By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
I’ll be home in less than a month.
Just as this city has started to really get in under my skin in the best ways, it’s going to be over. It’s made even worse by the realization that I’ve only got one weekend left in London.
I suppose it’s for the best that I’m falling in love with the city as I prepare to leave it.
This all just feels like I’ve had two pints of cider at the pub and upon standing I realize I’m a little more drunk than anticipated…but not too far gone for another pint.
One of my favorite buildings in all of London is St. Paul’s Cathedral. Look back on most of my Instagrams of any sort of London skyline, if it’s not featuring Big Ben or the London Eye (or some combination of me trying to break into a palace or join the Royal Family). St. Paul’s Cathedral is there, sometimes in the foreground, sometimes in the background, sometimes featured in a glass of wine.
I’ve never actually been inside of St.Paul’s, mind you. It’s on my (dwindling) list of places to go, and my friend convinced me to wait to go until next weekend. Ending my London tourist-ings on a high note, right?
It’s hard to explain my infatuation with this building. William and Kate weren’t even married there (though William’s mother and father were). In a city filled to the brim with old buildings, it’s one of the most noteworthy, sure, but there’s just something about the way it rises above most of the other buildings in that majestic way tall things are tall. It’s a crude description but bear with me.
Whether I’m 50 feet or 5,000 meters away, something about that white dome just catches my eye and holds my attention. A friend and I walked around the cathedral on Saturday evening and I couldn’t help but just stare skyward at the beautifully carved exterior, marveling.
Something about St. Paul’s makes me feel centered. I’m by no means a religious person, but the curve of the dome and the beauty that was wrought by Christopher Wren just makes things feel right.
I feel small, but not in a bad way. You get close to the building and look up, until you remember to look where you’re going because another tourist almost bumped into you. You remember your feet are still on the ground and you’ve got another place to go.
Maybe it’s strange to have a semi-religious experience thanks to a building’s exterior architecture and maybe I’m just mostly typing nonsense, but I think it all goes hand in hand with my time in London.
No matter what, I’ll always look toward London. It’ll have a place in my heart, for better or for worse, and now I’ll understand a little better what this city actually is.
Just like getting close to the cathedral, I’ve felt small in London. I’ve felt really small. Never before have I felt so outside my comfort zone in so many situations—but it’s also a beautiful reminder of what life brings.
In no way shape or form should I remain in my comfort zone at all times, and I think I best grow when put outside of my native environment.
I think because of all of this, it’s given me a greater understanding of myself. Sure I’ve bumped into a number of tourists (both physically and allegorically), but it’s all made me realize what’s going on around me—and just how awesome it’s been to be here.
By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
If Webster was a college-aged COM major, he’d describe FOMO in the following ways:
By Devon Delfino, Staff Writer
In a move reminiscent to the famous pact of “American Pie,” a London teen plans to lose his virginity next year, according to the UK edition of the Huffington Post. Here’s where it gets interesting: He plans to lose it in front of an audience of 50 to 100 people, all in the name of ‘art.’ The installment, “Art School Stole My Virginity,” will take place on Jan. 25.
But how can one make a life event like losing one’s virginity into art? What does that even mean?
For Clayton Pettet, the artist, the performance piece is a means of expression and the ultimate way of exploring the issue of virginity and share the experience in an once-in-a-lifetime installment.
On his Tumblr page, Pettet states, “The Idea of ‘Art School Stole My Virginity’ came around when I was Sixteen, when all my peers at school were losing their Virginity it was incredibly hard for me to ask why I was still a Virgin and why it meant so much to the people all around me. My piece isn’t a statement as much as it is a question. The whole aspect of Virginity was incredibly emotional for me and has been ever since.”
The controversy surrounding the piece points to the obvious as many have speculated that Pettet’s installation cheapens the right of passage by turning it into a spectacle rather than letting it remain a private affair.
But, perhaps this move is warranted; looking to the media, we are constantly bombarded with sexual displays; from Miley Cyrus groping Robin Thicke at the VMA’s, to incredibly sexually explicit music lyrics and videos, it seems that the creative world is already shrouded in a heightened sexual awareness.
Pettet’s goal is to stimulate discussion about the issue of virginity; with the coverage his installation is already receiving has already started that. After all, it has been said, “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”
By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
Is it bad that I want to preface every single blog post with the statement “I HAVE SURVIVED”? Like it’s a somewhat novel idea that I’ve made it yet another week in this strange little island country that has like…10 different names.
Okay that’s not true, it’s only four or so (The United Kingdom, England, Britain, Great Britain—see what I mean?).
Pro tip: British and English are two very different things. You can be British but not English (the Irish and Welsh, for example. This basically applies to countries that are members of Great Britain but separate from England itself). Isn’t learning fun?
Getting back on topic…noon on Tuesday will exactly mark the halfway point of my semester in London.
It’s been quite the ride thus far, as I’m sure you’ve read. But getting comfortable with your new surroundings takes way more time than any of your friends will ever let on (though I’ll be totally honest because sometimes I’m too blunt).
From what I’ve ascertained in conversations with other friends on the program, it’s hard not to walk off that plane at Heathrow with the expectation that this semester will change your life. But it’s not like taking the Tube is a religious experience that lets you feel close to God the moment you mind the gap and alight to Paddington.
The good stuff takes time and I think in a lot of cases, it’s not until it’s gone that you realize what you actually had.
What I’m trying to say is that I love London but I’m not “in-love“ with London. At least not yet. It’s still really scary trying to cross the street and I still second-guess which side of the sidewalk I should be walking on.
I’m self-conscious about my accent when ordering my skinny Americano from Pret. Sometimes that’s reason enough to just stay inside and binge on episodes of Bad Education on the BBC iPlayer (watch that show, it’s hilarious).
But there is hope. This week, I started my internship with a technology media company (the UK’s largest) called IDG UK. I’m by no means a tech nerd (though I can spit some mad game if you ask me about the latest Apple keynote) but like one of my professors told me, tech reporting is just like any other beat.
Thus far, it’s been awesome. Maybe it’s the workload or the diversity of things I get to do or the fact that I’m not taking classes and the office is in a cool part of town and has a ton of windows, but it’s been a great deal of fun.
I’ve even learned some new British slang, realized the value of Google when understanding British idioms and got to cover an event that brought me to the top of The Shard (the tallest building in Western Europe).
It’s also forced me to get out and see a new part of London, which is extremely refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, I love South Ken and the hordes of children in their school uniforms zipping past me on their scooters, but dodging their mothers’ Prada bags and fathers’ Maserati or Range Rover or Bugatti when I’m just trying to run off last night’s Burger King gets old and fast.
I’d much rather be run down by other young professionals just trying to get to that place off Oxford Street that only sells hot dogs and champagne.
I’ve always had better luck with the second halves of experiences. Chalk it up to growing pains, if you must. Getting adjusted to new things can be absolutely crappy, but let’s be real: once you get your sea legs, you learn just how awesome boating can be. Or in this case, living in London.
By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
It seems only fair that I’m spending my last night of fall break holed up in a makeshift blanket-cocoon in my room with all the lights off, felled by a migraine. The last five days have been a total whirlwind (I hate that that’s such a cliché but it’s perfect way to put it) in what has become the total study abroad rite of passage: Fall break. Or spring break for those in the spring semester. Basically a chunk of time that you are given off so you can use it to do the most magical thing in Europe: travel. And travel we did.
First: Flying Ryanair to Budapest was largely uneventful—with one exception. Drinking a pint of cider over dinner before our flight certainly helped us get settled into our flight on the low-cost airline. Ryanair is infamous for selling seats at dirt-cheap prices and then charging you like crazy for things like multiple pieces of luggage or not being able to fit all of your belongings into the smallest suitcase known to man. But you do it because it’s all about the benjamins saved that are better used on boat tours or pub crawls. Duh. So the Ryanair flight to Budapest. Totally normal, run-of-the-mill. The plane descends, touches down and makes a successful landing. Suddenly the entire airplane erupts with applause. And then the first call bugle song that they play at the Kentucky Derby (you know the one) plays over the speakers and a recording comes on saying Ryainair has the most on-time flights in Europe. And then everyone claps again. I’m not sure if we clapped because the flight was cheap or that we all survived the cheapest flights of our lives. For all I know, we could have been clapping for the fact that we were simply not dead.
Once we landed, we navigated the bus/metro system from the airport to our hostel in the center of the city. The highlight of all of our hostel stays on this trip had to be the first man we met in our hostel in Budapest, Zoltan. My friend Tyler, who I traveled with, gave a really solid summary of our encounter with Zoltan (since it only really happened once) on his blog and it’s definitely worth a read.
But back to why fall break travel is a rite of passage. Unless you’re keen on staying in the UK, most students (at least that I know of on the BU abroad program) use this time to visit places they’ve never been before. More often than not, these places are in different countries. And chances are, there’s a language barrier.
Studying abroad in London offers the unique chance to experience a different culture without having to get over a serious language barrier. Unless, of course, you’re me. But we’ll get to that later. For Tyler and I, we knew we wanted to travel to Budapest and Stockholm, so we booked the flights and hostels and went on our merry way. Emerging from customs in a foreign country is such a weird experience. You shuffle off the plane, hand over your documents and then you’re just spit out into this new place. The country is your oyster. It’s exhilarating and a little terrifying, especially when you’re looking for signs with English because neither you nor your travel partner speak Hungarian or Swedish. But you figure it out. Because you have to. At no point can you just throw up your hands and say “I’m done with this country I’m outta here.” Well, you could, but logistically it’d be quite difficult. You learn to truly roll with the punches and the ultimate value in asking for help. Plus a new-found appreciation for the fact that so many people in Europe are fluent in English.
Funny story about speaking English…My only serious issues with language barriers actually came from trying (and completely failing) to understand English-speakers. The best example is from our first night in Stockholm, when Tyler and I were chatting with this Australian guy also staying in the hostel. He was telling us about he had been traveling around Europe for the last couple months and I asked about his favorite place to visit. He responded “Ireland” but with his accent, I heard “island.” So I tried to clarify: “What island?” to which he replied, “Ireland.” Tyler had to put me out of misery before I brought us further shame by not understanding our own language.
By Brandon Lewis, Staff Writer
My personal definition of a musical is a cheery, upbeat theatrical production full of music. What comes to mind are the Lion King, Mamma Mia, Wicked, Book of Mormon, Jersey Boys and the list goes on, not a psychological thriller like American Pyscho, a film known for its graphic violence and sexual content. But it’s happening. A musical version of the movie is set to premiere in London later this year.
According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, former Doctor Who star, Matt Smith, was cast as the musical’s lead character. Smith will play Patrick Bateman, a Manhattan businessman who serves as an investment banker by day and serial killer by night. So what is Smith going to be singing about on stage, the amount of blood oozing from his victims’ bodies or how much stock his employer is selling to investors? Beats me.
The Ruper Goold directed stage production is based on Bret Easton Ellis’s 1991 novel and the 2000 film adaptation in which Christian Bale played the lead role. Duncan Sheik, the Tony Award-winning composer of “Spirit Awakening”, created the score for the musical, which also stars Ben Aldridge, Susannah Fielding and Simon Gregor.
I’m interested in hearing Sheik’s score for this musical because I can’t imagine the types of songs he created to depict a storyline that’s far from the conventions of a typical musical. Let’s be real here. There is no musicality in murder and mental instability. This type of subject matter simply doesn’t suit theatre. I don’t know how Ruper Gould and his production team pulled this off but they found a way. “American Pyscho: the Musical” (I don’t know if that’s the official title) is set to debut at London’s Almeida Theatre on December 3 and run until January 25.
By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
Is it possible to get whiplash from things in your life changing so quickly? As of last week, I finally felt like I had settled into a normal-ish routine of classwork, socializing and sight-seeing. Now, all that is changing once again as Monday marks the start of finals (already?) and fall break begins after finals wrap up on Tuesday.
I suppose the class trip to Brussels at the beginning of the week didn’t help my sense of adjustment—three days in the capital of Europe (I learned that there) were followed by the last two class days of the first half of the semester. Boston University splits up the abroad semester a bit strangely—the first five weeks of the semester are devoted to two classes, followed by a five-day break and eight weeks spent interning and taking one class. Then you spend a week and a half traveling and studying for your last finals and then it’s back to the U.S. with you.
The class trip to Brussels was an interesting experience in that I rarely had any idea where I was. Everything in the city is in two languages—Flemish and French, so looking at a map was extra complicated. Plus, I have absolutely no knowledge of the Flemish language and the only things I know how to say in French are “hello,” “goodbye,” and “my little hat.” That last one is guaranteed to make people laugh, but definitely will not help you when you’re trying to figure out how to get to Delirium Café. Don’t worry, I found it anyway.
Though my complications with the language barriers in Brussels will only get more hilarious—I say hilarious because I laugh when I’m uncomfortable—during fall break as my friend Tyler and I travel to Budapest and Stockholm. I doubt I could identify the Hungarian language if a Hungarian person was shouting in my face, but I think I’ll be okay in Stockholm because I’ve been to Ikea so many times.
Nevertheless, this constant adjustment and readjustment to my changing surroundings is good. What good is your comfort zone if you don’t know its limits? And who knows, maybe I’ll pick up Hungarian in a snap and actually have a sense of direction in one of these foreign cities. But in the meantime, I’m just glad my phone has an international data plan. Thank God for Google Maps.
By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
I’m proud to say this is my second blog post filed while in transit. This time, I’m somewhere below the English Channel, en route to Brussels on a class trip for my political science class. I really wish the Chunnel (the Channel Tunnel) had little windows to see the water. It’s kinda eerie gliding through this tunnel knowing I’m under water but not really knowing much else.
Today also marks my fourth week since landing in London, though it feels like much, much longer. This week, I’ve had the chance to explore both my neighborhood and other parts off city (not to mention the foreign city I’m headed toward now).
I finally got to get my journalism on with Wednesday’s assignment to go to Canary Wharf, find and write a 1,000-word feature story. Canary Wharf is arguably London’s most transformed borough thanks to the jolt of capitalism administered by Margaret Thatcher back in the ’80s. The result: a gleaming, silver archipelago of power and wealth built on London’s formerly dilapidated docklands. Now, the former isle of dogs is inhabited by a major European financial center, chock full of successful-looking men and women in expensive suits. I felt like a pauper walking among the Credit Suisse and Barclays bigwigs, but you gotta fake it ’till you make it, right? One of my favorite sights was a sand sculpture of William, Kate, and the royal baby on the West India docks. It’s now a life goal of mine to be immortalized in a sand sculpture.
Back in South Ken, I found myself in Hyde Park nearly every day this week until I was felled by a nasty cough. It has been absolutely beautiful and rain-free in the capital for the last couple days and there really is no better way to enjoy the weather than with strolls around the Serpentine or jogs to the Marble Arch. See, Mom, I’m actually using my sneakers! Friday night, a couple friends and I packed a dinner and some ciders and picnicked on a hill next to Kensington Palace as the sun set. It certainly wasn’t as active as a run, but it was a heck of a lot more fun.
Since then, I’ve been nursing a persistent cough that the British hilariously call a “chesty cough.” Even getting sick here is a cultural experience. In the process of buying out the cold and cough sections of Boots in the hopes of feeling better before the trip to Brussels, I can’t help but feel a little proud I’m not feeling well. Clearly I’m doing something right, because you only get sick when you’re exposed to other people. It’s like my chesty cough is proof that I’ve been out and about, getting to know this city and its inhabitants. I could be totally insane trying to justify this, but you know there’s a grain of truth in what I’m saying.
Now, I’ve got an arsenal of cough medicine, lozenges and nasal spray to keep me powering through Brussels’ delicacies and sites. Here’s to hoping they do their job.
By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
This past week was my first full week of classes (four days of four hours of classes, which for the record is more than I was doing back in Boston so that’s an adjustment in and of itself). After my four hours of morning classes on Monday, I decided to be a good student and head over to neighboring Imperial College for a study session. They also have a pub on campus so I figured I’d get a pint as I worked my way through my Government and Politics of the European Union textbook. Aren’t I such a good student?
The union pub thing (it’s still not really clear what the place is called) is basically a big room with a couple of tables, big windows and high ceilings that apparently gets pretty wild on Wednesdays when classes are in session. Oh, and of course, a bar that stretches the length of the room.
Walking into the union (we’ll call it that), there had to be no more than five people in the place (probably because it was 2 p.m.), including the one bartender woman that gave me a pretty glare-y once-over as I walked over to the bar. Actually, it felt like all five people in the establishment turned and stared as I walked into the place. Like they could smell it on me that I wasn’t from here (or even a real Imperial student). Finding a spot to sit felt like that scene in Mean Girls where Cady tries to navigate the lunchroom only I didn’t have a posse like Janice and that guy who’s too gay to function telling me where the awkward foreigners sit. Because that’s apparently now my clique du jour. At least no one growled at me.
But alas, faking it until I make it is among my primary skills so I plunked down in the corner of the union with my pint and textbook and did my best not to be distracted by the freakishly good music being played. Seriously, they played “Hey Ya,” “99 Problems” and “Milkshake.” I kept kind of laughing at the music because it was great (I was drinking a pint, after all), and the bartender and other patrons just kept looking over at me with these weird judge-y stares. In hindsight, this might be because I ordered a pint at 2 in the afternoon.
People trickled in and out of the union during my three hours of studying (that music was really distracting) and I couldn’t help but feel like I was just this weird magnet with my funky and arguably fresh American scent.
Once I finished my work, I resisted the urge to slam down my glass and yell “FOR AMERICA” or drop the mic or something (because that would be rude). I have no proof or real knowledge that anyone in the place actually even noticed I was there, but it was strange to feel like I was sticking out like a sore thumb.
One of my friends on the program is originally from England and has been acting as my cultural ambassador. I told her about my experience (“IT’S LIKE THEY COULD SMELL THAT I’M AN AMERICAN!!!”) and she said it’s probably true. She also said that no one really cares. If you’re from America, you look like an American and people can observe that the same way you know a German when you see one and that’s that. But really, no one cares.
I still haven’t decided whether or not I’ll be going back this week. If I do make it back, I’ll just have to resist the urge to sing the national anthem or start a “USA” chant.
By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
I’m not even in London yet and I have to keep reminding myself that “study” comes before “abroad” in “study abroad.”
I’m writing this about a thousand feet above the Atlantic Ocean, en route to London to begin a semester studying abroad through BU’s journalism internship program. I have to admit, I’m really more concerned with my internship and where I’ll be traveling on breaks and weekends than when/where my classes are. Let’s chalk it up to “senioritis.”
I’ve always known I wanted to go abroad. Back in high school when I was in the throes of learning the Spanish language, I was dead-set on studying in a Spanish-speaking country. Now, most of my language skills have disappeared with age — though I can still throw out a couple swearwords when need be, so it’s just convenient London is English-speaking.
A couple of my friends went to London last fall. More specifically, they went to Oktoberfest. The experience undoubtedly broadened their horizons and also opened my mind to the glorious realization that, hey, I can do that too. The pictures of them in the tents drinking some beer and eating pretzels – two of my favorite things – and having fun with a group of people in a foreign country just looked like such another level of fun that I had to go.
A few months later, here I am, en route to the UK. It’s not exactly Oktoberfest - still working on that one – but I’m headed toward new surroundings, new friends, and new experiences. All on a new continent.
Once we land, it’s off to the Crofton, my home for the semester. I have no idea when classes start but I do know one of my political science classes has a field trip to Brussels. It’s a fact that political science + waffles + beer = a happy Lauren.
Until then, I’ll be fighting off jet lag and Instagram-ing my little heart out. Wanna follow along in real time? Follow my Instagram @LaurenDez and Twitter @LaurenDezenski. I’m also posting additional blogs beyond these weekly posts on my own website, laurendezenski.com, because it’s the semester-so-nice-I’m-going-to-write-about-it-twice.
Side note: Snaps to the Boston Logan International Airport E Terminal Burger King for serving my final meal in America until December 15. The E terminal had pretty slim pickings food-wise (Dunkin Donuts, whereforeart thou?), but Burger King shone like the beacon of hope and truth we all know it to be and delivered some glorious American fast food.
Lauren Dezenski is a senior studying journalism and political science, spending the semester studying abroad in London.