When in Europe for 3+ months, why not go to every single place where the airfare is 40 dollars or less? It's quite possibly one of the easiest places to travel at such a low cost, and when you're an impressionable youth with life ambitions and whatnot, that's all the more reason to get out there. In my first three weeks, I was fortunate enough to have friends willing to travel with me, so we were essentially all over western Europe in the midst of also exploring our home-base in London. We made several stops, a few of which I'll talk about here!
First stop, not outside of England but just as much an adventure, was Cambridge! (Before going to Oxford, we had to check out the competition of course...) Despite a few remarks about our beloved Oxford, however, the people of Cambridge did seem quite civil :). On our tour we were pointed towards such landmarks as Alan Turing's room, Stephen Hawking's very first front doorstep, and the pub in which the discovery of DNA was celebrated with a round of drinks— on Watson and Crick, of course. We were also told of a legendary ghost story taking place in a room above that same pub, and, equally as strange, came across a field of cows allowed to roam free on the campus. The cows proved to be a big hit, although I'm not quite sure they truly appreciated my presence and overwhelming enthusiasm. Of course, Cambridge fit perfectly into our definition of a historically brilliant university town, and I have to say that we wished Oxford would be just like it. I can say now that we were definitely not disappointed in that regard!
Soon after Cambridge we decided to visit Edinburgh, Scotland, on my never-ending request that we see "castles, lots of castles." Like the ambitious yet financially-challenged students we truly are, we found obscenely cheap bus tickets, roundtrip— the only catch being that they were both overnight trips. But, since we're committed and stuff like that, we went for it: one bus night there, a day of "castles, lots of castles," and another bus ride home the very next night. I do have to say that the two nights were definitely worth it; we weren't walking for longer than ten minutes upon our arrival before we were faced with the jaw-dropping image of Edinburgh Castle, casually nestled at the top of a hill. After walking its grounds, discovering that I can fit into the cannon holes, and spending a strange amount of time in the prison exhibit, we then walked the infamous Queen's Mile. If you can imagine one long road of Scottish plaid and cashmere, this is it: the walk was completely full of scarves I had to restrain myself from purchasing. All in all, Edinburgh was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been, and I've already decided that retiring there would not be too terrible of a life.
Last but not least, we had to go to Copenhagen and see the colorful houses. What we found there, however, was so much more: the most amazing fries we've ever tasted, a casual set of trampolines in the street along the canal, and (did I say the food was amazing?) a street-food market called Paper Island where I consumed too many pancakes to remember. We found it possible to walk the majority of the city, and soon found it to be a calm get-away from the busy streets of London. Everyone seemed to own a bike with a cute basket, and were always extremely nice and hospitable. We also found it to be quite the hub for other travelers, and as a result met people not only from Copenhagen, but all over Europe. As a weekend trip— no overnight busses for us this time— the amount of time we spent there was also a perfect way to end our London term, and relax a little bit before starting at Oxford.
To anyone thinking about doing this program, I would say to keep in mind how busy you'll be when the term at Oxford starts. I've already learned that every day counts here, so I won't be having much time to take a vacation. As a result, I was that much more motivated to travel during my London term, and couldn't have been happier with it. Travel, travel, travel!