Map of Oxford

Map of Oxford

Time for another update!

Today we traveled to Oxford, which is approximately a 1.5 hour bus ride from central London. We left bright and early at 7 am, and experienced how bad traffic was both ways. Interestingly, London enforces something known as a Congestion Charge, which is a 11.50 pound DAILY fee for drivers who drive their vehicles within the charging zone between 7:00 am and 6:00 pm, Monday – Friday. This of course is meant to reduce traffic and encourage Brits to utilize public transportation, but judging from the amount of traffic we saw, many people are clearly content to simply pay this hefty fee!

After we arrived in Oxford, we all had some free time before our first tour, which gave us an opportunity to explore. Oxford is full of cute shops, and proved to be a great place to simply wander around (something that is sometimes difficult to do in London due to its large crowds and constant traffic). Oxford is a very charming town; we saw dogs and children everywhere, so it clearly is a strong family-oriented community.

We wandered in to the gift shop of the Bodleian Library, the library of Oxford, where we’d been told to check out some very specific merchandise. Apparently, everyone who uses the library (students, scholars, readers, etc.) is required to take an oath. The oath is as follows:

I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, nor to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library, or kindle therein, any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library.

It’s also written in Latin:

Do fidem me nullum librum vel instrumentum aliamve quam rem ad bibliothecam pertinentem, vel ibi custodiae causa depositam, aut e bibliotheca sublaturum esse, aut foedaturum deformaturum aliove quo modo laesurum; item neque ignem nec flammam in bibliothecam inlaturum vel in ea accensurum, neque fumo nicotiano aliove quovis ibi usurum; item promitto me omnes leges ad bibliothecam Bodleianam attinentes semper observaturum esse.

(Can I just say how happy I am to not have to take Latin anymore?)

Despite the Latin, I think this oath is so neat and I love the tradition behind it – even today, you are required to orally make the declaration. The Bodleian is steeped in tradition, as it is actually one of the oldest libraries in not only the UK, but also Europe. We learned more on our actual tour, where we had the chance to go into the Duke Humfrey’s library. Fun Fact: this library was filmed for the Harry Potter movies and is the Hogwarts library! We learned several interesting facts about the library, including how books used to be transferred between the “Old” and “New” libraries (they were shuttled across in a vacuum sealed tube that ran underneath the ground between the two buildings), as well as how valuable books were physically chained to the shelves.

After our tour, we ate lunch at Itsu, where I had chicken potsu (chicken, veggies, noodles, and broth). We then had more free time before our next tour, so we shopped in the covered market, and I finally bought some international stamps to mail postcards home! Our next tour was of Christ Church Cathedral School, and was very low-key and self-guided. Unfortunately, Jessica accidentally fell and hurt her ankle, so we were all quite worried the rest of the afternoon while she had it examined. Thankfully, she’s ok! No broken bones, just a sprain. But think good thoughts for her, please! We have much walking to do these next few weeks…

It wasn’t too long afterwards, that Jade, Laura Douglass and I witnessed a pretty nasty bike accident – a girl was jaywalking, trying to avoid a bus, and ended up stepping straight into a passing cyclist. They both took a hard spill to the ground, but seemed to be ok. You know what they say – bad things come in 3’s – but I’m hoping that’s not the case here!

All in all, I was very pleased with our Oxford trip. Though I cannot lie- I initially had high expectations and was a bit disappointed by our tour; through no one’s fault, my group’s tour was cut a bit short. However, there’s a valuable lesson here: One should always have NO expectations when traveling. I need to remember to be patient, go with the flow, and appreciate being in the moment! It was a beautiful day today, and I thoroughly enjoyed walking about the Christ Church Meadow, looking at the abundance of flowers, and trying to take in the scenery. Once I focused on those things, my day turned itself around. (A testament to the power of positive thinking!)

In conjunction with all this talk about beauty and positivity, here’s my favorite picture of the day:


Tomorrow we’re journeying to Stratford-upon-Avon…

Take care,


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Is the weekend already over?


Jade and I

Jade and I in front of John Wesley’s statue

I woke up this morning with my feet a little sore, and unable to believe it’s already Day 3 of our adventure! Though I am all for the idea that Sunday is a day of rest, Jade and I joined a group of a few other students to attend a service at Wesley’s Chapel. She and I are both United Methodists, and Wesley’s Chapel of course is attributed to John Wesley, who was the primary founder of Methodism. The chapel was built in 1778, and is a classic example of Georgian architecture with its breathtaking stain glass windows and marble columns. Fortunately for us, the service itself was as lovely as the building. A large choir visiting from Wisconsin on their European tour sang several classic anthems. The two preachers leading the service were both women (yay for Methodists!) and both the prayers and sermon were fantastic. Of course, I think anything spoken with a British accent sounds fantastic, but that’s neither here nor there…

Here’s your Fun Fact of the day: Did you know that the flush toilet was popularized by a man named Thomas Crapper? Yes, friends, I am telling the truth. This was complete news to me until today, where we learned that underneath the chapel is an original Victorian era bathroom (circa 1899) that is actually gorgeous! However, above all of the toilets is a stamp that says “Thomas Crapper & Co.” Who knows, maybe this will be a Jeopardy! question someday. If you win, make sure to split the prize winnings with yours truly!

After the service and a look at the Chapel’s Museum, Jade and I grabbed some lunch at EAT, and made our way back to the dorms. Our mission for the afternoon? Buy a UK cell phone! This proved to be a bit more challenging than originally expected, but helped us to fulfill our 10,000+ steps/day goal! After being sent to 3(!) Carphone Warehouse stores (don’t let the name fool you – these phones are not meant for your car), we can FINALLY all proudly say that we own European cell phones. Though I am a little peeved, and you should be too… American phone companies = a giant rip-off! For 20 pounds (roughly $35), we each had a phone, a SIM card, and 20 pounds of credit for calls/texts since we opted for the “pay as you go” plan. Sigh.

After our phone success, we decided to continue shopping, since both Jade and Jessica needed new bags. After stopping at various places, we ended up at Primark, which was probably the most crowded and chaotic store I’ve ever been in. All I kept thinking when we were walking around was “HOW do people work here?!” Anyone who has ever worked in retail (myself included) and thought they had it bad should go to a Primark on a Sunday afternoon. Whew…

Soon enough it was dinner time and after a few tube rides and some clever re-routing on our part due to ongoing construction, we made it back to Waterloo, which is our neighborhood tube station. We stopped at the M&S to buy groceries, but ended up eating out at Gourmet Burger Kitchen, which had tasty burgers and fries and served Coke in glass bottles. My favorite!

We have to rise and shine bright and early in the morning as we’re leaving at 7 am to travel to Oxford and the Bodleian Library for our first official class. This is one of the sites I’m most looking forward to visiting, so I’ll be sure to post an update for you tomorrow!

Hope everyone is doing well,


Wesley's Chapel

Statue of John Wesley with Wesley’s Chapel in the background


Wesley's gravestone

The site of John Wesley’s burial.


Stain glass windows

Windows inside the Chapel. No picture could do them justice.

The adventure begins…

Hi everyone!

Don’t worry, I haven’t succumbed to the jet lag and time difference. Here’s an update on Day 2 in London…

Our Library Science class met at 9 am this morning for Orientation, led by our fearless leaders, Dr. Welsh and Dr. Griffis. We went over some of the amazing places we’ll be visiting this next month (Dr. Welsh promised us there’d be some surprises along the way!), played a little Icebreaker activity, and discussed some “housekeeping” details. There are 24 of us in this class – not only are we the biggest group, but we’re also the only class with all graduate students! Or, as the Brits like to say, “post-graduate” students… which is really a much more accurate description.

At 11, the entire British Studies Program met with Dr. Davies, the Dean of the program, and all of the other professors. Many of the professors were leading various themed walking tours around the city. There were so many wonderful choices, but Jade, Jessica, Laura Douglass and I decided to do the “Sovereigns and Suffragettes” tour. After a quick lunch at Pret (short for Pret A Manger, where I ate a delicious ham and egg sandwich), we set off to walk and learn!

The tour was brilliant because we discussed several (in)famous women while seeing some of the major sights around London! We started off at Waterloo Bridge,

Book sale under Waterloo Bridge

Underneath Waterloo Bridge, you can find this lovely book sale! We did not have time to stop, but I fully intend on returning…

walked past Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster, strolled beside Clarence House and St. James Palace, and walked through Trafalgar’s Square. Along the way, we saw many statues of women such as Emily Pankhurst, who fought for women’s voting rights in the early 20th century, Boudica, an Iceni queen who led several successful uprisings against the Roman Empire, and of course, the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II’s mum. We also learned about the “Sovereigns,” aka the Queen Regents such as Elizabeth I, Victoria, and Elizabeth II. I’ve always loved British history, particularly the Tudors, and there’s something truly special about discussing these fascinating women while walking in the city they once lived…

Afterwards, the USC girls and myself rode the tube to South Kensington Station, where I enjoyed my first Ben’s Cookie! It was milk chocolate & peanut butter and was absolutely delicious. IMG_3124-1It was raining on and off all afternoon (typical London weather), so we took a few buses, and walked through Hyde Park, where we saw the beloved Peter Pan statue. Of course, all of us had to have our picture taken with Peter.

Despite our scrumptious cookie snack, we were starting to get a little hungry (you’ll soon find out why…), so we took the tube to Victoria’s Station, walked around, got a little lost, tried to eat at several busy pubs, and eventually found seating in a pub called Bag O’ Nails. A chicken burger and pint of Guinness later and I was good to go!

By the end of the day we had walked over 23,000 steps… almost 10 miles! Needless to say, I didn’t feel too guilty about having that cookie!

Here are a few more pictures of the day…

Big Ben

Big Ben and Parliament

Ducks and swans at Hyde Park

Ducks and swans at Hyde Park












London Eye

The River Thames and the London Eye at dusk

Hyde Park

(L to R) Laura Douglass, Jade, and myself in the Rose Gardens in Hyde Park













Say a prayer for my feet, please! I’m feeling those 10 miles…

Will keep you updated,


Welcome to London!

I just wanted to write a quick note to let everyone know that we have safely arrived in London!

International Arrivals sign at Heathrow Airport

Our flight from Chicago landed at the Heathrow Airport at about 5:45 am. It turns out, not only were we the first group to arrive for the British Studies Program, but we were also the first flight of the day at the airport! So my grumpiness at being up so early (it was 12:45 am EST, aka bedtime!) was negated by the fact that we had zero problems claiming our baggage and getting through customs. After a long bus ride thanks to typical morning traffic, we made it to the dorms at around 9 am.

After a brief rest, Laura Douglass and I decided to venture to the nearby Waterloo Station. There we ran into Boots (a drugstore/pharmacy… think of it like a CVS) to buy hair dryers and hair straighteners – our American versions would likely blow a fuse when plugged in here thanks to differing voltage. We were starving, so we grabbed some lunch from M&S, or Marks & Spencer, and carried our sandwiches over to the Jubilee Gardens, located right beside the London Eye.

Though I probably shouldn’t have, I decided to take a nap once we walked back to the dorms. I intended it to last about an hour and a half, but anyone who knows me knows that I am champion napper – so, 1.5 hours turned into 4. Oops! Feeling very well rested upon awakening, we all gathered in the courtyard of the dormitories to split off into our classes. From there, Dr. Welsh and Dr. Griffis led the Library Science class on a Neighborhood Tour, where went to Waterloo Station, walked on The Queen’s Walk, and stopped to take a group photo.

Here is the view from Gabriel’s Wharf, located along The Queen’s Walk on the South Bank.

View from Gabriel's Wharf

This of course is the River Thames. In the background you can see St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is one of my favorite places in London.

After our tour, all the classes met and attended a nice opening reception with yummy food! Then Jade, Jessica, Laura Douglass and I walked over to Waterloo Station (3 times in one day for me!) where we ended up buying our Oyster Cards. Oyster Cards are handy travel cards that Londoners use for the underground tube and buses. We hopped on the Northern Line and scurried over to King’s Cross, which is one of the larger stations. Right next to King’s Cross is the St. Pancras station. As you can see below, it is one of the many examples of gorgeous British architecture.

St Pancras and King's Cross

St Pancras Station is in the foreground, while King’s Cross can be spotted in the back.

I would say all in all, that our first day in London was quite busy and productive! The hectic schedule continues tomorrow with Orientation, so I’m sure I’ll have another update and exciting stories to share.

Until then,