“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”

Studying abroad in London has been the best experience in my life. The British culture is very multicultural and diverse- here I have meet people from all over the world and I have heard all types of different language accents. Londoners are very polite and open minded always willing to help others, the city is very clean and secure and using the tube system I can get anywhere I want. I have learned a lot here.  The education system is very challenging but is one of the best in the world. Studying in this metropolitan city, which could be considered a capital of the world only in comparison to New York, has provided me with plenty of knowledge and skills that will help me face different challenges throughout my life. The time to leave this wonderful city where I have make friends with locals and internationals is just around the corner. As I prepare to continue exploring this wonderful city rich in history, entertainment, and businesses, I have to reflect in the way I have changed and the  impressive amount of activities in which I have engage while studying here.

First, I remember arriving to Heathrow airport- the busiest airport in the UK and the third busiest in the world- from my small town of Laredo, Texas. I experienced culture shock the most while I was trying to figure my way out of there. I was extremely relieved when I walked to the main lobby to see (the ISA staff) Maria and Tom waiting for me happy to help me with my luggage and take me to my university.

The first weekend at Roehampton University was great; the university staff organized a photo frenzy in which we the international students went out to explore the city on our own with the help of Roehampton student ambassadors. I was glad that we were put into groups. We visited Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, walked along the river Thames and had a traditional English meal of fish and ships.

Then I participated in an ISA event in which we were taken to Harrods to enjoy the traditional English afternoon tea along with all sorts of different pastries. Everything was very elegant and a man was playing the piano while we were eating and talking. It was a unique experience, I felt as if I was some sort of politician or world leader having a relaxing time at one of the most expensive, extravagant and elegant stores in the world.

Later on I remember visiting the Tower of London with my ISA group. It was incredible to learn about the many people killed there and to see all the crown jewels adorned with diamonds and gold exclusively use by the royals of England.

Nonetheless, one of my favorite excursions was the Stratford upon Avon and Warwick castle. We were taken to see Shakespeare’s birth place and the house in which he lived. We also visited the church in which he is buried and continued our trip to Warwick castle which is impressively well preserved and the landscape view is astonishing. I was able to listen to some stories about ghosts hunting the place which was fascinating.

I also visited Camden town and the markets there, I was really glad to buy some souvenirs and negotiate prices with the vendors there. However, weekends nights are the best time to visit it because is packed with international students trying to enjoy London’s night life.

Here, I also had the great opportunity to visit the Chelsea football stadium with the ISA group. So far I have also visited the Westminster Abbey, the British Museum, the Bank of England, the BBC world studios, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Inns of Court, The National History Museum, The Imperial War Museum, The Science Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum.  All of these are within the city of London most of the museums free of charge. Definitively, the best city to study in the world with a never ending list of events to entertain people from all types of personalities. Here I have also been lucky to venture into the historical university city of Cambridge, travel to Rome, Italy and Paris, France taking advantage of the cheap airlines and the fast train. I am amazed at how I have evolved as a person during this short period of time, becoming more independent, and engaging in more social interactions for educational or entertainment purposes. Studying abroad in London has broadened my expectations of life and allowed me to understand other cultures in a more personal level. I have also been challenged in my academic and personal life which has help me to know my strengths and my weaknesses which has provided a great opportunity for my improvement.

A couple of days ago I went to the red carpet of the Laurence Oliver Awards, which are the highest honor in British theatre and held at the Royal Opera house. There I was able to see many famous actors and watch the awards ceremony unfold from the Covent Garden Piazza. It was an extraordinary experience; a couple of international friends were able to get autographs of their favorite actors and were jumping up and down of excitement.

On Thursday we will go to the Avengers premiere where Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Cobie Smulders and Clark Gregg will all be walking the red carpet. It should be a great experience but I will write about it in my next blog.

Cheers! :D

Francisco Gonzalez
Classmates Connecting Cultures
London, England
Spring 2012

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