Sarah, London

Sarah is a junior majoring in journalism and art history in Meadows School of the Arts. During summer 2011, she is participating in SMU-in-London.

Westminster Abbey Services

When I walked into Westminster Abbey yesterday, I thought I was attending the Royal Wedding. Sadly, Prince William and Kate were nowhere to be found (probably because they are on their honeymoon.)

Westminster Abbey

Although the churches in Italy were probably some of the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever seen, this Gothic church took my breath away. Instead of just walking the perimeter and takin the typical photo outside to show you’ve been there, a group of us attended the Sunday service. While the worship was not too out of the ordinary, still saying the Apostle’s Creed and the Lord’s prayer, two things were particularly interesting to me. One being that almost everything was sung. And second, the officiant said a prayer for the Royal Family. Yes, I understand that the monarchy is very important to the Brits, but it would be absurd (and probably infuriate a lot of folks) if we said a prayer for Obama. But, I am pleased to say that I have now attended church in the Vatican AND Westminster Abbey.

After we took the incredibly necessary photo in front of the Abbey, we had some free time to explore, during which we went to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park. Not familiar with this? Well, here people are allowed to speak on any subject matter on Sundays as long as they are at least two feet off the ground. People who were going to be executed used to say their final words here and then were killed in the park. It was neat to see that people still take advantage of free speech and can debate such issues in public. I’m not sure how this would fly in America…I’m pretty sure there would be fist fights breaking out left and right. The issue being discussed while I observed was over religion – shocking, right? A Muslim man appeared to be refuting what three men were saying about Christianity and the Bible. Although he was causing a scene, he rebutted in a tasteful manner.

A view of Parliament from the Thames River

Later in the afternoon we took a boat tour down the Thames (pronounced Tims). Though it was a little chilly, it was still a lovely time. We went by the London Bridge, which looks stable and not falling anytime soon, and saw the soon-to-be world’s largest building made of glass, Parliament, the eye of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the traitor’s gate (the old prison where people were executed) and a few other landmarks.

Tomorrow we are going to the Imperial War Museum.

Cheers!

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Great First Day

‘Ello mates!

I am THRILLED to say I have safely made it over the pond and successfully navigated through London on my first day! Though, I am hesitant to use the word successfully.

Leaving D/FW airport was a breeze, though our flight was delayed an hour. And going through customs and getting our luggage took a grand total of 10 minutes. Side note: This is already a success in comparison to my study abroad in Italy last summer when American Airlines lost my luggage for 32 hours and I was reluctant to pack a change of clothes in my carry-on.

I’ll skip over the boring part about waiting for the group and checking into the dorms. Needless to say, Rachael is my roomie for the trip. It feels like we are back to freshman year checking into McElvaney. Except, we are in London, even though it still hasn’t hit me.

I am shocked at how easy it was to find our way places our first day. And, we went to a loooooottt of places. Our first stop was to the phone store. This was a sight: approximately 20 droopy-eyed, yawning and slightly disheveled Americans came in like gangbusters ready to buy their European phones. Being the largest amount of people the phone store has ever had in at one time, the two agents were quick on their feet to document the historic moment. As one whipped out his iPhone and the other hustled to get his iPad, the two videoed and photographed the group to put on their Facebook page. I can only imagine what we looked like, because to me, it felt like Christmas morning as I was handed my brand new Sony Ericson phone.

Next stop: Primmark.

Spare yourself if you can. It was AWFUL, worse than Black Friday. As Rachael would say, “To put it lightly, it was like a zoo.” People were darting back and forth, running up the escalators, pulling shirts off the rack and throwing them with the towels. The salesclerks were rude (they probably hate being there as much as we do) and the natives just look at Americans like we are stupid. To make matters worse: it was stinky. My schnozzle did not enjoy the aroma. Never again will I shop there. Whatever I need, I’m sure I can find else where.

Then, the highlight of my day. After a delicious Italian dinner paid for by SMU (woohoo!) a group of us headed to the tube…unchaperoned. The tube is equivalent to the subway; so once you’ve taken it a few times, you know it like the back of your hand.

The Tube

Well, we made it to the tube and determined which train to take without a problem.

As the train arrived and the doors opened, we rushed to board knowing that in less than one  minute the doors would shut. As I stepped onto the tube, I looked back to see Rachael and my  new friend Liz about to be chopped off by the closing door, which didn’t appear to be stopping  even though something was clearly in the way. Luckily Liz and Rachael made it past the door, but Rachael’s Primmark bag was jammed halfway in the door…and the tube was rapidly moving along.

Because we are Americans, our group of seven burst into laughter. Tears stream down our  faces as we watch Rachael collapse to the floor grabbing at the remnants of her paper bag. If I hadn’t used the restroom before we left dinner, then we would’ve had another problem on our hands (or should I say pants?). Earlier today, we learned that the tube was supposed to be silent, and native Londoners do not appreciate obnoxious Americans. Too bad we enjoy ourselves.

Naturally, it was a great bonding moment.

In an odd and unexpected way, today was great and I know tomorrow will be even better. I don’t want to give too much away, but tomorrow’s adventures include Speaker’s Corner and Westminster Abbey.

Until then, cheerio!

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Today is the day!

9:53 a.m. and my bags are packed and I’m ready to go.

Too bad my flight does not leave until 7:45 p.m.

I received an email this morning from professors who are already settled in near Prince William and Kate saying that their flight was delayed five hours due to the volcanic ash from Iceland. If that happens to my flight, I will NOT be a happy camper. I’m ready to put on my oversized hat and walk among the Brits.

In comparison to my explorations last summer, I feel more prepared this year (probably because I have the language down pat…as opposed to the Italian I tried to understand last summer). I have two rolling suitcases filled with an array of trendy, comfy (which I prefer to call “study clothes”) and theater clothes. Instead of four pairs of wedges, I only packed one. Although, it was hard to leave the others in my closet. My cameras are charged and I believe I packed five different adapters and converters. Who would’ve thought that adapters would be my new obsession…adapters?! Oh well, at least I can charge all 15 gadgets at the same time.

With that being said, I can’t wait to see you on the other side of the pond!

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Summer is here

On May 27 I will depart from the land of the free and the home of the brave and immerse myself in the Old Country for more than 50 days. Once I make it over the “big pond,” I will be studying in London for a six weeks, taking side trips to Amsterdam, Scotland and Munich, and then traveling with my bud Rachael for an additional few weeks.

If you’re free for the next six weeks, pack your bags and come along! Or, if you can’t make it, let your imagination travel with me as I visit sites such as Westminster Abbey, taste Italian pastas and feel the cool Mediterranean sea under my feet!

Once I’ve had my fair share of History & Philosophy of Free Speech and The Mass Media in Great Britain: Politics Pin-ups & Propaganda, I’ll have my last cup of tea and run with the bulls (just kidding!). However, Rachael’s and my first stop is Barcelona. After three relaxing days of site-seeing in the Gothic Corner and tomamos el sol “taking in the sun” (the one phrase I remember from six years of Spanish), we will head to Italy. Though I’ve been there before, it will be Rachael’s first time. Thus, I thought it was only necessary to climb to the top of the Duomo in Florence and take a gondola ride through the canals of Venice. Once we’ve had our fun there, we are headed to Lake Como, which will be a first for me! Next stop: Zurich, Switzerland…I hope I have enough money by the time we get here! If my wallet isn’t empty after that, we are finishing our rendezvous in Paris!

If you’ve been to any of these places and recommend restaurants, museums or shops, please leave a comment!

…See you in London!

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