Oberlin Blogs

Oberlin in London: A Day in the Life

March 8, 2020

Janelle Ickes ’22

This semester, I am abroad on the Oberlin-in-London program! This is a really amazing study abroad opportunity where a small group of Oberlin students spends a semester in London with Oberlin professors. The program happens every spring semester, and the subject areas are different every year. This year, 10 of the 25 students on the program are studying Politics with Professor Marc Blecher, and the other 15, including myself, are studying English with Professor David Walker. All the students on the English track take the same three classes: The London Stage, Modernism in England, and A History of London. The first two are taught by David Walker, and the History class is taught by a British professor, Katy Layton-Jones.

I plan to talk more about these classes in later blog posts, but I wanted to start by just sharing what my busiest day of the week looks like. We only have classes four days a week, but those four days are pretty packed full!

So, here’s what my day looked like on Wednesday, February 26:

9:50 am - I wake up at the time I had planned to leave the flat! Thus far I’ve been good about getting up with plenty of time, but not today, apparently. I manage to get ready in 10 minutes and eat my breakfast on the way to the tube station. On Wednesdays, our history professor takes us on walking tours in lieu of having lectures, and today we’re starting our walk at the Monument to the Great Fire of London. My Citymapper app says it’ll take about 25 minutes to get there. 

10:30 am - I make it just in time for our walk! We start at Pudding Lane, where the Great Fire started in 1666. We walk through Leadenhall market, which was used in the first Harry Potter movie as the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron. We see the first coffee house in London and talk about how coffee houses were used as places to conduct business. We go to the Guildhall gallery and see the remains of a Roman amphitheater. Finally, we end at a shopping center that used to be the location of the Bank of England. The 6th-floor terrace has some amazing views of St. Paul’s Cathedral and many other famous buildings.

An old building with red brick and light colored stone. The words "Leadenhall Market" are carved into the stone. Behind, two big, shiny skyscrapers rise into the clouds
Leadenhall Market! I love the way the old building contrasts with the modern skyscrapers behind it -- this architectural contrast is one of my favorite things about London.
I am standing on a sort of balcony, wearing a black jacket and holding a notebook. Behind me you can see the white dome of St. Paul's cathedral, and to my left are more modern skyscrapers.
Me on the observation terrace. St. Paul's Cathedral is the big domed building behind me. In the distance, you can see the London Eye!

11:45 am - We take the Tube to the Florida State University building, where we have our classes. I eat the lunch that I packed and finish reading an article about Ezra Pound for class.

1:30 pm - We have our second class of the day: The London Stage. We read Ibsen’s A Doll’s House before class today, and a group of students performs two scenes for us. We discuss the play and talk about our expectations for the version of it that we’ll be seeing tonight.

3:00 pm - Class ends early and we walk back to the flats. I buy peach candy and a mug at Flying Tiger Copenhagen, a fun Danish store, and down the street we get a card from a Scientologist inviting us to a free informational movie viewing.

In the center is my hand holding a pink package of peach candy. In the background is a red bicycle, a sort of peach-colored building, and blue skies
Delicious peach candy and a bit of rare blue sky and sunshine.

4:15 pm - Two friends and I take the bus to the river and walk around for a bit, enjoying the decent weather. We walk past the London Eye and consider going on it, but then see that tickets are £30 each and decide to wait. We watch some people skateboarding and roller blading at the Southbank skate park. 

On the left, a big white Ferris wheel; on the right, a cream-colored stone building
The London Eye! Someday I'll go on it!


a concrete structure with different levels and ramps, covered in colorful graffiti
Southbank skate park. Photo credit Jack Brimm

5:15 pm - We make our way to a restaurant called the Stage Door. They don’t start serving food until 6, so we order drinks and do some work. The pub has a nice, cozy atmosphere, and we learn that it’s been around since 1665! At 6 we order — I get a chickpea pasty, a pulled pork pasty, and sweet potato fries, all amazing. 

7:15 pm - We head to the Young Vic theater, just a few blocks away, where we’re seeing a play tonight. We see two or three plays a week for our London Stage class, and tonight we’re seeing a new play called Nora: A Doll’s House, based on Ibsen’s original play that we read for class. This adaptation has three women who play the main character in different time periods, but all the timelines sort of converge. It was a really interesting adaptation!

9:30 pm - The play ends and we take the Tube back to our flats. We get on the wrong line and have to walk part of the way, but no one minds getting to walk around London a little more. On the way home I stop at the little grocery store across the street to pick up some things I know I’ll need for tomorrow.

10:15 pm - I’m back at my flat that I share with three classmates. I make a snack of some yogurt and granola in our tiny kitchen, and then I sit on the couch in our living room and journal for an hour about the play we just saw - journaling is the major assignment for our drama class and modernist literature class.

11:30 pm - I finish my journal and get ready for bed! 

It’s been a busy semester thus far, but it’s been so, so rewarding. There’s just so much to see and do! Stay tuned for more updates about my London semester!

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