As the beginning of September approached, I slowly began saying goodbye to friends from home, ended my summer job, visited some friends at Vassar and…waited at home on my couch. Unlike all my friends going to school at Vassar or abroad, I had to wait until September 20 to fly out to London. Alas, on the morning of September 21, I along with twelve of my classmates stumbled out of a rather cozy charter bus onto the streets of New Cross. It was loud, we were tired, and there was a “mandatory meeting” we probably should have attended. Oh well – we registered eventually. We hiked past the public toilet in the middle of the road and through the gates of Loring Hall to our rooms.
Goldsmiths College grouped all of the study abroad students into the last two buildings on the block, filling the halls with kids from Muhlenberg College, Lafayette College, and Oslo, Norway. My room is complete with plenty of closet space, its own bathroom, and a beautifully stenciled phallic symbol on my bulletin board. I of course mentioned this on my room maintenance sheet because I, like anyone else, would be ashamed to take credit for such a masterpiece. This morning, maintenance knocked on my door and wanted to see the artwork. Upon seeing it, the worker chuckled, told me he’d “seen much worse,” and pulled out his phone to snap a picture for his friends. Then I ate breakfast.
Being on the Vassar Media Studies London program means that I only take two classes at the College, along with one on Print Culture in London taught by Vassar’s very own, Professor Bob DeMaria, and an independent study project that uses London as a medium. Classes here don’t start until the 29th, giving everyone here some more time to get adjusted (and go out exploring). However, we will be going to see Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors on Friday. This will be a great precursor to an awesome semester. Professor DeMaria will be taking us to places like the Victoria and Albert Museum and The British Library where we’ll get to examine the Gutenberg Bible, Shakespeare’s First Folio, and the Beowulf manuscript. For my independent project, I hope to examine British humor and the stand up scene here in London to see what it has to say about British identity and culture. I plan on visiting various comedy clubs and venues throughout the city, giving me a chance to get out and explore even more.
After settling in, drudging into a local pub for some food and a drink, and sleeping off my jet-lag, I decided it was time to explore. So naturally, I was as touristy as possible. I went with a few Vassar students to see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. We then walked past Hyde Park to the Museum of Natural History. I concluded my afternoon with terrible, overpriced fish and chips and a ride back on the tube. I’m working my way to slightly “cooler” things. Like the other day, I hung out in Hyde Park and had a picnic. I guess that’s still pretty touristy.
After taking the tube a few times and getting familiar with the system, I began to realize just how far out of Central London we were. As a Vassar student staying around South Kensington confirmed to us, we really are “out in the sticks.” Fortunately, the newly built overground rail allows us to reach London Bridge in five minutes. The entire tube system is extremely straightforward and easy to navigate, ensuring that while at times I may get lost in London, I will never get too lost.
But New Cross really does have its own charm. The New Cross Gate station is directly across from our dorms and right down the road are both the Sainsbury’s supermarket and everyone’s favorite, TK Maxx. Yes, that’s right, I said TK. There’s also Gateway Chicken, the place to grab some dirt-cheap chicken strips and fries in the middle of the night, and several great pubs. New Cross even boasts the infamous Hobgoblin pub where none other than Shia LaBeouf made his mark. After someone at the pub made a comment about LaBeouf’s girlfriend, Mia Goth’s, mother, Shia head-butted the man. A similar altercation occurred in 2012 when he got into a scuffle at Hobgoblin after a customer stole his hat. I’m still puzzled as to why Shia LaBeouf is at this pub so often.
With classes yet to start I still have much to experience here on my trip abroad. There are still friends to be made, countless places to explore, and bank accounts to run dry. I hope to join either rugby or basketball here and I would love to rent a bike to become much more mobile. Greenwich is only about a mile and a half from Goldsmiths and I have not yet attempted to make the trek. I’m sure that the next time I write, I’ll have plenty more experiences to rant about and a much broader perspective of London as a whole.