God, Country, Notre Dame — LondonBY: Katie Adams, '13 DATE: April 19, 2012 CATEGORIES: The Life of a First-Year
Despite the jetlag after nearly a day of travelling, I was wide-eyed and anxious as I boarded the big red coach with all of my classmates en route to our new home in London for the next four months. From the instant we pulled away from Heathrow Airport, and I noticed black London taxis whizzing by me driving on the opposite side of the road, my body began to tingle with feelings of excitement as I knew that studying abroad in London would be a life-changing experience unlike any other.
I immediately fell in love with London when we took our first walk across Waterloo Bridge from our flats at Conway Hall to the London Centre. Our residences are situated in a hip, young area called Southbank, just across the river from central London and Trafalgar Square, where we attend classes at Notre Dame’s London Centre. Perhaps I am biased, but I honestly believe this is the best location in London. We live in a developing area of theaters and cinemas, just a walk away from many of the major historic sights of London including Parliament, the London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the National Portrait Gallery. It is this juxtaposition between the modern and the historic that I love about London and that I think is unmatched by any other city.
Our flats at Conway hall provide a sense of community reminiscent of our Home Under the Dome. Whenever we travel to foreign cities on the weekends, we are always eager to return to our flats. After a weekend of adventure, we often sit around as flat, swapping stories of our experiences abroad and providing pointers on where to go in our travels. Sunday mass in Conway’s chapel makes me nostalgic for those on campus, as I come in my slippers and sing the same catchy hymns that I do in Pangborn’s dorm mass.
One of the greatest perks of studying in London is the city’s easy access to European travel. During my stay, I have been fortunate enough to travel to Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, France and Germany. I have seen the world’s greatest sights, from the Swiss Alps to the French city skyline, and I am continually in awe of these experiences that I am lucky to share with all of my closest friends in the London program.
While the thought of sharing a flat with just two bathrooms for 12 girls seemed daunting at first, it has been a challenge that we have all graciously accepted and an experience that I would not trade for any other. From this we have gained practical life skills from cooking our own meals to learning to cope with the struggles of apartment style living. I am extremely grateful to have become such good friends with my flatmates who I otherwise may have never met had I not studied abroad in London.
I am amazed at how independent, confident, and cultured I have become living in London. Perhaps one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment I have felt was when a tourist approached me in Trafalgar Square and I was able to point him in the right direction of the nearest tube station. "Yes!” I exclaimed to myself, " I must look like a native Londoner!"
Although we are spending the semester away from campus, academics are still a very important part of our study abroad experience, and they offer a refreshing change of perspective. Our professors here are some of the most passionate and intriguing I have encountered. While some serve on the faculty at Notre Dame’s main campus, others are native to England, Spain and Germany. This diverse cultural immersion cannot be found in any other program, and neither can the unique relationships that students and professors form here. It is not uncommon to get into heated philosophical debates with your professor, and later meet him at a pub for a casual drink. Almost everyone in the London program knows of Professor Weber, fondly known as Weebs, who has initiated us into his exclusive Turtle Club, hundreds of members strong worldwide, and counting!
As my days in London quickly count down, I cannot help but have bittersweet feelings. I have fallen in love with London, yet I am already looking forward to being back at Notre Dame in the fall. This semester has created a new order in my life: God, Country, Notre Dame — London.