Allison Casally studied abroad in the UConn in London program during the spring semester, 2011.
As the cultural, political, and historical heart of the UK, London seemed poised to provide its visitors with a healthy dose of British culture. According to my experience, it succeeded enormously. I learned the proper way to prepare tea and scones, experienced the food, drink, and social activity that constitute Britain’s pub culture, and spent a day immersed in the football craze at a Premier League match. Perhaps the most difficult cultural hurdle to overcome was the difference in vocabulary; it was several weeks before I realized that “plaster” is British for “band-aid.”
London also represents a convergence of countless different cultures, which proved enlightening in its own right. I came across people of nationalities from Irish, French, and German to Filipino, Indian, Congolese, and Brazilian, most of whom had blended British culture with their ethnic customs. This made for a latticework of culture and perspective that made the city even more enjoyable to be a part of.
London also proved to be an excellent venue for academia. Its extensive history is plainly visible in the modern city, from fragments of the Roman wall to the Tower of London and the Houses of Parliament, and in cultural impact. I had never before experienced a history lesson detailing centuries-old events that took place on my doorstep.
The UConn in London program provided me with perhaps my most valuable academic experience. My individual internship took place at London’s Horniman Museum, in which I worked in the library conducting research on a nineteenth-century naturalist called Philip Henry Gosse. I was privileged to work with primary source material in the form of letters and sketches from Gosse and his correspondents, and gained experience cataloguing and archiving these materials. It also gave me valuable insight into the inner workings of museums and their function as research institutions as well as display galleries.
The experience, of course, was not without its challenges. Moving to an entirely new city in a foreign country was certainly a daunting prospect, and homesickness sometimes surfaced even in the midst of such an incredible experience. These difficulties, however, do not even begin to outweigh the value of my study abroad experience. My time in London endowed me with a knowledge and appreciation of world cultures, priceless academic and personal experiences, and a new perception of world events from a global perspective.