Here is advice for students thinking about their up-coming time at the London Centre. Much of this responds to things many students have questions about before coming to the London Centre. This information comes from past program participants and London Centre staff members.
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 BBCAmerica
- Stream UK radio
- Familiarize yourself with a map of the UK
- Read literature by British authors or about London and the UK - try "Notes From a Small Island" by Bill Bryson, pick up some Charles Dickens, or Jane Austen, re-read Harry Potter, 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
Regardless of how you get from the airport to the Centre, you will have to get all of your luggage through an airport, onto at least one train, up a couple of flights of stairs, and down about four city blocks. The lighter you pack, the easier this trek will be on you! Keep in mind that things can get very heavy, very fast! One good test while packing is to pack what you think you'll need and go outside and walk around the block - you'll inevitably be tired and your bags will be too heavy. Go back inside and re-evaluate what you deem necessary. Then repack.
While the temperature in London rarely goes above 85 degrees in the summer or below 30 degrees in the winter, London does have cold winds and temperature extremes. No, it won't be as cold as Appleton and there won't be Wisconsin amounts of snow. Yes, it will definitely be more rainy and damp. Make sure you pack for the English climate. Think in terms of layering and colour coordination when you pack to make a smaller amount of clothing go the further. Layering keeps you warmer, makes it easier to adapt to indoor or crowded Tube temperatures, gives you more options in combination, and saves room in your suitcases. It is best to bring practical, warm clothing that is comfortable and requires minimal care (laundry can be quite expensive). Londoners generally dress in a more stylish manner than Wisconsinites, so bring some nicer clothes than usual as well. Internship students may need to dress up more frequently so they may want to bring more nice outfits.
What you will need:
- A few sweaters
- Dress pants
- Comfortable shoes (there is a lot of walking to be done in London!)
- A jacket with a removable lining for both cold and warmer days
- A waterproof jacket
- Waterproof shoes
- At least 1 dressy outfit i.e. skirts, dresses, shirts
You may want to shop when you get to London and it is possible to get good prices at markets and during the sales where you can generally get deals on sweaters and other clothes. Jeans and hiking clothes, however, tend to be much more expensive in London and are best brought from the US.
In your carry-on luggage
- Passport- if you do not have a passport, apply early as it can take 4 to 6 weeks to process the application
- Immigration letter provided by Lawrence
- Driver's license or other ID LU ID card
- CISI Insurance information provided by Lawrence
Medications in their original bottle/packaging with the original labels
- If the prescription will need to be refilled while you are out of the United States, you will also need a prescription from your doctor containing the commercial, generic, and Latin names of the drug - it is also advisable to bring a letter from your doctor which explains your condition and treatment
- A change of clothes - It doesn't happen often but it's good to be prepared incase there's a delay in getting your checked baggage from your flight
- Photocopy your documents - make two sets of copies of each of the following: the first page of your passport, return plane ticket, Travelers' Check numbers. Leave one set at home and bring the other with you to London.
- Eurail or Britrail passes (if you choose to purchase either of these) - both of these can only be purchased from the U.S. so you will either need to buy them before you arrive or have them mailed to you in London once they are sent to your home address. Research these passes and decided if they will be beneficial for the traveling you plan on doing while you are abroad - it's often more cost-effective to just purchase youth or group discounted fares.
In your checked luggage
- Batteries - these are available but much cheaper from the US
- Battery powered alarm clock
- Toiletries - Pack enough for the first few weeks (unless you have a must-have favourite product). You can get everything in London that you would want from the US (although sticking to American brands might be a bit more expensive than trying a different brand). Contact lens supplies, though, can be expensive in London so you should plan on bringing enough for the term.
- A book bag or some sort of carry-all - larger packs are can be good for traveling but are awkward when you are out in London for the day or getting groceries home
- A towel (if you decide to bring one) Alternatively, you can easily save the space and weight in your luggage by purchasing a towel when you get to London.
- Notebooks and stationery can be expensive in London so you may want to pack a notebook and a few pens
- You might want to get one good London guidebook so you will have an idea of what the city has to offer before you arrive. You are advised to purchase an 'A to Z' book of maps when you get to London - this is an invaluable resource for every Londoner!
- A small sturdy umbrella - It can get windy so have one that can stand up to the weather.
- Small sewing kit and safety pins
- Anything sharp you are bringing (scissors, tweezers, razors, etc.)
- International Phone cards from the US - buying international calling cards in London is cheaper and work more reliably than ones brought from the US
- Linens, bedding, dishes, and basic cooking utensils
- DVDs - the US has a different regional encoding than the UK so DVDs you bring will not work in the DVD players in the UK (although they will work in laptops brought from the US)