Sullivan Shubert, a senior history major from Minneapolis, was among the Lawrentians studying abroad at London Centre during Fall Term. A student writer in the Office of Communications, Sullivan is sharing his experience.
Never did I seriously believe that I would be studying abroad. I knew that Lawrence had phenomenal study abroad opportunities, London Centre among them. But a homebody like me traveling abroad and flying by myself for the first time? “Inconceivable,” as a certain Sicilian princess-napper from one of our apartment movie nights was so fond of saying.
Before I knew it, it was already halfway through my junior year. When else could I travel abroad so easily and with so much support? I knew it was time to put my doubts aside and have an adventure.
Before I get too far along in sharing my story, let me say this: For Lawrence students considering traveling abroad, Shannon Featherstone, Off-Campus Programs associate, is the perfect person to speak to. She is both encouraging and realistic about your options. She helped me decide London was my perfect fit. It never hurts to speak to your advisor as well to make sure you’re on track with requirements.
Great Britain and Vikings have a bit of a history. Thankfully, its history with the Lawrentian brand of Vikings has been much more pleasant! A Lawrence staple for over 50 years and the most popular study abroad destination, the London Centre is a program for any student regardless of major. Based heavily around experiential learning, it is a perfect mix of familiar and fresh for students looking for opportunities to explore a new country.
As a history major, I chose classes on history, anthropology, and Baroque music, but other available classes included a required fourth British Life and Culture course, theater, contemporary art, studio instruction, and an optional internship seminar. Students in London aren’t just allowed but encouraged to experiment, explore, and expand their horizons. Still anxious about living abroad, I knew London would be just the right amount of difficulty.
London Centre is one of many options for studying abroad during your time as an undergraduate
With the trip and classes decided, I had an intimidating but exciting summer to prepare. I found multiple Lawrentians taking the same flight. When the big day finally came, we weathered all the ups and downs on the journey to London and our apartment together, and I can’t recommend enough looking for travel partners ahead of time.
London Centre is located in the heart of the Bloomsbury district, walking distance to Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Soho, the West End, and other popular destinations. As for the apartment itself, 15 or so of us Lawrentians got to live eight per apartment, three to four per room, with restaurants, a grocery store, and the tube station to anywhere in London right around the corner. Classes are in the building next door, perfect for rainy days. It wasn’t too hard to get settled in.
Also helpful for getting us settled in was the faculty and staff, including London Centre Director Lee White, who always had students’ interests in mind and made sure we got the most out of our trip. He even hosted tea time every week with the quintessential British biscuits and Jaffa cakes to enjoy. Student Affairs Manager Meg Griffin of FSU also helped get us settled and always had amusing quips ready to fire.
The incredible experiences began immediately. Our classes toured historic sites such as churches and bustling markets, attended plays and concerts or just strolled the streets with professors discussing London’s history with the British monarchy, LGBTQ+ community, Judaism, and more. I had never heard a harpsichord in person before, and thanks to my Baroque music class, it became a weekly joy.
Applications for studying at London Centre during 2023-24 academic year due March 1
Soho is where the music shops tend to be. Mayfair is where to go for fancy luxury items. The British Museum is just down the street from the apartments and there are countless other museums to explore. I did experience a couple culture shocks—small, crunchy snack pretzels are nearly impossible to find, and most light switches are outside the room they light up—but adjusting wasn’t nearly as hard as I had feared.
I had arrived in London with plans: Gather information for a senior capstone idea, visit some museums, raid every music store on the map, and find the legendary Squashies—a family-favorite British candy that has tragically vanished from American shelves.
In this diverse metropolis, however, your plans might not always go as expected...and here’s how that can be a great thing: My capstone idea ended up morphing into something else entirely, there were far too many great music stores to make a complete sweep, and my candy quarry was right in our favorite supermarket just down the street; a little anticlimactic, but my family’s faces when I brought back 20 bags made it all worth it.
Lawrence alumni reflect on 50 years of memories at London Centre
To top it all off, there I was with midterm break approaching, expecting to spend it all in London—not on White’s watch. With all of Europe to explore and White’s airline recommendations, I—the same person who doubted they could prepare enough for London even with the help of family—arranged an incredible four-day trip to Luxembourg. What kind of crazy adventurer had the London Centre turned me into?
Of course, not all surprises were pleasant. The passing of the Queen the day after we arrived put London into a reverent lull for a time, but the dogged British spirit meant the city never truly stopped. One class even brought us to a public broadcast of the funeral services. Although a somber event, witnessing the U.K. pay tribute to its beloved 70-year monarch and crown a new king was an honor to witness and a memory I’ll never forget.
Many of my favorite memories from London are of us finding unique spots in the city that we made our own. One of my happy discoveries was The Tintin Shop, an entire store based on Hergé’s The Adventures of Tintin series, a staple of my childhood. A fellow Lawrentian was delighted to find a store dedicated to the Warhammer series of strategic board games. Learning that I was a Warhammer beginner, he invited me to tag along and we enjoyed a thrilling game together.
As for other favorite spots, Denmark Street is lined with fantastic music and instrument shops, and Cecil Court is a haven for fans of old books, maps, and antiques. Nobody should dare miss the trip to Brighton where every store you could ask for is crammed into a picturesque seaside town.
Classes at the London Centre had their challenges, much like a regular term at Lawrence, but overall, I couldn’t be happier with my choice. I came home loaded with Squashies, fascinating books, a waist-high stack of CDs, and precious knowledge and perspective I’ll be using for the rest of my life.
Lawrence had already been a large adjustment for me as I figured out time and work management in an adult world. Studying abroad, however, has taught me so much more about what I’m truly capable of.
There will be plenty of moments outside your comfort zone, but never will you be without help and encouragement to push those boundaries and become a stronger person. If you’re considering studying abroad, take the chance while you can. Applications for London Centre 2023–24 are due March 1. Safe travels!