Reading London at UCL Summer School
By Rory M Herron, on 24 September 2018
-by Kate Garner from the University of Sydney
I’ve been to London before—I’d shopped on Oxford Street, heard Big Ben boom, gawked at Buckingham Palace and turned a full revolution around the Eye—so for me, applying to the UCL Summer School was a chance to study a subject I loved in a city I loved and thought I knew pretty well already. But, as it turned out, the experience of being a student in London revealed the city to me in a completely different way.
As the city sweltered through an unexpectedly warm July, I began daily classes on UCL’s Gower Street Campus. My chosen module – Literary London – was packed with field trips to local literary sights and landmarks that complemented texts we were reading in class. Anchored in the centre of Bloomsbury, a neighbourhood with a long and vibrant literary culture, we walked to the British Museum to view the very artefacts that inspired scores of English poets, to the eclectic Sir John Soane Museum, and through Garden Squares that popped up in countless English novels. Having these resources at our disposal (even the British Library was just around the corner) was incredible, and these sites proved key coordinates in the personal map of London that unfolded before me over the next three weeks.
When I wasn’t in class or on a class trip I continued to explore the city as much as I could, finding tucked-away bars in Covent Garden, eating my way through London’s burger scene, traipsing through nearly every art gallery in the capital and even managing to see a performance of Hamilton. Because I was already on the other side of the world, I snuck across to the continent to visit Amsterdam and Copenhagen before hopping on a plane back to Sydney. My accommodation was so centrally located all I had to do was stroll down to St. Pancras and hop on the Eurostar.
My university halls were also short walk to the UCL Campus. When it came time to buckle down and finish my assignments I loved working in the Main Library – its wall-to-wall books and striking (read: Instagram-able) architecture more than lived up to expectations – and I also had access to all of UCL’s academic resources. Literary London was a goldie-locks experience: just enough reading, rigour, essay-writing and field trips squeezed into three weeks to make it challenging but even more fun.
Experiencing a different academic culture was a bit of a learning curve, but now I feel well-equipped to pursue higher education in the UK should I choose to and I’ve also caught a glimpse of tertiary education around the world thanks to my cosmopolitan classmates. Forging an international network and becoming part of UCL’s global alumni has been an unexpected perk, shaping my vision of London as a truly global city and leaving me with a foot firmly wedged in the door to return when I graduate and enter the job market.
I came to UCL to study how London is imagined in literature but left having read the city both inside and outside of the classroom – and it was a book I recommend to everyone.
Click here for information on the 2019 UCL Summer School
Click here for information on the Literary London module