London is the largest city in Europe, with almost 8 million people (surging to 12 million on each workday as commuters enter the city), and it is considered by some to be the most cosmopolitan city in the world. There is perhaps no better place to study literature, folklore and pop culture than in London, the home of heavyweights like Shakespeare, Trident Records, and Virginia Woolf, but also of things such as postmodern curiosity shops, a pagan revival, and a thriving Steampunk community. Students on this program will take every advantage of the amazing setting that is London, from theatre performances at Shakespeare's Globe to world-class museums, odd interactive exhibits to renowned scholars. And of course a visit to "The Making of Harry Potter" at the Warner Brothers Studios is a must! In addition, participants will explore the city to find their seven London Horcruxes (bits of the sojourner-student's soul tucked away in the odd artifact, experience, or event) as one of the course projects.
With an Oyster Travel card included in the London program fee, the city is accessible by "tube" (subway), train and bus (the passes cover zones one and two, which is most of the London the average student wants to visit), and students fill their free time exploring the city's many historic and cultural sites. Some of the on-your-own highlights include Big Ben, Windsor Castle, the Houses of Parliament, and Buckingham Palace, but there are hundreds of lesser known but equally interesting options.
The UO Centre in London is located in a beautiful, historic building in the Bloomsbury-Holborn area, near the West End. There, you will be just blocks from the British Museum (with over two miles of galleries), the Dickins House, and Bloomsbury Square - one of the oldest squares in London. In the area around the Centre, students have access to sandwich shops and convenience stores for buying reasonably-priced lunches, Internet cafes, the University of London International Hall (our student home in London in the summer), and parks in which to study or eat lunch.
Students take their classes at the Centre, but the courses offered in London incorporate the city, so students will be visiting sites that are relevant to the courses. The Centre has a library, student lounge, a small student computer lab, and wifi.
Edinburgh is the cultural and political capital of Scotland, a nation-within-a-nation that will be voting on independence from the United Kingdom in a 2014 referendum election. Arriving there after having stayed in London sets up an unmissable contrast between the two capitals, as Edinburgh has a much more intact medieval and Renaissance center with ancient stone buildings, otherworldly kirkyards (graveyards), winding and sloping streets and closes, charming little shops and tea houses, and much more. While in Edinburgh, students stay in hostel-based housing and attend a few class sessions in the meeting rooms there. However, the Edinburgh portion of the program is heavily field-based, with experiential activities (site visits, short trips, performances, etc.) scheduled throughout the day.
The Fringe Festival. During the month of August, Edinburgh plays host to some seventeen different international festivals, the most famous of which is the Fringe. The Fringe is a city-wide festival of the edgy and avant garde in the arts, including theatre, dance, spoken word, cabaret, street performance, and much more. There are almost 400 venues plus constant performances in the streets of the city. As a group, we attend a few ticketed shows, and participants have ample free time to explore other shows, including hundreds of free shows and hundreds more with tickets under £10 each. In addition, the street performances run dawn to dusk and are where the festival atmosphere is at its peak.