Hi again to anyone who read my previous post, and if you haven’t read my first post- hi! My name is Samantha Wilkerson and I am writing about my study abroad trip with the USF in London program. As a little recap I am a Psychology and Sociology major who is about to enter her final year here at the University of South Florida (Go Bulls!). So far we are about a week in and therefore have just around three weeks left before heading home. Before I start talking about how amazing the program has been during this first week, I just wanted to give some tips for anyone else who is in the same situation as me and may be traveling outside the country for the first time. First of all, I would recommend buying a passport holder that goes around your neck; although this might seem like a useless purchase I found that having it under my jacket made me feel more comfortable and not as worried about the possibility of theft that you are constantly told to worry about when embarking to a new area. Another tip is to follow the schedule of the place that you are going to; I hear this before leaving and although I listened just in case I didn’t understand how it could really make a difference, but it made the transition so much easier. For example, my flight to London left Orlando Florida at 7 p.m. FL time and then landed 9 a.m. London time, I decided to follow the advice that I have heard before and not take a nap and I never experienced the horrible jetlag that some others on the trip faced after taking a nap and then not being able to sleep when London’s nighttime came around.
Onto my first week here in London, this week was the big site-seeing weekend because it included the London pass weekend. The first week class excursions included orientation to the program, the Dinner Cruise, a street art tour on Brick Lane, the Sherlock Holmes museum, and the Langley Psychiatric Hospital. These tours were amazing and showed how important it is to learn about a local area and how a community is created and sustained. Like I said, the weekend we used our London Pass and therefore were able to go to a lot of the major touristy places for free. The group that I went with went to St. Paul’s Cathedral (if you are able to I definitely recommend going up to the top of the building, the view is gorgeous). We also did the London Bridge Experience which was a “scary” underground historical experience…not really sure how to describe it but it was a lot of fun with other people. Other weekend activities included the Churchill War Rooms, which if you are interested in politics and history it is a must, the Tower of London where we were able to see the famous jewels of the famous family. My biggest recommendation for the weekend would be to go see the Shard, not only was the view incredible, but if you’re like me and are unable to see the London Eye than this is a perfect substitute (I event talked to some people who preferred the Shard over the Eye). Lastly, if you are planning on taking a day off from central London definitely go see Windsor Castle. It is a little farther out from the busy area and the train is included in the London Pass price. Not only is the castle an interesting experience, it is the family home of the Royal Family, but there is also a large shopping area that allows you to see some of the local stores.
This first week has been amazing, even if it is a little weird at first to be there without my dad who is my usual traveling buddy. Some parting tips for anyone interested would be to bring water everywhere, you never know when the next place to buy cheap water will be. And if you are planning on carrying a lot of stuff with you think about getting one of the slash-proof backpacks that you can lock. I personally brought an over-the-shoulder bag with me that made me feel comfortable because I just kept a hand the zipper at all times. I, thankfully, never had any issues, but I did hear form a couple of people who had their valuables stolen. As Mad-Eye Moody would say “constant vigilance”.