My Most Memorable Moments in London

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A study abroad experience is not merely an academic experience. Actually, I would dare say that my time in the United Kingdom has been more socially than academically enriching. The importance of things I learned in the classroom cannot be compared to the lessons inherent in leading an independent life away from home, surrounded by people from all around the world.

Therefore, I was not surprised to find that my most memorable moments from this past year are not associated with my experience at LSE. Instead, they reflect a wonderful period of growth, fun and self-discovery in the most wonderful city of all.

- I never thought that my first camping experience would take place in such an urban setting. Yet, the only way to experience the Royal Wedding properly was to spend a night outside of Westminster Abbey (pictured above). Aside from the extraordinary pomp and circumstance, which exceeded all of my expectations, the truly unique aspect of this experience was participating in the heart of British tradition, immersing myself in the culture of my host country and understanding the sentiments responsible for monarchical stability.

- Last Autumn, for the first time in 8 years, I underwent a prolific reading period which saw me finish at least two novels every month. It may have been the tranquility of a double-decked bus ride or the cosiness of English winter, but something about London achieved what nothing in Miami, West Palm Beach, New York, Santiago, Cambridge or Madrid had delivered.

- London provided the stage for my very first talent-show performance. International Students House organized the contest in order to allow its residents to showcase any artistic abilities and provide a night full of X-Factor style entertainment. I chose to dance Cuban salsa, since I was confident that my country's most popular rhythm would at least entertain the audience. It turns out, I got depressing reviews! The judges completely ignored the technique and choreography, focusing instead on criticizing the actual dancing style, which they considered vulgar. This was the ultimate lesson on cultural differences.

- I have already blogged about International Students House's fascinating Travel Club. Under the leadership of an expert guide, I have joined other international students on trips to Berlin, Cambridge, Oxford, Maastricht, Bath, Brussels, Valkenburg, Salisbury, Wales, Brighton and other amazing destinations. The opportunity to travel at such a low cost with an incredibly diverse group of people is unparalleled, and it certainly stands among my best experiences this year.

- My pre-London life never saw me cook a single dish. It was thus understandable that I was showered with any number of helpful gifts from worried friends and relatives, ranging from "the" Cuban recipe book to my college roommate's own PDF recipe book. But even I was surprised when, after a few first weeks of anxiety, I finally became friends with the kitchen. I partly thank London for allowing me to develop this new skill, since my dislike of British restaurant food, combined with the cosmopolitan nature of the city, motivated my international concoctions.

- The Champions League Final took over London earlier this year, when Wembley saw FC Barcelona play and ultimately defeat Manchester United. This event, perhaps like no other, allowed me to enjoy some the capital's quintessential attributes. London, the place where stuff happens, organized a week-long festival in Hyde Park, where I queued for THREE hours in order to take a picture with the trophy. Hours later, I joined hundreds of Barça fans at Trafalgar Square, which dressed in blue, red and yellow for the day. Football, festivities, foreign faces: this was London at its best.

- London's theatre scene is unique. I have spent some time in New York City and attended Broadway musicals, but somehow London makes you live theatre, not merely attend it. Walking around the West End, the pre-theatre dinners, the excitement and glow, the sumptuous venues; a single show can turn into an enrapturing experience. I will forever treasure the voices in The Phantom of the Opera, the happiness of The Lion King, or all the thinking Wicked inspired. Thank you, London, for the gift of living something magical.

- This list would be incomplete without my neighbours' farewell lunch. Most of us have come to London only for a year, in order to complete an academic programme. All of us, however, have found timeless friends in one another. During this bittersweet good-bye in which we filled a table with foods from our respective countries, I felt fortunate to belong to this community that has given me so many wonderful moments throughout the last months. And for this friendship, especially for this friendship, I will always be grateful to London.


Maria is a Cuban Harvard graduate and a guest blogger for Foreign Students. She posts regular updates of her experiences as a postgraduate student at LSE in London. Click here to see her older posts.


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