As I near the end of my study abroad experience, I’ve been reflecting on all the amazing things I’ve seen, done, or experienced in my time here. Since arriving in September, I’ve been beyond lucky in what I’ve been able to do and I like to think that I was meant to be in London at this point in my life (and this point in history). With all this reflection, I thought I would write up some of the best things that have happened either to me while I’ve been here, or that have happened while I’ve been in London. It was ridiculously hard choosing these memories, and I know that by the time I finish writing this, I will probably have experienced so many more. With that in mind, enjoy!
“Coming to London, I was thrilled to be surrounded by so much theatre (I would be lying if I didn’t say that all the theatre was one of the large draws for me to come study in London).”
Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE the theatre, so naturally, that’s where I’m starting. Coming to London, I was thrilled to be surrounded by so much theatre (I would be lying if I didn’t say that all the theatre was one of the large draws for me to come study in London). I have been lucky enough to see several shows while here (I have a spreadsheet of them all…that scrapbook is going to be massive), so I absolutely have to include them in my list of amazing things. The wall in my flat is covered in all my theatre tickets and it makes me happy to know that I’ve taken advantage of a fair amount of the theatre available in London. I know I haven’t even scratched the surface of all there is to see here, but I’ve seen more than I would at home, and that within itself makes this year remarkable. I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do when I go home and don’t have access to so many shows all the time… Anyway, I could wax lyrical about every show I’ve seen, but I’ll try and just pick a choice few to include here (this was really hard to do, by the way- I just want to talk about every show I’ve seen). Some of the definite highlights however have been:
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I wrote a post about this all on its own, but I’ve since returned to see the show again because it’s so mind-blowing. It was the first show I saw in London that reminded me that I want to be on stage and has been an inspiration in so many ways.
- Half a Sixpence. This show is the most joyous show I think you will ever see, and I have also been back to see this one again because I can’t stop smiling the entire duration of the show. It also has phenomenal choreography, so I was sold on the show within five minutes. Not to mention, this show gave me my first experience in day seating, and it was well worth getting up early to see this show.
- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. This one may not be obvious, but I include it because I got to see Daniel Radcliffe onstage (and meet him in person squeak) and I think that’s pretty cool. I bought tickets as soon as they were released, and although Stoppard’s style isn’t necessarily my favorite, I know that seeing this show is almost a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I’m still in disbelief that it was playing while I was in town.
- The Globe. Due to the fact that their season fluctuates around weather, I wasn’t able to see any full length plays at The Globe. However, I was able to see one of their “performing Shakespeare” versions of Taming of The Shrew. It was pretty neat for me to sit outside and watch a performance how (at least how they think) Shakespeare’s plays would have been performed during Elizabethan times. Moreover, the sun came out so it was really an all-around good day!
- Angels in America. What can I even say about this two-show marathon day? It was literally a full day of theatre but that plus the outstanding cast, the witty dialogue, and the elaborate set made for something unlike I’ve ever seen before. Eight hours of beautiful theatre and I’m genuinely still not over it. The play is a heart-stopping, poignant piece and getting tickets to see this was nothing short of a miracle (slight exaggeration, but it was well worth the stress of online queuing). Everything about this show was phenomenally done, and I’m pretty sure I will be talking about this epic masterpiece for a long, long time.
- The Olivier Awards. Unlike a lot of the award shows in the US, this year, the Olivier Awards allowed members of the public to purchase tickets to attend the event. The night celebrates the best of British theatre and we had performances from “The Girls,” Tim Minchin from “Groundhog Day,” a dance from “The Red Shoes,” Amber Riley belting her face off from “Dreamgirls,” and a top-notch performance from “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Not only that, being in the room where the acceptance speeches actually happen is pretty cool. Not to mention, it was my 21st birthday, so I got to celebrate in style.
In addition to going to the theatre, I also joined Queen Mary Theatre Company, the theatre society on campus. I took part in their 24-hour festival, their pantomime, one of the shows during the Shakespeare festival, as well as a musical revue during the Spring Fling festival. I’d never seen a panto before, let alone been in one, and I absolutely loved it. Ours may not have been “traditional” per se, but it was a laugh from start to finish and I think that’s how shows should be. I also got to pretend to be a Disney princess for a hot sec and now I want to do that all the time. I seriously wish that pantos were a thing in the US, because they’re brilliant and I think, as a country, we’re sorely missing out. The Shakespeare festival was a very hands-on production. I was a part of Romeo and Lady Capulet, where I got to be in a wonderful ensemble of people. It may not have been the original Shakespearean text, but it was still so amazing, and our director is a genius. I got to play one of the “comic relief” characters, which I don’t often get to do, so I had fun playing around with that. The musical revue was a fast-paced, brilliant thing to do and I got to break out my tap shoes, so I was all about that. I’m glad I got to keep up my theatre while in London, and if anything, that and the combination of seeing so many shows, has reinforced the idea that theatre is what I want to be doing with my life.
“I also got to pretend to be a Disney princess for a hot sec and now I want to do that all the time.”
Beyond the theatre, I’ve had the opportunity to go to three (so far) television show tapings. Most excitingly for me, I got to go to a Graham Norton Show taping! I’ve always wanted to go to one, and it was beyond cool to be in the same room as that famous red couch. As much as we’ve got great talk shows in the US, something about Graham Norton’s show just clicks with me, and I always watch clips of it on YouTube when I can’t catch full episodes on television. It was surprisingly easy to sign up to be considered, but I was surprised to get the email saying I was invited to attend the taping. I may have been in the back corner (so I didn’t end up on television), but the night I went, the guests were: Matthew McConaughey, Cristina Ricci, Josh Widdicombe, and Ed Sheeran! We got to hear Ed Sheeran perform “Castle On a Hill” live (twice!) and that’s an experience I don’t think will easily be replicated-unless I go again, of course!
Side note: I did, in fact, attend another taping with musical guest Harry Styles, and I have never heard so much high-pitched screaming in my life. I did, in that instance, briefly make it onto the television, I’ve circled it in the photo above…However, the fact that I’ve seen Ed Sheeran and Harry Styles perform live (for free) is beyond cool and thank you to the Graham Norton Show for being so highly entertaining and letting me cross that off my bucket list (TWICE!).
“I felt proud to know that I was marching alongside so many others, all over the world for women’s rights.”
Being abroad this year has been bizarre in that it has been such a politically charged year. I wasn’t at home during the US election, and although I pay close attention to everything going on with Brexit (and the snap election), it resonates less with me, as I’m not a British citizen. I’ve never been massively politically active, but the past several months have started to change that. Although I may not have been able to react to the election on US soil, I got to take part in the Women’s March here, in London. I didn’t know what to expect going in, but it was empowering, and I was overwhelmed by all the love, and support coming out of the 100,000 people in Trafalgar Square. I got to stand alongside a friend from Scripps, and some other fellow Americans and I don’t think I’ll ever forget that. I felt proud to know that I was marching alongside so many others, all over the world for women’s rights. The whole event was monumental, and I’m honored to have been there.
I’ve also been able to take some trips out of the city, and being able to discover different parts of England has been wonderful. Granted, I still have so much of the country to see, but what I have visited has only cemented my positive opinion of this country. In November, I got to spend a weekend at the Lake District. It was so calm, serene, and beautiful. We had virtually no cell reception so it was kind of like the ultimate unplugged weekend, complete with hiking, dragon boating, and stunning views.
Prior to starting school, I spent a couple of days in Stratford-Upon-Avon where I got to see the RSC perform. I saw Cymbeline, and it was a good first theatrical experience in the UK. I got to explore some of Shakespeare’s life and see all the things that have been preserved from when he was alive. Sometimes I forget how old things can be over here and the amount of history that exists in every cobblestone is so cool. It was also my first proper fish and chips in England, so well done Stratford!
I’ve also visited Oxford and Bath (check out that blog post here) and spent a few days up in Edinburgh during the Easter Holidays. I think I covered most of the city and it’s such a nice little place to visit (by little, I mean in relation to London. Edinburgh is, after all, a capital city). I’m pretty sure my legs were about to fall off after climbing Arthur’s Seat though- but the view was so well worth it! Not to mention, there are the Botanical Gardens and the Prince’s Street Gardens, which are lovely to wander through or sit in when the sun comes out (for five minutes before it becomes cold again). I took the train up, and the 4.5 hours flew by with a mixture of beautiful scenery and sheep, things you don’t necessarily see a lot of in London. It was a good little reprieve before delving back into the black hole that was studying for exams.
Another highlight was spending New Year’s in London. My parents came over to visit, and together, we stood on the banks of the Thames to watch the fireworks over the London Eye. I’ve never watched the NYE fireworks anywhere other than on my television screen, so it was definitely an experience to watch it live, in real time. Not to mention, I got to hear Big Ben chime 12 times at midnight and I’m not going to lie, I was genuinely thrilled. I mean, HOW cool is that?! AND they timed the chimes with fireworks so yes, I was really excited about that. I was riding the high from that for at least a solid half hour. Plus, it wasn’t that cold at all so standing outside for a few hours waiting before the fireworks started wasn’t unpleasant. Granted, I don’t know if I would be up to doing it again (there are loads of people and you end up being crowded once the show starts), but I’m really very glad I got to experience it once. It was a good way to ring in the New Year and remind myself that I was starting the year off in London, which is a pretty great way to ring in 2017!
“Basically. I mean, honestly, a solid 90-95% of the things I’ve done or seen have been highlights”
I’m sure you’re asking yourself, is she just going to tell us about everything that happened during her year in London? Yup. Basically. I mean, honestly, a solid 90-95% of the things I’ve done or seen have been highlights mainly because I’m here, and that’s exciting on its own. Even really mundane things like taking a journey without consulting CityMapper for the first time, or being able to give someone correct directions are highlights! Plus, I’m getting sentimental about the fact that I’ve been here longer than the time I have remaining here so pardon the nostalgia. So fear not, here are some more highlights, this time, in perhaps slightly less order (in reality, this was written while simultaneously browsing my photo library so bear with).
- Literally all things Harry Potter. I can hear you now, thinking, “wow, this girl really loves Harry Potter” and you would be absolutely correct. I visited Platform 9 ¾ and got myself a house scarf (because house pride is necessary, especially in the colder months), walked across Millennium Bridge, and even ventured out to Gloucester Cathedral, where some of the scenes from Chamber of Secrets were filmed. And of course, the studio tour, complete with Butterbeer ice cream! It was siriusly the best and on a scale from 1-10, I give it a solid 9 ¾.
- For the first time in my life, I was away from home for the holidays. Unlike the past two years of university, I wasn’t eagerly packing a suitcase for break at the end of term. As someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, I usually don’t find myself getting into the spirit that frequently (other than when I jam out to “All I want for Christmas is you” because how can you not?), but this year I spent the holidays in London, so I got to see the city in all its holiday glory. This included the lights on Carnaby Street, the menorah in Trafalgar Square, and Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.
- I don’t think words can do it justice but I’m just going to include a photo of the hot chocolate I had there and let you decide for yourself that it’s worth visiting
- Since I left the US, I’ve visited Paris, Geneva, and prior to even stepping foot in London, Iceland, so those have definitely been some fun adventures. I’ve written about the first two but I haven’t touched on Iceland. I’ll spare a lengthy post about it and just say that it is beautiful and well worth the visit!
- Experiencing the ever-fluctuating weather. Granted, I grew up in very similar weather conditions to London but having gone to school in Southern California for the past two years, one forgets what true winters (and seasons in general) are. So of course, whenever the sun comes out, I stare at it in awe, and take as many photos as possible to prove it’s real.
- Found the love of my life (cue the opening of hundreds of cheese packets): London. I’m not kidding when I say that I feel so at home here and I absolutely love it here. I know long-distance relationships are hard, but I’m willing to make this one work. I think I’ve always known that my future wasn’t always going to reside in the states (sorry, mom and dad), but I’m pretty sure I’ve found a place to which I want to return.
“Thank you for everything, London. This isn’t a goodbye, just a see you later.”
By the time I leave London, I will have been here for 283 days. 407,520 minutes. 77.53% of a year (yes, I calculated this- don’t judge). The past nine months (and 10 days) went by so quickly, but they have been some of the best of my life. Honestly, it’s weird thinking about how long I’ve been here, and yet, how it feels like no time has passed at all since I got here. Looking back on everything, it’s strange to think of how much I’ve seen and accomplished, but there’s still so much I’ve missed (obviously, time to make another list of things to do and come back). Sometimes I think about how everything in my life has led up to the past nine months, and how perfectly everything aligned for me to be here, now. I know that I will be leaving a bit of my heart, and a large part of myself here, and I look forward to retrieving it in the (hopefully) near future. Thank you for everything, London. This isn’t a goodbye, just a see you later.