England | English Countryside


The weekends are your free time. Professor Makdisi ends class early on Friday allowing you to fly out or take a train to another country which many students did their first weekend here. We decided to stay in England for our first weekend and travel outside the city into the countryside. We booked a tour where it took us to Windsor Castle, Lacock, Bath and Stonehenge. We had a long day and started the day off early meeting our bus at 7:45 in the morning at Victoria.  

 The bus was air conditioned (thank goodness) and the seats were nice and comfy making the trip on the road nice and comfortable. The whole week, we were always planning what to do and where to go, and this was the first time where someone was guiding us where tog o and when to come back which was something that I liked. It felt like a middle school field trip and it was nice for once to have some guidance on what to do and where to go. We didn’t have to worry about admission tickets inside the castle or Stonehenge, everything was already taken care of through the tours which made things that much more simple for us.  

Windsor was so amazing that it is hard to even put into words. The castle was surreal and the rooms inside packed in centuries of history. The crown molding that ran across the circumference of the wall and crystal chandeliers that hung from the ceilings were restored by Queen Elizabeth and transported you into a different time. There were separate rooms dedicated the knight’s armory rooms and old weaponry. I highly recommend exploring The State Apartments at Windsor which include all the bedrooms, weapon rooms and dinning tables of the castle. Certain rooms are closed during specific seasons of the years, but nonetheless every part of the castle that was open was awe inspiring.  

After our stop at Windsor, our tour guide Doug and driver Ricardo took us through the English countryside. We stopped in a tiny little village called Lacock where little houses sat on cobblestone streets. We were again transported in another time period. The cottages were cozy and tucked away on the long windy cobble stoned streets and we were able to wander up and down the pathways. It was like a fairytale.  

Our next stop took us to Bath. Bath felt like a little piece of Italy with its Yellowstone building and Roman architecture. We didn’t go into the Roman Baths although we could. The line was a little long and we decided that we just wanted to walk around the city and into the abbey that was rigt next to the baths. After going into the abbey, we walked down to a tiny little bakery down by the river and ate some pastries. The bakery was tucked away under a building where you had to crouch your head down low enough to get through the window that was the door. We passed a hand squeezed lemonade stand where you could smell the fresh scent of lemon peel. We stood on top of the walkaway and peered down at the gardens taking in all the sights around us.  

We soon made our way back onto the bus and proceeded to travel to our final stop of the day: Stonehenge. We parked next to a field that was littered with red poppies. The poppy filed alone would be worth visiting. A small little bus took us down the 2 mile path that leads up to Stonehenge. We walked up to the stones and fell in awe. It is another monument that is so historic that you don’t realize you are seeing it until you are there.  

I payed £74 for our trip to the countryside which included all of our entrance fees to the locations and a free lunch. Without a doubt, it was the best £74 I’ve spent so far.  

England | Navigating Airports


I have never been on a plane by myself. I have never left the country. And the furthest flight that I have ever been on was from California to Arizona. That flight lasted around 35 minutes… Needless to say, I was a little nervous to be flying by myself on a ten hour flight to another country. My flight left at 6:00PM a day before my English program started giving me one day to explore the city. When I arrived at LAX, I was feeling both nervous and excited. My cousin gave me some advice prior to leaving that was extremely helpful for me.  

  1. Give yourself plenty of time before your flight. My flight left at 6:00PM and I was at LAX around 2:40. I wanted to give myself as much time as possible so I could learn how to navigate the airport.  
  2. Take everything one step at a time. Once you arrive at your airport, you check in with the airline you are flying with. You can stand in line to have your boarding pass printed, or you can choose the faster option and go to the automated stations that prints both your boarding pass and luggage tag. Your luggage must be under 50lbs (I had to put my chucks in my carryon because I was a little over oops!).  
  3. Security. Going through security is very simple and easy. You put all your carryon items up on the table and just wait to go through. If you are traveling with a computer, you must take the computer out of its case and put it in a separate bin! Because my cousin told me this before I left, I didn’t lock my carryon and I purposefully made my computer easily accessible. This saved me time and kept me calm throughout the process making everything much easier!  
  4. Landing. The great thing about airports is there is always someone there to help you. Additionally, there are multiple signs with arrows that lead you in the right direction. Once you start walking through the airport, you will go through immigration where you show your passport, an immigration card that your flight attendant will give you (they are also available everywhere in the airport), and proof that you are studying abroad (don’t worry, the IEO office will give this to you).  
  5. Heathrow Airport to London. It’s time to navigate yourself from the airport to the dorms. I landed in Heathrow at noon London time and decided to Uber from the airport to my friends apartment on near Clarkenwell. The Uber cost around $57 in U.S. currency. I wanted to learn more about the city before I traveled on the Heathrow Express and the Underground.  

Quick Tips: 

The app “Citymapper” is extremely helpful when trying to navigate the city. The app has bus routes, times and routes of the Underground as well as the fatest and cheapest options to wherever you are trying to go.   

England | Walking Tour of Trafalgar Square



Our second walking tour consisted of walking Trafalgar Square, which soon became one of my favorite hubs in London. Trafaglar square is busy and has been busy since the 1830s. Professor Makdisi explained during our walking tour that Trafaglar Square was a beacon for protests and riots during the 19th century. The statue that stands directly in the middle marks the middle of  the congested area and became my personal indicator that I was in the right place and not lost. The area now known as Trafaglar Square was originally known to be Charing Cross, but was later changed to expand the space and create a new urban space. Trafaglar Square is home to The National Gallery, which Professor Makdisi took us to later in the week. Not only does The National Gallery have paintings by Monet, Van Gogh, and Hogarth, but the gallery is also free and air conditioned (something that is hard to find in London). In addition, the National Gallery holds many other pieces of artwork by other artists which collectively amount up to around 300 paintings within the gallery itself.

Running to the East of Trafalgar Square is The Strand which we walked all the way down past St. Paul’s Cathedral. Marking The Strand is an intricate building that is The Royal Courts of Justice. There is a large pillar that stands in the middle of the road with a dragon like gargoyle which used to be a warning for people outside the gates. Severed heads would be placed on the spikes and on the gargoyle statue in order to warn the people that they were a force to be reckoned with. Ahhhh scary!

After we walked down The Strand, we ended our walking tour day at Saint Brides Church. The church is interesting for two reasons: the steeple at the top was modeled after a wedding cake on purpose which explains why it is stacked like a cake and the church has remains and fragments after London was hit by bombings in World War II. You can actually go under the church and see where the church was hit.   

It was only the second day in London but the places we went during our walking tour truly took my breath away. We stopped by St. Paul’s Cathedral which was the heart of the old city of Lodnon during the time period in which we are studying. The design was by Wren and it demonstrates both Egyptian and Ancient Greek architecture. When we were passing the catherdral during our walking tour, Professor Makdisi advised us to look inside the church, but only when their five o’clock mass started. You could not only experience the service that was being held, but also, you do not have to pay to get inside the church during this time. If you wish to see the inside of the church at times that are not during the evening service, you can pay £15 to look inside. Regardless, it is something that is definitely worth seeing.  

Quick Tips: 

  1. Don’t pay to go inside St. Paul’s Cathedral, go at 5:00 PM for free admittance  
  1. Go see St. Paul’s Cathedral (It was one of my top five churches to see in London) 
  1. Bring water! We walk a lot and the days are hot and humid at times, so stay hydrated! 
  1. Soak everything up! This was a cool walking tour! 

Savannah Shapiro studied abroad in England on the 2017 Summer Travel Study program “London and the Age of Revolution:” https://ieo.ucla.edu/travelstudy/English-London/