As I write this, I’m sitting in the strangest place I’ve ever been in my life.
I’m in a beautifully decorated museum reading room, listening to a nurse give comedy show about the human body on the other side of the room. The last time I was here, museum-goers were given the chance to sample a cake in the shape of the founder’s head outside one of the exhibits. Exhibits include old prosthetic limbs, shrunken heads, and memento mori. There’s an entire wall covered in questions about the human body, from the mundane (“Do you hug?”) to the decidedly less-mundane ( “Do you lack an external tail?”). Modern acquisitions include droppings from Dolly, the world’s first cloned sheep.
It’s called the Wellcome Collection, and it’s a museum that houses the extensive collections of a 19th century pharmaceutical mogul named Henry Wellcome. But it is more than a museum of historical artifacts. It blends a curiosity about human health and the natural world with art, science, education, and humanity in general.
How do I put the Wellcome Collection into words? Not that easily. The words that do come to mind are:
Eccentric. Eclectic. Weird. Thoughtful. Human.
It’s my new favorite place in London. And, luckily for you as a future IES Abroad London student, it’s not very far at all from the IES Abroad Center. Have I mentioned that admission is free?
When you think of museums to visit in London, this one probably isn’t the first to come to mind. The British Museum, the National Art and Portrait galleries, the Tate Modern, and the Natural History Museum are much more obvious choices. But studying abroad is amazing because it gives you the chance to really dig down deep and explore a city in a whole new way. You have time to move past the tourist destinations and actually experience life in brand new place.
Many of the other students I’ve met are constantly travelling around Europe. Every Monday I hear tales of their journeys to places like Copenhagen, Budapest, Reykjavik, Berlin, and Rome. Although I’m halfway done with my semester abroad already (eek!), I just booked my first trip outside of England a few days ago. I haven't seen much of Europe, but I've explored Liverpool, Bath, Salisbury, Cambridge, and Oxford. I can't believe how much I've seen and learned in England. My friends who crisscross Europe are having amazing adventures— and if you have the means, by all means go!— but remember that a semester in London offers a unique opportunity to actually put down roots in London.
There is no shortage of unique things to do here, especially if you’re a history lover like me. So go have a drink at the John Snow Pub, named after the man who famously stopped a cholera outbreak at the Broad Street Pump. See British comedy in action at a free show at the Angel Comedy Club. Keep your eyes open for the city’s endless street art. Watch a debate at Parliament. Go to a poetry slam or a rap battle. Visit the markets. Join a club and meet British locals. On rare sunny days, check out the parks.
Hunt down the city’s lesser known bookstores, art exhibits, museums, and restaurants. Seek out the unusual. Explore the strange niches that make London, well, London. Use study abroad as a time to deepen and expand your passions. Because no matter what you’re passionate about, London has something for you.
You might even find your new favorite place. So go forth, and get a little weird.
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<p>Hi, I’m Angela! I’m a junior at American University, where I’m majoring in International Studies and minoring in Public Health. I enjoy drinking hot chocolate, reading good books, and singing along to *every* song on the Hamilton soundtrack. I grew up in the Rust Belt, live in DC, and can’t wait to study healthcare and experience life in London. I’m not throwing away my shot!</p>