I Am Sailing Off to London

I Am Sailing Off to London

Yeah I used it as my blog title and my album caption but really what did you expect?

ok disclaimer I wrote this maybe two weeks ago and then my internet died and then i forgot to post it so shhhhhhhh.

I spent the last week back in an English-speaking country, which was actually kind of weird after getting so used to seeing Danish everywhere. We went to London for my long study tour, which technically means that the visit was supposed to be “academic,” but I’ll let you be the judge of that based on what we actually did.

London vs Cope

  • London is big. Really big. The biggest change I noticed was that in Copenhagen, if I’m not in a rush, I usually just walk everywhere, even if it’s literally on the other side of the city. In London, that’s not really an option, but luckily we have THE TUBE.
  • The Tube/the Underground is v cool and v efficient. It looks confusing at first because there are a lot of different lines running throughout the city, but it’s so easy that by the end of the week, I barely even needed Google Maps (at least on the way back to the hotel). It’s also really organized, so unlike in Copenhagen, you can be really sure that you’re on the right train and going in the right direction. Part of the reason for this is that they keep each platform completely separate from each other, because the tube system is so far underground that they have a lot of space to work with. The only drawback is that it’s really annoying to change lines because you have to walk like a mile and go up and down some super escalators/spiral staircases to get to a different platform. You also have to actually use your ticket at the ticket plaza like a normal public transportation system.
  • London is definitely more show-y than Copenhagen, at least in the Westminster/Picadilly areas (aka the tourist-y areas). It kind of feels like London was built to impress people, while Cope is a bit more subtle with its coolness.

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  • The chimneys look a lot like the ones in Mary Poppins. I probably wouldn’t have noticed this on my own, but some of my friends mentioned this and I pretended I knew what was going on by bringing up the fact that Lin is in the new Mary Poppins movie.
  • I did not encounter Lin Manuel Miranda in London. Apparently he was in Paris or something so I can’t beat myself up too much.

Food

  • I am a fan of the food in London, mostly because they have fairly authentic Asian food. My friend Marina and I went on a week-long hunt for all of the foods we had been craving since coming to Europe, including pho, dim sum, and BOBA (duh)

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  • We also tried alcoholic boba, which sounds exciting but wasn’t actually as fun (or alcoholic) as we thought it would be.
  • We had a lot of group dinners and lunches too, which was nice because DIS paid for those. They also ended up being quite the adventure, because there are a lot of people in my class have dietary restrictions/allergies, which confused a lot of the restaurants. There was one restaurant that was especially confused and I ended up being the only person with a random plate of ham, even though I should have had the same thing as everyone else without dietary restrictions. Which was pretty hilarious and also pretty yum so no complaints I guess. There was also a restaurant that said they were bringing out chocolate and vanilla ice cream, and proceeded to bring out ice cream that was orange and green.
  • On one of the nights, we went to a bar called The Blind Pig, which was a ~super secret~ hidden bar. Like, there wasn’t even a sign on the door (just a pig head) and it was just on the side of some other restaurant. Anyway, they had “children’s book-themed” drinks, which was super fun and super yum.
  • One of my favorite DIS-sponsored things we did was high tea at Fortnam and Mason, which was this super fancy tea place where they served us delicious tea and mini sandwiches and scones and desserts. I was a little worried because I was v hungry when we got there, and tea snacks aren’t especially large or filling, but they gave us so many that I ended up being super full. My friend Amanda and I shared one of these cool food tower things and ate the same things at the same time so that we could experience them together which was fun.

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  • There was free breakfast at the hotel every morning, which meant that I got to entertain everyone with my weird habit of eating jam straight out of the container.

~Tourist~ Things

  • We saw Big Ben. It was pretty.
  • On the first night, we went on the London Eye, which is a giant ferris wheel. It was pretty cool to see the city from that high up, but it took like 40 minutes to go around just once, which tbh was a little too long for me to stay entertained the entire time.
  • On the first two mornings, I got up early with some friends and explored the Kensington area/Hyde Park. The sun even came out for a hot second, which was a welcome change from the snowy Copenhagen I had left.

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  • On Sunday morning, Marina and I went to the Columbia Road Flower Market, and then the Brick Lane Market, which was cool because those things only happen on Sundays! And then we ate baos stuffed with pulled pork and went to Primark, which is basically Forever 21 but bigger and more overwhelming.
  • I met up with Catherine a few of the nights and we took a Harry Potter themed walking tour of the city (which was kind of weird tbh). We also went to a Pancake Tuesday event with her church group, which is basically the British equivalent of Fat Tuesday, where they use up all of their flour and sugar before Lent. I ate my pancakes the Danish way (aka putting straight granulated sugar on them and rolling them up).
  • On Wednesday night, we went to the theater to see LES MIS which was actually objectively the second best musical I have ever seen (I’ll let you assume the best. And subjectively, I think it was the 3rd best because I loved Darren Criss so much at the time that we saw H2S that I think I have a skewed perception. Also I’m not sure if I mentioned this but a girl that I met at a bible study group the other week just CASUALLY dropped that she was pen pals with Darren Criss a few years ago and 14-year-old me freaked out a ‘lil bit).

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  • ANYWAY Les Mis was so so so good, and the set design was unbelievable, and there was a turntable, and the guy who played Valjean did a PHENOMENAL performance of Bring Him Home.
  • We went to the British museum, which was a pretty standard history/art/culture museum. And then we went to the science museum, which was SO COOL and I ran around like a little kid and tried to convince my friends to be as excited about the big data exhibit as I was.

“Academic” Visits

  • Our first visit was with a Youth Mentorship nonprofit that worked under the mayor of London. The first thing we did was play a couple of surprisingly fun icebreaker games, including one called “Bish Bash Bosh” where you had to react/improvise an action whenever you got pointed to. It sounds pretty lame when you explain it but it was actually v fun and got pretty competitive. They they told us about their mentorship programs, and we got to talk in small groups with some of the young people. The girl I talked to was soooo enthusiastic and literally said how much she loved America like 1000 times in 15 minutes. She also asked us how many days of summer vacation there were and was disappointed that it was not the same number as they say in the Phineas and Ferb theme song.
  • We also went to a British nursery, which was SO FUN because we got to interact with the kids for most of the time. Plus these kids speak English, which you wouldn’t think makes that big a difference with toddlers, but it really does. The second I walked into the room, one girl took my hand and made me follow her around to all of the stations, which was v cute. The most impressive thing about the nursery was that everything they did was 100% evidence-based, and they had a teacher assigned to each kid to observe them and write a development plan based on each kid’s needs. The deliberate way they do education there reminded me a lot of Peabody, and was a HUGE change from the education style in Denmark. Another impressive thing was that all 80-100 kids hang out in one big room, which you’d think would be chaos, but actually worked somehow and made the space feel really open and child-centered.
  • The next “academic” visit was to the Adventure Playground, which is this really big urban space where kids can come after school and play, cook, make things, and interact with adult role models. It’s a really cool way of promoting competency because everything that’s done at the playground is decided by the kids – if they want to build a swing, then that’s what they’ll do. It’s also a place to get food and stay off the streets when their parents aren’t home. One thing that was funny was that the guy mentioned that there’s an Adventure Playground in Berkeley, and I realized that I’m like 96% sure I went there on a 5th grade field trip. But as the guy mentioned, it’s more of a destination playground than an urban playground, so its community implications are a lot different. After we talked for like 25 minutes (around a HUGE campfire), we got to play on the playground, which was v fun because they had a zipline and I got our study tour leader, Amana, to take a ride on it which was hilarious.

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  • While I’m on the topic, Amana is literally the funniest person ever because he’s the most easygoing person I have ever met in my entire life. And kind of childish, but in the best way possible. When we were at high tea, one of the girls in my class asked the waiter where the loo was, and Amana just giggles to himself and is like “hehe…she said ‘loo.'” Marina and I kept a little mental list of all of the hilarious things that Amana did or said and it kept us entertained throughout the entire week.
  • The last academic visit we had was to a “typical” British elementary school. The structure of the visit was really cool, because we basically got to sit in a classroom for most of the time. Marina and I went to a 4th grade classroom, where they were doing a writing lesson, and the amount of structure they had was just a HUGE shock compared to the lack of structure in the Danish classroom. I got to help the kids with organizing their writing, which was VERY sophisticated for 8-year-olds. I didn’t, however, necessarily agree with everything the teacher did. I loved that she modeled the activity for kids, but the whole lecture was very teacher-centered and it didn’t seem like she gave the kids much autonomy or creative licence in the writing process. Then, we all had a little meeting with the head teacher, who basically admitted that he was a big fan of assimilation (aka getting rid of multiculturalism and making everyone integrate into the mainstream), which made all of us really uncomfortable considering that we all chose to take a class called Children in a Multicultural Context
  • After the visit, we all debriefed in a cafe, which was interesting because people had some pretty strong feelings about the school. During the reflection, I started to think about how a country’s cultural values and identity impact what’s valued in education, both in good and bad ways. Like in the States, we’re all about the American Dream and not throwing away our shot, but that makes us really focused on accountability and tricking ourselves into thinking that we have social mobility. And in Denmark, there’s this whole value of egalitarianism, which is great because there’s no tracking and free college, but also less attention to cultural difference and the impact of non-economic capital. I don’t know enough about British culture to make any statements about what its impact on education is, but that’d be an interesting topic to research in relation to the teaching styles that we saw. It was actually a really challenging discussion to have, because you want to dismiss this attitude toward assimilation and strict teaching style and disregard for SEL/student wellbeing (the kids were literally separated into table groups by ability, and one kid was sulking and no one even tried to help him) as completely wrong, but it’s a lot more complicated than that, because you have to think about what really defines a good education that prepares these kids for the society they’re going into. This reflection session made me aware of how much I’m actually getting out of studying abroad (yay validation)

Coming Up

  • Me actually having to do schoolwork
  • Teaching CS to some Danish kids
  • Trying out the new routes at Blocs and Walls
  • Traveling with Zack yikes
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