When I first applied to study abroad in London, I didn’t know what to expect. I had spent some time in France and Italy during the past summer, but my travels never extended to the United Kingdom. I was under the ignorant impression that Great Britain couldn’t be that different from the United States since we speak the same language. But, as any rational, intelligent human being would guess, there are huge differences between the two, and believe it or not, I still find myself experiencing culture shock just as much as when I lived in places where I didn’t speak the native language. While London might not seem as foreign as the other NYU campuses due to the shared language, the city has a unique charm that allows a space for everyone.
When my alarm goes off at 10 a.m., I wake up feeling refreshed and my 8 a.m. four-days-a-week Statistics class in New York feels like a very distant memory. My classes, as well as most at NYU London, don’t start until after 1 p.m. I have plenty of time to either run errands, finish up some last bits of homework or take a leisurely stroll along the canal in King’s Cross.
I begin my lazy morning at Urbanest King’s Cross Residence Hall, one of the three residential options available in London. Urbanest is the more expensive of the three housing options, but having a single room and your own personal bathroom makes it worth the money. It’s about a 30-minute walk to NYU’s campus — this can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, you feel like a cool local commuter, but on the other, when you are running late to class, there is a very slim chance you will arrive in a reasonable amount of time.
For those dreary, rainy days or when I am feeling particularly lazy, I hop aboard the 390, one of the iconic red double decker buses that frequent the streets of London. While not as entertaining as the New York City subway with all of the musicians and artists displaying their various talents, it’s nice to sit unbothered, watching the picturesque London streets pass by.
If you live at Urbanest, the 390 bus will become your best friend. It runs 24 hours and will take you into right next to NYU’s campus at Bedford Square.
NYU’s campus consists of three identical brick buildings in a truly convenient place in London. It sits to the side of the British Museum, one of the largest and most renowned museums in the world — it possesses the Rosetta Stone and best of all, it’s free like most museums in London. The campus is also a few blocks away from University College London, a popular college in the city that allows NYU students to join their clubs and use their facilities, including a student bar that probably has the cheapest pints you will find in pricey London. With multiple university campuses around, that also means plenty of surrounding restaurants that offer student discounts.
The classes at NYU London are relatively mixed from Creative Writing to Business to Theater classes. As an English and Business major, I have a mix of the two subjects, but I prefer the literature courses. If you decide to study in London, I recommend taking Modern Drama in Performance and Gothic Literature. For Modern Drama in Performance, you see an array of plays or musicals each week, and then analyze the shows in class. It is a great way to experience the theater scene in London. It’s a very integral part of the culture as the British take a lot of pride in their theater tradition. Gothic Literature allows you to explore a literary genre that is very native to the U.K. In fact, the creator of the gothic, Horace Walpole, has an eccentric castle just outside London: Strawberry Hill. It was a major influence for the first gothic novel. For this course, you have class field trips to Tower Bridge to check out full-functioning gothic architecture and Highgate Cemetery where Karl Marx is buried.
After class, a popular and rather stereotypical pastime is going for a drink at a pub. During the weekdays, the pubs are a cozy and quiet respite from the cold weather, but on the weekends, they are busy and bustling — a nice place to meet new British friends, as the environment seems to combat the British societal norms of formality and privacy. On Sundays, the pubs offer something called Sunday roast, which usually involves various types of chicken or beef served with a popover (a light roll) and roast potatoes or mash. Although British food has the reputation of being horrible, Sunday roast is surprisingly tasty. Actually, traditional British cuisine is similar to southern cuisine in the U.S. — most things are fried or covered in gravy.
I have learned a lot while in London. I have learned that people are about as confused about Brexit as they are about Donald Trump being the President of the U.S. I have learned that the weather is incredibly sporadic and seems to change when you pass through a different neighborhood. I have learned that the people of London don’t walk as quickly or as efficiently as they do in New York City. I have learned that saying cheers is not only for drinking, but also to say thank you or goodbye. And last, but not least, I have regretfully learned that they look down upon the U.S. version of “The Office,” thinking the U.K. version is the original masterpiece.
As my culture shock has subsided and I have finally stopped calling “the Tube,” “the subway,” I am beginning to make my own little home in London. I have found my favorite neighborhoods to hangout in, my favorite museums to explore, and the best bookshops to wander through. While I’m missing many aspects of New York, like the close proximity of everything and the 24 hour restaurants, I’m adventuring to medieval castles and drinking milk with my tea, trying to take in all of the wonderful eccentricities London has to offer.
Email Taylor Elizabeth Rogers at [email protected]