Lauren at Hampton Court. Photo courtesy of Lauren Massuda.
I always wanted to go to the UK for its culture and history, and this summer I was able to go there for study abroad. I participated in a program called USAC along with sixty other students from all around the United States. First, we went to Edinburgh for a week and then to London for five weeks where we took classes. Edinburgh looked like a city out of a fairy tale. A medieval castle sat on top of a hill, overlooking the city that was reminiscent of the magical locations in the Harry Potter books. Speaking of the famous series, we took tours around the city and passed places where J.K. Rowling wrote the books or did research. Some places include: Grey Friars Kirkyard where the real Tom Riddle is buried, George Heriot’s School—the school that inspired Hogwarts—and Balmoral Hotel where Rowling finished the series. Another fun place we went to was Loch Ness, where we went in search for the famous monster. We didn’t find him, unfortunately, but the view of the wide, open lake and the hills that surrounded it was amazing. The view itself was worth it, despite the fact that it was always cloudy out. It was also pretty cloudy in London, but that’s typical London weather for you. One day, however, it went over ninety degrees outside, and it was the hottest day in nine years. Needless to say, Londoners struggled to cope with this sudden change in climate. I took two classes for the program; one was about London art and the other was on architecture. Not only was I learning the history of these two subjects, I also toured all over London, visiting museums and historical landmarks. One of my favorite places was Westminster Abbey. We didn’t go there for class, but a couple of us visited for service one Sunday. It was really cool walking in the same place where many monarchs were coronated, married and buried. There were many memorials and tombs inside the abbey, including those for Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Dickens. If there was one place to get a feel of history, it was the abbey. Another cool place that we went to was the London Eye. It was this huge ferris wheel that gave us a spectacular view of the city. Even though it was raining out, the view was still cool, and I would love to go on it again once the sky cleared up. Not all things were jolly. One time I somehow got separated from my classmates and ended up on the wrong tube. It took me an hour to get back to campus, but I made it safe and sound while clutching my purse the entire time. One of my major concerns studying abroad was being mugged, and thankfully that didn’t happen. I stayed at a district called South Kensington, which was one of the safest areas in London, but even there I was super cautious. I had a great time studying abroad and I would love to go back again with my family. If there was one thing that was a disappointment, it was that I wasn’t able to gain a British accent.