Hi from London, y’all! I’m writing from my flat in the Bethnal Green neighborhood with a lovely view of the London skyline from my window.
For the next month, I will be studying with twelve other students and three professors from Virginia Tech’s English department. We use London itself as our “text” to learn about its history, literature and architecture, and how they all tie together to give us the London we see and experience, and what lies below its skin.
I like to call myself a city girl after growing up in metro Atlanta, but London is a whole new world. Within its square mile limits, I have seen crowds larger than any I’ve seen in the States—even in New York—and I’ve experienced the underground “tube” system in every possible crowd density. The tube is quick and convenient, and I love having a station less than a five-minute walk from my flat. But I think my favorite mode of transit around London is the double-decker bus. I can get where I need to get efficiently and see the city as it goes by. Taking the bus has helped me get my bearings down, too; I’ve found my landmarks that I can use as reference points, so I know where I am if I can see and get to those places. My favorite reference point so far is St. Paul’s Cathedral, followed by “The Shard.” The Shard is a tall building that looks exactly like a broken piece of glass. I know if I can get to one or both of those places, then I can get to anywhere I need to be in London.
One aspect of this trip I’ve already embraced and can’t wait to explore further is the cuisine. English food has a completely different palette than American food. A lot of spices and sauces are “add at your own risk and pace,” which I love because it’s flexible and I’m extremely picky. I thought my pickiness would hinder my ability to enjoy the English cuisine, but I’ve loved every meal I’ve sampled here. I treated myself to a “full English breakfast” the other day, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I usually take my eggs scrambled or devilled, but the over-medium eggs I had with my breakfast might convince my taste buds otherwise. My steak and ale pie I had at a café today was nothing to ignore, as it was a unique combination of flavors that I’d order it again any day.
While we have a full schedule of places to visit and plays to see, I have plenty of free time to explore London and surrounding areas on my own. My to-do list includes visiting Wimbledon and the All England Lawn and Tennis Club, the Harry Potter Studio Tour, Stonehenge and more. They say the best way to see and experience a city is to explore it on your own, and I plan to fully embrace that idea for the next month. I’ll have to keep my “y’alls” and “fixin’ tos” to minimums, but who knows? My “hi, y’all” might sound pretty neat with a splash of a British accent.
Kate Robertson is a features writer for Pretty Southern, and a rising senior at Virginia Tech studying communication and English. Originally form Atlanta, Kate plans to graduate in 2014 to launch a professional career in writing and public relations. Follow her on Twitter @kate3robertson.