London Undone

No better way to study London's history than to explore it first-hand.

On the first day of classes, I have to admit, I was truly dreading getting back into the class routine. After a summer of fun in New York City, getting back into a strictly academic routine made me want to crawl in a corner and start weeping. Moreover, the thought of sitting in a 9 a.m. art history lecture on a Monday morning seemed absolutely dreadful. But within the first five minutes of my professor’s lecture, I realized that my expectations were far too low and that I was being too much of a Debbie downer. In fact, that Monday 9 a.m. class that I loathed so much turned out to be my absolute favorite class so far in the London program, and may possibly, at the end of the semester, be the best college course I will have ever taken.


Dr. Hicks, who teaches the art history class, is from a small Virginia town like myself, and is an adjunct professor with Syracuse University’s London program. When he’s not teaching; he works at the Tate Museum and National Portrait Gallery in London. His class, “History of London in 11 Objects,” which is four hours long, is divided up into lecture for the first two hours followed by a field trip to a museum for the remainder of class. On our first day, we studied the artwork that was produced during the Tudor dynasty. The lecture by itself was so captivating and interesting, basically because learning about British royalty and artwork in Britain makes everything seem a lot cooler. But the post-lecture museum tour, where we could actually see the artwork up close and personal, was what won me over. The first class trip gave me a truly incredible, and totally indescribable feeling. I had never been passionate about art before, but knowing the story behind each piece, as I stood only inches away, took my learning experience to a whole new level.


At the end of the week, the Farraday staff took students on a field trip, too. Many of the SU London students and I spent our Friday in Oxford. There, too, I felt surrounded by and immersed in culture and antiquity.


The first stop on the trip was to Blenheim Palace, which is most notably Winston Churchill’s birthplace. My mother, who has been an Advanced Placement United States history teacher for the past decade, has always said her favorite person is Winston Churchill. So knowing dozens of stories about Churchill from my her made being in his home, looking at his old bedroom, his old clothing and his own paintings a captivating experience.


From there, we went to Oxford University, one of the world’s oldest and most revered universities. Students took a walking tour under gray skies and rain, but exploring the Harry Potter-esque campus (literally, at least three scenes from Harry Potter were filmed on Oxford’s campus), and touching the old, gothic architecture at the university was the highlight of the trip.

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The best part of the university tour for me was sitting in C.S. Lewis’ and J.R.R. Tolkien’s old hang out spot, both of whom I consider to be my favorite authors. The pub has their famous quotes painted on the walls, so being surrounded by their great words, and knowing that once upon a time they stood where I was, felt incredible. My flat mates and I had to drink a pint in the two authors’ honor.



The class field trips and Farraday-sponsored outings really put things into perspective for me -- there is true splendor when you experience history first hand.  Moreover, learning about history, even if it’s early in the morning, isn’t so bad after all.


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