I spent my first year at Oberlin trying to cram in as many contra dances, Feve brunches, and late-night political conversations as possible. I also dabbled in fencing and swing dance, and worked with the Lorain County Public Transit Campaign to try to get funding for the recently cut public transit system.
As for London, I first heard about the Oberlin program from David Walker, who taught my Modern British and Irish Fiction class last semester. At first I was hesitant about spending my semester abroad with 24 other Obies (shouldn't I try branching out of the Oberlin bubble?), but now nothing sounds more appealing. The program seems like it will magnify what attracted me to Oberlin in the first place: the intimacy and intensity of working in a small group on an issue that everyone cares deeply about. During the past year, I've been reading and thinking about class differences more than I ever have before, what with the state of the economy and impending (and not-so-impending) program cuts. Basically, I see the politics track as an excuse to spend more time doing what I would be doing anyway: reading about and discussing and trying to understand class relations. Of course, this is all with the added bonus of getting to do independent research and write an extensive research paper on it. As a second-year. In London. If that doesn't sound as freaking awesome to you as it does to me, then I just don't know what to say.
As for the city itself, last week my parents bought me Peter Ackroyd's 750-page London: The Biography. I think the enthusiasm and determination I have to read all of it says a lot about how much I am looking forward to exploring one of the most multicultural and historical cities in the world. My image of London (and England in general) has been equally informed by the bluesy brooding of P.J. Harvey, old images of the Globe Theatre, the filthy and crowded streets of Dickens' descriptions, and the charming, colorful shops and houses in the romantic comedy Notting Hill. I am not embarrassed to admit I've spent a decent portion of the summer on the London section of the "Not for Tourists" site, accumulating a long (read: never ending) mental list of places to visit and things to do.
Somewhat randomly, three of my good friends from my hall last year are in the program as well. Occasionally when we're together one of us will simply say "London" and we'll all dissolve in giddy fits because we can't wait to see the resting place of Isaac Newton, travel out to the Lake District, explore St. Paul's Cathedral, and be able to say we're living in "flats" with "flatmates" (though that last one might just be me).