What they brought back from abroad: Part Six

Living history in a global city
Wilcox - WTBBFA-PT6
Photo by: 
Janey Lee, Class of 2015
London is so much the world's city...

Our "What They Brought Back" series will look at eight students and the mementos they keep as reminders of the people, places, and experiences from their study abroad programs all over the world. 

Name: William Wilcox
Class of: 2014
Major: International Studies
Location: London, England
Program: British Literature, History, and Culture
Best part of your trip in five words: Sunrise runs along the Thames

Reading Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew is one thing, but seeing the comedy performed live at London’s Globe Theater is quite another. During his time in London, Wilcox witnessed the literature and history of Britain come to life. He visited restaurants frequented by Oscar Wilde, spoke with a contemporary British poet, and browsed through the extravagant tapestries of the Tudor manor houses. "You get to experience the exact places they're talking about in these novels and deal with the spaces the authors are referencing, so it was really valuable to be there," he said.

It was not only the literature, however, that made London such a fascinating destination. "London is so much the world's city. Everywhere you go you hear French, you hear German, you hear Sylheti, which is the language spoken by the Bangladeshi community in London," he said. "You're constantly seeing other cultures interact." Wilcox said this remarkable cultural diversity was particularly evident in the wide range of food, from Pakistani curry to Cornish pasties, available in London.

Perhaps the most striking observation Wilcox made during his trip was the impressive lack of disorder in the London Underground. "[On the escalators] you always stand on the right and walk on the left, and this is like a religion. Getting in lines for the British is a national pastime," he said. "It's just British order. That's [what] runs empires."

Wilcox - WTBBFA-PT6-2

What he brought back: 

  • A compass from his grandfather that proved useful when navigating London's public transportation system en route to Ireland. "I'm an Eagle Scout. I always carry a compass when I travel," he said. William also traveled to Florence, Rome, and Barcelona.
  • A plaid scarf from a thrift store on Brick Lane, home to Bangladeshi curry shops as well as the bustling Brick Lane Market every Sunday morning.
  • A teacup from an Indian YMCA student hostel in London. "The cafeteria on the bottom floor has a six-pound (about $9.50) dinner buffet. It's really good Indian food, and as much of it as you want."

Tagged: study abroad, What They Brought Back From Abroad, travel