Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Exploring London: week 5/18

Hello, all! 

Not much exploring will take place for a little while... next week, I've got a midterm, essay, or presentation for every class, and there's a good chance I'll be getting surgery on Monday as well. But for now, here are some pictures from week #5:

The sun actually came out twice this week! 
Some surprise Valentine's chocolates
"Nuclear Dawn," a fantastic & famous piece of street art in Brixton
One of many street markets in Brixton 
And just for fun, a few random facts about London & English/British culture:
  • London culture and English/British culture are not synonymous. To think London represents England is similar to thinking New York City representative of American culture on the whole.
  • When it rains, it pours, but when it doesn't, it sure is gorgeous! The temperature has yet to drop below 40, and it's usually somewhere between 45 and 55. This winter, however, were experienced record-breaking amounts of rain (of course), although it's been sweater-weather and sunny for the last few days!
  • Everything is far more expensive here, even from the perspective of people who've lived in New York for at least a few years!. Of course, the major advantage of this is that doctors visits, surgery, and all other health care is absolutely free, the mentally ill are actually cared for and nearly nobody is homeless, museums and other such public places are free, and the maximum legal price for a prescription is 7 quid.
  • On that note, "quid" is slang for pounds (similar to the word "bucks").
  • Scotland is voting to leave the union and become independent later this year, although the initiative is widely expected to fail for a number of reasons (the most amusing of which is that the Scottish dearly love the Queen).
  • The Brits love to have a laugh. And there is nobody easier and more fun to take the mickey out of than Boris Johnson, mayor of London. In fact, there are multiple sites devoted to daily Boris humor (such as this one).
  • The London Underground (or the Tube) is often VERY underground. The station behind my flat is actually fifteen stories below! Everyone uses the lift to get to and from street level; the stairs are actually listed as emergency use only!
  • There is London, and then there is the City of London. (Find a great explanation of this here). Comparable to Manhattan's financial district, the City of London is a mere square mile where many of the largest financial and political institutions of the world are centered, and the city's limits are marked by an ancient Roman wall, pieces of which still exist today. The city expanded after one of the many great fires decimated all within the city walls (unfortunately the existing architecture relied entirely on wood, wood, and wood as building material) and the wealthy were forced to spill into neighboring suburban areas. The City of London even has it's own mayor, laws, and police force, all of which are independent of their greater London counterparts. The City of London Police even has it's own cavalry, a few members of which I met a couple weeks ago during an Architecture tour!

Hope everyone has a wonderful week.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Week 4/18, and spring semester classes

Good evening! (Well, I suppose that depends on your time zone :)

After a few weeks of non-stop adventures, I had some much-needed downtime this weekend (my light wallet definitely reinforced that decision!). I spent my week solidifying travel plans, going to the gym, doing lots of homework, hanging out with friends, and making new ones.

In any case, I thought I'd do a quick round-up of the classes I'm taking while in London. I was a little concerned by my lack of choice in the matter; being in such a small and specific major often means very little wiggle room, especially when already limited by being abroad. However, I have, at worst, just mildly liked all of my classes and professors. And here they are!

Human Development
This class is a joy! We learn about human development (duh) from zygote to adolescence, with particular focus on cognition and the psychology of learning. One component of this class is a weekly visit to a local secondary school. I will be spending Tuesday mornings in three consecutive classes at a local business- and art-centered academy. As term just ended and students have vacation next week, I'll start Tuesday the 25th, and I couldn't be more excited!

Global Orientations
A required class for all students new to NYU London, Global Orientations consists of a number of guest speakers discussing certain elements of contemporary British culture. A number of interesting trips are offered in relation to particular lectures, such as my incredible Kensington Palace trip last week, and a tour of Brixton next Saturday.

Modern British Imperialism
This class focuses on defining and exploring the British Empire (1830+). There is a very good chance my professor is actually Santa's friendly British cousin, and he is on the advisory board for BBC History Magazine, which I find to be one of the most wonderful historical magazines available (their podcasts are second only to This American Life and The Moth; you can subscribe on iTunes, if you're interested!).

Islam and the West
History Education majors are asked to choose a specialty, usually in the area they plan to teach; U.S. History is the most popular choice. Having been particularly infatuated with Middle Eastern History since junior high, I chose it as my concentration. This class was a wonderful and informative choice, and I feel quite lucky that I get to take it here, with such close proximity to the SOAS library and other abundant relevant resources.

Seeing London's Architecture
Tied with Human Development for the second best class I've ever taken, Architecture has led me to explore and learn about a huge variety of neighborhoods and areas in London. I was originally hesitant when I realized that sketching is a major component of this class, but after learning that almost none of the other students had any artistic experience either, I decided to stick with it. In our lovely professors words, "it's about developing your own sketching style and your ability to read a city." We get a guaranteed adventure every week - only our first and last sessions occur inside a classroom! We rendezvous at different spots all over the city and receive a lesson while walking and sketching, and I already feel that I have a much better understanding of London on the whole because of it!

Lucky for me, classes only run Monday to Thursday. We do, however, have frequent events, day trips, and other outings planned on Friday (:

This Friday, I had two architecture sessions to make up for future holidays (holy sore feet, Batman!). A few pictures from our escapades...
St. Pancras Hotel, right next to King's Cross Station (which we sketched)
A row of stately houses overlooking Regents Park
Casually eating my sketchbook out of frustration at rushed live sketches
Although I spent the majority of my weekend doing homework (gross!) I had a great time on Thursday and Friday night...
The Princess Louise, a gorgeous and quirky historical pub with gorgeous original Victorian architecture 
With NYU-discounted tickets in hand, some friends and I went out dancing on Valentine's Day at Pacha London
I hope everyone had a lovely and relaxing week!


Monday, February 10, 2014

Exploring London: week 3/18

Hi, everyone! A quick round-up of this week's adventures...
One of my classes is Seeing London's Architecture; every week, we take a walking tour of a different part of the city (narrated by my wonderful professor) and sketch an element or two from the trip. This week, we headed down to the financial center of London, and saw some gorgeous buildings.
On Friday, I went to the lovely Kensington Palace (where Kate, William, and George live!). The visitable wing of the Palace houses one of the most creative, interactive, and interesting museums I've ever visited.
 On Sunday, some friends and I took a day trip to Oxford... 
One of the many Hogwarts-like halls at Oxford University.
A mushroom and asparagus pie with mashed potatoes and red wine vegetarian gravy. YUM. 
View from the tower.
It was incredible to visit Christchurch, where many scenes from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone were filmed. I FINALLY MADE IT TO HOGWARTS! (Only eight years late).
And just because, a rainbow (actually a double rainbow!) I caught this week :)
In other news, my suitemate and I and a few friends are planning a Waffles Weekend trip to Brussels! We are so excited! Also, as promised, a new vlog from last week's bus tour is up! Check it out in the week 2/18 post :)

Have a lovely week, everyone!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Exploring London: week 2/18

Hi, all!

As promised, a vlog of the bus tour is now up! (This video was HD quality all the way until I uploaded it, so I'll have to find out how to fix that next time).

In my second week here, I started my classes. Luckily, they are all excellent so far, and I will hopefully get a separate post on what I'm studying this semester up next week.

Overjoyed with the (temporary) end to grey skies and showers, my roommate and I headed out of our flat for a Sunday Funday! We decided to get our tourist on and visit our friends Big Ben and the London Eye, as well as generally exploring the Golden Jubilee Bridge, Southbank Food Market, and Waterloo Station areas. We had a wonderful time, and I took a ridiculous number of pictures (what a surprise, right?).
The London Eye
Spotted some fantastic graffiti around Waterloo!
The big ole' bastard himself
This lovely man put on a wonderful bubble show for all the kids (and the adults definitely enjoyed it as well!)
 Week 3/18 coming soon :)