Becoming familiar with English culture, current events, geography, and history before you arrive in the UK are an important and effective way you can better understand life in London before your arrival. Sure, you probably can't get used to the accent, traffic coming from the 'wrong' direction, or uniquely British ways of saying things while you are still in the United States but, there is plenty that you can do to prepare yourself for your transition into London life. Doing these things before you come to London will get you excited about your term abroad, will help put things in perspective once you arrive, and will put your trip into a more meaningful context.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Read a basic introduction to the history of the United Kingdom - this will give you a better understanding of the things you will see on London streets, in museums, and will help you recognize significant places and people
- Periodically read through a London newspaper to become familiar with current events - additionally, newspapers are a huge part of British culture and this will get you familiar with this aspect of London life - the Mudd library on campus receives a couple of the more popular London papers
- Watch British television - BBC news and an assortment of BBC dramas and British comedy are shown on public television in the U.S. and on BBC America
- Stream UK radio
- Familiarize yourself with a map of the UK
- Read literature by British authors or about London and the UK – try The Bumper Book of London by Becky Jones and Clare Lewis – history and other facts about London, presented in a family-friendly format and a favorite of Christine Harris. Or try Londoners by Craig Taylor for a book focusing on the diverse lives of the London population. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson is also popular. White Teeth by Zadie Smith is also worth reading. Or pick up some other British literature: Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, John Keats, JK Rowling or see what the library has to offer.
Frame of Mind
Your time at the London Centre will be what you make of it. Thus, arriving with the right frame of mind and expectations for your term can be key to getting the most of your time abroad and personalizing your experience of London. Here are a few pieces of advice put together from past participants and others who have vast experience traveling and living abroad.
- Don't let your time in London be a transplant of your experiences on campus: take part in British life, try new things, meet new people, take full advantage of the opportunities, sites, and excursions in your classes, make the most of your time with Lawrentians at the Centre, explore things on your own and become a Londoner
- Before you leave, think about whether you want to focus your travels in England or get a smattering of European sites - Don't try to visit everywhere at the expense of truly experiencing nothing. Rather, plan to take time to absorb the culture in each place you visit rather than hopping from city to city
- Spend time discovering London on your own as you will have a profoundly different experience than if you are with other Americans - walk through some non-touristy areas, stroll through the Royal Parks on a weekend afternoon, start up a conversation with someone at a pub, store, or restaurant
- Get travel advice from others who have gone on this or other study-abroad programs and from people you meet along the way in your travels
- Be flexible and have a sense of humour - some of your best memories can come from the unexpected challenges you'll encounter
- Do not go to Europe expecting everything to be like the United States. One of the main benefits of international travel is learning how to be less ethnocentric; living within the culture of England will be more rewarding than demanding that the locals change to your expectations
- Above all else, make the most of your time abroad and the endless, varied opportunities London offers