A Day With Dickens

Today’s excursion was all about Dickens. I was really excited to be able to connect all of our Dickens readings to the city today. We’ve gotten bits and pieces of Dickens in London throughout the trip, but I felt like I could really connect to Dickens’s London today. Learning more about his environment helped me understand his works much better.

Our day started with a tour from Ruth, who was a spectacular tour guide. She was so knowledgeable about Dickens. Ruth was a little eccentric and very personable. I thought people in London would be really reserved and proper, but my stereotype has been broken through all of the people we’ve met through our tours and simply just asking for directions. Walking tours are usually not my favorite, but her passion for Dickens and her outgoing nature made this walking tour quite enjoyable. It was cool to see the pictures she found of what the street the workhouse Dickens worked at looked like back in Victorian times.

The Dickens House brought more connections to bridge (or mind, hah!) the gap between Dickens’s works and London. Dickens wrote a lot about young females encountering death, which was inspired by the sudden death of his sister-in-law in one of the rooms. Diana took us on a second tour of the house after we walked around to get our first impressions. I was happy she did that because she elaborated on a lot of things that I would have glossed right over.

I’m excited for our upcoming Dickens House collaboration project. Charla and I will be attending a fundraiser party on Friday to take pictures and write a short article about the even for the House’s website and Facebook. I enjoy mingling with others and am constantly on social media, so this project is the perfect fit for me!

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Ancient Texts and Magic Spells

Time is flying by. We’ve already been here a week and I seriously can’t tell if it feels like I’ve lived here for months or if we’re just so busy I don’t even realize the time has passed. Today’s trip to Oxford was amazing.

I grew up with a love of books and being able to see shelves and shelves of old books today was something I don’t think I could ever forget. Unfortunately you’re not allowed to take pictures up there but it was well worth the 3 hour journey. We also got to see a bit of where Harry Potter films were made which reminded me of the countless hours I’ve spent reading those books in my lifetime.

It has certainly been a busy week and looking ahead our days are full of more tours and shows and our weekend trip to Paris!!! I don’t know how we would get through this trip without our host families. Julie and I are so lucky that our host mom is making things so easy for us here so that we are able to really enjoy our time here. Particularly the Kenwood House yesterday which was unbelievable. I could just imagine scenes from Pride and Prejudice happening all around the grounds. London is so much fun, I can’t wait for some of the trips but I’m not ready to go home quite yet!


The journey to Oxford

We did our way to oxford! Exactly University of Oxford is the dream of many kids including me when I was a kid. It is the filming location of Harry Potter. It is a great attraction for Harry Potter fans. Chelsea is the biggest fan of Harry Porter in our group. You can see her smile face all the day. I was laughing when she cannot cover her over excited as soon as she saw the stairs where Harry stepped in the first movie. The oxford is great, very big and clean. The buildings are fancy. I believe that you cannot find another university with such magnificent architectures. University of Oxford is the oldest school who speak English. Personally I do not feel any strong academic feeling around the university, which is totally different from Harvard and Yale. I have been Harvard and Yale before. The two universities absolutely give people different feelings. Both of them are quiet but intense. You can even feel the stress under the peaceful studying environment. While, Oxford gives people a feeling of pleasant. I enjoy the beautiful music on the street, the briskly walking of people and the splendid bookstore everywhere. People in Oxford are just like reading! The long history and the literature culture make the university full of humanities breathing. As the Oxford is the main city over The Thames, we did enjoy boating over the Thames River in the afternoon under the sunshine. One moment I cannot imagine I am sitting on the thousands of years’ river. You do not know how many stories happened over river. It is the time I connect myself with history.

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London Calling

Just to show you a little insight into our recent adventures, here are a few pictures! Included are Highgate Cemetery, Kenmore House (very reminiscent of Mr. Darcy’s house in Pride and Prejudice), and an old Victorian amputation theater(re in England!).


Despite my obnoxiously pink Nike sneakers and occasionally strong Bostonian accent, I feel like I am beginning to blend in a little better. It is amazing how comprehending the tube, or London’s underground subway system, gives you a little more confidence.

Over the last few days, I have found myself constantly comparing England to the U.S. There are a few minor things I have noticed, like the British’s tendency to call trash barrels “refuse” or “litter.” They don’t even use the word “exit,”  instead they use “way out.” It seems like everything here is so proper and America is England’s misbehaved, brassy younger sister.

Even the people are nicer here. There have been so many occasions in which we have had to ask for directions.People have honestly been interested in the fact that we are from America. Today, I heard some American girls talking, and I was amazed to hear words and phrases I am comfortable with and familiar with. Although British English and American English are extremely similar, they might as well be completely different languages. I feel like a true English major analyzing the two different versions of English.

Off to Oxford tomorrow!



Life Set in Stone

What do I want on my tombstone? While that may not be the happiest thought, it did occur to me as we walked around Highgate Cemetary today. Seeing all the various kinds of tombstones and inscriptions made me think about what I want my inscription to say. As I walked along the heavily-treed pathways, and saw sculptures of Celtic crosses, Christian crosses, angels, and even dogs and horses, I realized that these were all representations of people’s lives. They, or their loved ones, picked these sculptures, these symbols, and these words to sum up what they believed in life. I then tried to imagine what would sum up my life. How does one begin to choose the words or symbols to represent a life?

When I saw George Eliot’s tombtone, it had her nom de plume in quotes, and her legal name beneath it, which made me wonder – what is it that defines you? Is it your life’s work? Is it your family role? Is it what you do for others? Or, in the end, are you a composite that is summed up in a minuscule inscription in stone? These are questions for which I have no answer, but I have always like the Beatles’ “The End” lyric: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

Today I did at least pick up some good ideas on tombstone decor. And, perhaps I’ll take a cue from one of the tombstones we saw today– that of a popular British boxer– and have a stone sculpture of my dog placed at the foot of my grave for eternal protection and companionship.

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Government and Gardens

These past couple days we have been all over the city! However, my two favorite destinations were the Houses of Parliament and John Keats’s house. The two locations may not be similar, they are both very beautiful and very influential.

The Houses of Parliament was so striking to me. The stained glass window, ornate detailing, and especially the portraits and statues of the various monarchs and Prime Ministers of the past. We were able do do an audio guided tour, and the history of how the government of England became the House of Lords and the House of Commons was so interesting to me. If I wasn’t a Psychology major I would be a History major, and British history is, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating parts of history. I could have walked around the Houses of Parliament all day learning about the history of Britain’s government.

John Keats’s house was also a sight to behold. The house is very unassuming on the outside, but it has a breathtaking garden and a lovely interior. The house is a small museum detailing Keats’s short life, and we were lucky enough to come in right as a tour was beginning. As a history nerd, I loved learning about Keats’s life and how he was influential to British romantic poetry. After, we sat in the garden and read a few of Keats’s poems, which made for a tranquil moment.

Though these two instances were quite different, they were both interesting to me because they gave me a better picture of parts of London’s culture. The Houses of Parliament showed me the part that is involved in government, that does not want to go back to the absolute monarchy of centuries past. Keats’s house showed me the more sensitive, romantic, and deep side of London. These two intertwine in the architecture of the Houses of Parliament. The decoration inside is flowing and artsy, like Keats’s poetry, but the outside is very pointed and exacting, like the more serious political side.

I’m extremely happy we are getting to experience all parts of London’s culture during this trip! Now if only I could figure out a way to look like less of a tourist while I experience it…

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Stop and Smell the Roses




On one of our first days in London, we had taken an exceptionally long tour. The six of us were still somewhat jet-lagged, and by late afternoon, our feet were dragging on the streets of London. Just as we had almost reached our tube station, Diana called out from behind us: “Wait! Stop and smell the roses!” We all somewhat laughed, but obliged as she led us to an overgrowth of English roses in someone’s garden. She then explained how London was famous for its flowers and told us to notice the little things around the city, but up until now, I had a difficult time doing so. When you arrive in a city with so much to see, your senses want to capture everything, and your eyes can only find so much to look at. However, the longer I am here, the more I am understanding what she truly meant.

The photos here are from Sigmund Freud’s garden and Westminster Abbey, and although it is hard to see detail (especially in the window), I took some time to gaze at these sights. I have always loved the intricate details on flowers, but these were exceptionally gorgeous. Being at Freud’s house further peaked my interest in analysis, so I took the time to carefully examine all I could (pictures inside were not allowed). Similarly, at Westminster Abbey, it’s another place where I feel so small, yet here I felt like a piece of history, of the millions of people to step foot inside and feel the same tranquility. Again, I could only take photographs of certain things, but I absolutely enjoyed the stained glass windows. Each one tells a story, and each pane is carefully selected both for viewing purposes and for emphasis on its meaning. Since that day in the quiet London neighborhood, I have tried to notice the smaller details, and while I may feel minuscule next to some of the grander places in London, I have also begun to feel like a part of something so much bigger than myself.

Selfie Me

I’m in the middle of feeling like I’ve been in London forever, and like time is flying by. We’ve already been here for five days and done so much. It’s hard to say if I even have a favorite part right now. I really enjoyed going to the British Museum the other day and seeing the amazing artifacts this building contains. It was also a good time to unwind by ourselves and to take our time with the exhibits we liked.

As a group we’ve grown a bond and already have become our own family. I think that one of the best things this trip has afforded all of us is the ability to get to know each other very quickly and find out we get along perfectly. As a student family we have tackled the Tube at rush hour, survived our first torrential London downpour and done a walking tour around the city center.

Although we switched a few things around on the schedule I’m so happy to be walking the streets and seeing the everyday culture of London rather than just seeing the tourist sites. However, we have seen some of the most important tourist sites anywhere close by. One of my favorite things was seeing Westminster Abbey and the history it offers. I was also so excited to see Cleopatra in the Museum, especially since we will be seeing the play Antony and Cleopatra.

Going to the Prom concert last night and being able to get dressed up for it was a lot of fun. It has been a a jam packed summer so far and with Hyde Park Cemetary on the list for tomorrow I’m so much more excited. I’ve attached some of the pictures from the last few days and a few “selfie me” photos as well!



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All my reflection is changed by what I saw just now. This morning we went to Westminster abbey and later we went to house of parliament. Without doubt, Westminster abbey and house of parliament are fabulous and magnificent UK architectures. I am shocked by these incredible buildings. I strongly feel that British people are deeply proud of their history and their royal family existence. Apparently, the royal family is a symbolism of United Kingdom spirit. While I want to say royal family is also one of the ways UK people keep their history. On the other hand, British royal families really do a good job to represent the whole UK. The design and structure of the architectures should be another kind of wonderful history that British people are proud of. People love London because we know that London’s history is fully filled thick humanistic and literature background. Even the British accent makes me feel pleased. In my impression, UK gives people a feeling of peaceful, harmonious and quiet. UK people speak slowly, walk slowly and their whole life tempo is like waking up in the morning, not too active and not emotional. This parade in the afternoon totally changed my impression to UK. I said to myself that I saw the quiet side of London, now I saw the active side. Hundreds of people were unstoppable coming to the parade ground. I saw marches before in American and Canada but I never saw such big one. The parade is organized. People walked in sequences hanging up their board. My heart was shaken by the slogan shouting. I felt their emotions. I get my reflection that UK is a freedom country. Unlike UK, America projects freedom in architecture, in movies and in music. It has become common sense that freedom is in America. I do not know there is also such free spirit in UK. I am really moved by the parade. People fight for what they want. People have the right to fight what they think the right.

Mind the Gap



London is such a fast-paced city. It seems like I can hardly keep up with everything. I’m constantly in imminent danger of getting run over by a double-decker bus or a taxi. Everything around me seems to be constantly on the  move. Even the city itself is changing constantly. We went through a good amount of construction yesterday, but it was interesting to see how much of the city is changing. It reminded me of all the construction happening back in Massachusetts and Lowell.

Today we visited the British Museum (which is not air-conditioned, much like the rest of London). I found myself lost among the ruins of the ancient societies  of Greece and Egypt. I loved imagining the people who owned the jewelery on display, and the clothing. Looking at the mummies was especially interesting.It illustrates humanity’s fascination with death in a beautiful way. At dinner tonight (authentic Indian cuisine!), our group discussed how different cultures experience death. It seemed to be a recurring theme in each section of the museum.

Yesterday we finally got to see Big Ben and go on the London Eye! It was an amazing experience. The girls and I stayed after our program was done for the day and got to see the sun set over Big Ben from the top of the Eye. I think that was truly the moment I realized I am in England. Not a bad place to be.