A Long Day's Journey into...the UK!
Hello Readers! Welcome to my TWC Intern Abroad blog. Just a quick little bit about me before I get into all the super juicy and interesting things that I have experienced these past 4 days: my name is, obviously, Theresa, and I am living abroad for the next two months in London, England. I am working with The Washington Center as well as CAPA (an organization that specializes in education abroad) to complete a program in the UK which lasts for 8 weeks. While in London, I am taking two classes, interning at an online publishing company called James Woods Media, which specializes in publishing travel and retail websites and exploring this amazing city. I am a rising senior (where did the time go?) at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, PA, where I am an English major and a secondary education and gender studies minor. I am both lucky and grateful to have this experience, and I am excited to share it with you!
The Experience Begins
This blog is going to be a bit of a catch-all, because even though 4 days doesn't seem like a long time, I have had some really amazing experiences that I want to share with you. I will try to be brief, in hopes that it will be just enough of a teaser that you will want to come back to follow my journey via this blog in this spectacular country.
So, I guess the best place to start is at the beginning. Before I ever arrived in London, I, and the 9 other members of my group, spent 2 weeks in Washington, D.C., learning about British culture, what we could expect in the British workplace, and reviewing general topics about professional etiquette. While at times it seemed repetitive, the staff at TWC was always a pleasure to work with, and their enthusiasm was soon contagious (after about the 4th cup of coffee at 9 a.m.). We completed tasks to acquaint ourselves with Washington, and although we were only there for 2 weeks, going through those motions helped us establish a framework from which we could tackle the same thing in London. As our plane took off from Dulles International Airport, I was excited, nervous, and feeling as prepared as I ever would to embark on such an adventure.
First Impressions of London
After landing at Heathrow Airport, and being driven to our flat, a few things became apparent right away: jet lag was a horrible experience, we would be living in very close quarters with one another, and London was a city I was already itching to go out and explore. Our flats are located in the Olympia neighborhood in London, which is the western part of the city. Our row of townhouses-converted-to-flats are directly off High Street in the borough of Kensington, which is one of the wealthiest areas of the city. Walking down High Street Kensington is like walking down Madison Avenue in New York City -- there are all different people, running in and out of stores with shopping bags -- only a million times better. Although I do have a particular fondness for the British accent, and was hoping to hear a lot of it upon arrival, I was shocked at what an international city London is today. There are people walking up and down the streets of this city from every possible corner of the world, and this cultural convergence is really what makes contemporary London extraordinary. Although there are plenty of English pubs around, they are located next to Chinese restaurants, Iranian markets, Indian specialty stores, and many more culture-specific businesses. Coming to London, I believe, will not only afford me an education in British culture and way of life, but also give me an inside look into many other lifestyles and cultural experiences. I have made a promise to myself to explore as many of these as possible while I am here, and can't wait to get started.
What I Hope To See
While there are the obvious destinations to hit while in London -- including the Parliamentary Estate (Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster) and Westminster Abbey -- I am hoping to share some more interesting experiences with you all. I have traveled to London with my family once before, and did all the tourist-y things. This time around, I want to experience London from a Londoner's perspective and I will do my best to share the really interesting and unusual experiences -- ones that you won't find in any old travel guide. Thankfully, this is possible because of one of my CAPA professors here. R, as I will refer to him, is a very interesting man, and knows London inside and out. Every Wednesday, we have a "field experience" with him, to supplemement the British Culture class he teaches us every Monday evening. Today was our first FE, and we walked around different areas of the city for about 3 hours. At any given point, it never seemed as if more than 15 minutes passed, since this tour we took was unlike any other. For time's sake, I will share my favorite experience on this tour today: Postman's Park.
Postman's Park is a park in London, and in that fact is not unusual, but it houses a memorial to Londoners that gave their lives to help others. There is a wall in one section of the park that is the home to multiple tiles, giving the name, day of birth, day of death, and story of each individual. The most recent is from 2007, and the included stories share tales of drowning, fire, and heroic rescue. It is a very touching memorial and place to reflect on the what it means to be truly selfless.
Perhaps my favorite thing about this memorial was the fact that it existed -- that these people, and their ultimate sacrifices, would never be forgotten. In a world today that seems to feel bigger and bigger every day, it can sometimes feel as though not much attention is paid to individuality anymore. Postman's Park is a location in which these individuals and their acts will be memorialized always. It was a wonderful place to go to after the past four hectic days to re-orient ourselves about what is most important in life: connections and relationships with others. The reminder was a powerful one, and much needed.
And, on that inspiring note, I am taking my leave. Please check back for some more updates on my English adventures, to be posted soon. Cheers!