Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pictures Galore

This post is all about pictures!  These posts are particularly labor-intensive for me, which is why this has taken a little longer than I would have liked to put together.  Anywho, get ready for a visual tour of what I've been up to!

First up, I have a bunch of pictures to show you of campus.  The architecture is fairly modern and eclectic.  The main administrative building is the beautiful Queens Building.

The G.E. Fogg building has some really cool architecture.  I don't have any classes there though so I'm not really sure which department its in.

There is also a Church/Chapel on campus.  The exterior isn't really anything spectacular but the chaplain who runs it is hilarious and very friendly.  She offers an assortment of indie films on Monday nights and tea and scones on Friday afternoons.

Note: the sign above the door says "not another Church"

Here's a pretty typical specimen of an academic building.

One of the interesting buildings is the graduate student center.  It has an interesting modern addition to a very traditional style building.

Interestingly, in the middle of campus is an old Jewish Cemetery.  Apparently, this cemetery is a remnant from when Mile End was the outskirts of London and was inhabited by Jews.  It does not appear as if the cemetery is being actively maintained and new construction on the site cannot begin until the cemetery has naturally decayed.

The eastern border of campus is the Regent's Canal which flows south to the Thames.  It's actually quite well kept up and on the other side is a very large park.  During the day, people walk their dogs along the canal or go for a run and it gives campus a bit of a sense of being connected with nature.

A boat in the canal.

The park as seen from campus.

The eastern edge of campus is also where most of the student accommodation is located with the "student village" being at the northern tip.  The housing here is quite comfortable (albeit small) and the exteriors are quite nice.

A walk through student village.

A housing option.

Another housing option.

And another.

And finally, my dorm, Pooley House.

The view from my window (looking north across the train tracks, not towards campus).

So, that's a bit of a visual tour of my day-to-day living environment.

This past weekend (I know...I can't believe I haven't posted in that long) a group of us study abroad students decided to get out of the city and visit Windsor Castle.  There was some confusion over the train ride to get there which resulted in our trip taking longer than planned, but the city of Windsor was very quaint and had a large touristy area with great shopping.  The highlight, of course, was the castle itself.

Unfortunately, we didn't realize that the castle closed at 3pm and leaving campus at noon put us in Windsor at 3:15.  So, e didn't get to go explore the inside of the castle, but even just seeing the outside it was impressive!  I've always realized that castles are big but Windsor is REALLY big.  Of course, I haven't been to many other castles to judge the size, but I was really impressed by the magnitude of the thing even having high expectations from extensively reading fantasy novels.  It's hard to imagine the magnitude of labor that went into putting all of those stones into place and building the surrounding walls.  Even though we didn't get to go inside, we still got a group shot then proceeded to explore the city.

We explored the nearby church which turns out to date back to the 1200s!!  The actual building that stands there today was built sometime in the 1800s, but there has been a church on that location for much longer.

Their special artifact is this painting of the final supper which dates back to before 1600.

I couldn't believe they had a list of all the vicars dating back to 1217!

Once we had satisfied our curiosity in the church and shopped around for a while, we stopped in a pub for an early dinner before heading back to London.  Check out the castle in the background!

Overall, not getting to go into the castle was disappointing, but the city of Windsor turned out to be very quaint and enjoyable.  It was our first time navigating the National Rail service and our future trips will definitely run more smoothly based on what we learned.

This week, I had my first full week of classes and since I finalized my schedule over the weekend, I actually attended them!  My finalized classes are:

DEN 233: Low Speed Aerodynamics
PHY 250: Physics of Energy and the Environment
HST 5316: Politics in the Age of Pitts (1735-1806)
DEN 4108: Dynamics

The history class definitely wasn't my first choice, but in the end it was the one that worked best with my schedule and it actually seems really interesting.  I've started doing some of the reading and it's a time period of British history that I definitely didn't know much about.  I'm also really excited to get the British perspective on what happened during the American Revolution, or as they like to call it, "The War for American Independence."

The British philosophy on teaching classes is definitely significantly different than the American philosophy.  While in America, college is more independent than high school, there is definitely significant coursework expected to be turned in throughout the semester to guide independent studying.  Here in England, coursework is almost non-existent.  In America, it would not be uncommon for a history class to have a midterm and four papers (possibly more) assigned during the semester.  Here in England, most classes have one paper and/or a presentation while some classes only have an exam.  Furthermore, in America readings are usually assigned on a weekly basis or lecture topics are listed with expected completed readings.  My history professor here gave us a four page long list of "recommended reading," which is apparently not uncommon in the British system.  Thankfully, he did put asterisks by about 8 books as a potential starting point.  It seems that not all the books are required knowledge but rather the list can be used as a guide for when we begin researching our individual projects.  I will be involved in a debate on the merits of Lord Nelson as a military leader.  This means that I have a partner and will be debating against another pair.  I've already begun scouring the list for books on Lord Nelson and have discovered that the library contains a fairly extensive section on British political history.

In engineering, there is definitely more coursework assigned than in the humanities (of course) but not near as much as I'm used to in the U.S.  For instance, most engineering classes at USC will have two midterms, weekly problem sets, occasional quizzes or a project, and a final.  My Low Speed Aerodynamics course here only assigns three problems and two lab reports with one final.  My dynamics class only assigns four problem sets and one lab report.  My physics class does assign weekly problem sets, although they only have five questions and thus far have been directly from the lectures (making them easy as long as you go to class, which I have).  I can see why it would be tempting to slack off here because there really isn't a sense that you need to do work immediately.  However, the exam period comes after a month of vacation in April and doing a little bit of work every day now will make revising (British for studying) significantly easier in May when exams roll around.

Since, as you can see, I don't have classes on Wednesdays, I decided to get out into the city and visit a couple museums (after sleeping in...really, really late).  I had heard that the science museum was cool so I decided to check it out.  I pulled out my London A-Z (the map book that all the real Londoners use), looked up the museum, found the nearest tube stop, and planned my route.  The tube station nearest to campus is on the Central, Hammersmith and City, and District lines, so it's almost always possible to get where you want to go with one transfer or less.  It turns out that the Science Museum is on the District line so I hopped on the tube for a long ride over to the west side of London.  When I got there, I expected to have to walk about a block to get to the museum, but there were signs throughout the station saying "Museums" and listing all the museums in the area.  There is a tunnel that goes directly from the station right into about 6-7 different museums in the area!  It's amazing!  London is so accessible!  It only cost me £1.30 to get there and then entrance into the museums is free.  I absolutely love how the public transit here is so clean, safe and completely practical for getting you to where you want to go.  It's totally different from what I'm used to in L.A. where there are 50 different agencies, each with their own prices so to get from one side of the city to the other you end up transferring 5 times and paying 5 different fares.  There are maps and signs everywhere to assist you and point out places of interest.  But anyway, I digress.  The point is, I went to the Science Museum and really enjoyed it!  They had an amazing Apollo exhibit while I was there.

And a cool replica of the Lunar Lander.

I also got a ticket to see the "4-D" Lunar Landing movie.  The film showed footage from the Apollo missions while shaking your seat and wearing 3D glasses.  There was also an art exhibit called electroboutique on display.  The art was mainly an innovative critique on how we consume electronics celebrating the "cool" while criticizing the consumer society.  There was one piece in particular that I thought was really neat.  At first, it just looked like blobs on the wall, but the blurb next to it said to "view through a camera to reveal a secret message."  Below is the picture I took which shows the words scrolling through the worm-like blob.  Pretty neat!  I imagine this must have something to do with the fact that cameras shoot only polarized light while human eyes view the natural, unpolarized light (something I learned about in my electricity and magnetism class last semester).  

After exploring the Science Museum for a while, I walked out and decided to check out the Victoria and Albert museum.  It wasn't originally my plan but it was right there and I had heard good things about it.  The museum definitely exceeded my expectations as the building itself is gorgeous and the collection far more extensive than I had imagined.  Even though I spent well over an hour there I only explored about a tenth of what the museum had to offer.  The exterior of the museum humbly displays bullet holes as a memorial to the damage to the museum incurred during World War II.

Inside, in addition to the great collection, you can see museum employees at work doing restorations and prepping pieces for display.

One of the more eye catching pieces I saw was this diamond belt worn by the Queen!

Now those are some big diamonds!

Anywho, most of the rest of the time this week I spent trying to do paperwork to get properly enrolled in all my classes (ugh), trying to get back into school-mode or hanging out with friends.  I've also been spending a lot of time trying to plan some weekend trips!  I already arranged my trip to Sweden for the second weekend in February but the rest of my schedule is quickly filling up!  I've been trying to get in contact with some of my friends that I know are studying abroad in other parts of Europe to see if I can crash with them otherwise just scouring the internets for various deals and cool locations.  We have quite a lot of time off as we have reading week in February and the whole month of April off so there is plenty of time to travel!  In addition, I might be able to travel a bit during the 6-week exam period since I only have 4 exams.  I'm also actively trying to convince my parents to come visit me!  If anyone does find themselves in London, I would be happy to give tips/pointers and mention a few cool places.

Anywho, I'm starting to think the two-week sickness is catching up with me.  I've noticed that every semester about two weeks in my immune system decides that all the new people and germs are too much.  So, I typically spend a couple days drinking tea and blowing my nose constantly before I feel fine again.  I think I might actually be allergic to one of the pollens here because I've been sneezing like crazy yesterday and today.  Thankfully, they do sell over-the-counter anti-histamines here so I figure I'll be fine in a couple days.

Well, that's all for this post.  I do have pictures from this weekend so once I sort through them I'll do another post!


1 comment:

  1. It looks and sounds so awesome to see London and so many historic sites. Keep the posts coming as they are really great. I love reading about your adventures and imagining that I am there with you.