leaving-the-great-(albeit hot)-state-of-Texas-to-go-live-in-London.”

Here’s where the story begins. For just a moment, forget that I’m 21 years old and pretend like I’m 16 again. If you didn’t know me then, I was just coming out of my awkward phase that lasted about three years. It was somewhere between my 16-year-old self beginning dual-credit college classes and getting my first job that a dream appeared in my heart: study abroad in London.

I say it appeared because I swear I didn’t think it up. In fact, I have no earthly idea where the idea came from. And that is how I know it was God-given. Side note: There are people who get what we Christians call a “Thus Sayeth the Lord” (with King James’ pattern of speech and all). But there are others who get a small, quiet (or strong and loud inside) desire to be or do or say something. The big dreams in my heart have been given by God, but they come in the form of quietly knowing what I’m supposed to do – like London.

Fast-forward four years. I’m 20 and now about to enter my junior year of college. After a miraculous turn of events, I begin attending Southern Methodist University. (I did my first two years of college at a community college in Dallas.) I’m majoring in journalism, and I somewhat randomly chose photography as a minor so that I wouldn’t have to stay in school longer than absolutely necessary. My only two criteria when looking for a school was that they have my major and have a study abroad program where I could go to school in England.

In addition to SMU being an absolutely incredible school (have you seen their college rankings recently?!) and the fact that SMU felt as though it was tailored for me, it fit my two criteria perfectly. In fact, until the year I transferred, SMU had only been doing a summer in London program. The semester that I transferred in, they began partnering with the Institute for Study Abroad through Butler University to allow students to select a school in the UK at which to study for a semester or a whole year.

I knew this was perfect for me. I could have my pick of the British Universities: Cambridge, Oxford, City, Westminster, University of London and tons of others. It wasn’t long after transferring that I stopped into the international office at SMU to declare my intentions to go to London. They throughly supported me and have been so helpful along the journey.

So the countdown has begun and so has my little (ahem, long) story.

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