Oberlin-in-London Blogs

Cathedrals and Some Traveling
››› March 28, 2012 | Posted By Robin Wasserman '14

So first of all I would like to publicly acknowledge and apologize for my absence from the blogs. I'm sure everyone has been waiting with bated breath for an update on my life here. In London, I'm even busier than I thought I would be, in terms of both school work (but in a really good way) and seeing the sights (obviously, also in a good way).

This is our first week back after spring break, and it sounds like everybody had really amazing trips. I went to Paris for a day and a half, followed by Barcelona for 5 days. The highlight of the trip was undoubtedly the 24-hour bus ride back to London (trying to sleep! Kind of reading! Not listening to my broken iPod!).

Ok, not really. Both Paris and Barcelona were really lovely and vibrant places. Paris has never been on the top of my travel list, though I'm not really sure why, but I'm really glad that I got to go. I met some of the kindest strangers there (shout out to the lady who showed us how the metro worked and how to get to our hostel, and to the shopkeeper at the wine store near the Eiffel Tower who uncorked our bottles and gave us plastic cups). In Barcelona, we saw a lot of architecture, did a lot of walking, took some siestas in parks, and drank fruit juice at La Boquería.

Haley, me, Ryann, and Lauren in front of Notre Dame.

I, like a lot of people, really enjoy old churches and cathedrals. Over spring break, I saw Notre Dame and La Basilique du Sacré-Coeur in Paris and the Church de Santa Maria del Mar, the Catedral de Barcelona, the Basilica on Montserrat, and La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. As someone from the USA who's not really used to such grandiose architecture, I get a little breathless whenever I walk into such a gigantic and intimidating space. It's interesting to see how different cathedrals treat the space. Some do a really good job about stopping people from using flash photography or not making too much noise, but others seem to almost encourage such activities. Most of the cathedrals had a TV screen or two, and lots also had machines you could pay to get a memorial coin from. A lot of these machines were placed directly in front of the chapels, which I found odd. My least favorite cathedral was probably the Catedral de Barcelona, just because instead of having candles to light with a donation box, they had electric lights shaped like candles that you had to insert money into. It's really disconcerting to walk into a sacred space built in the 12th century to be met with modern bits like that, but it made me think about how these places aren't just relics, and need to attract visitors just like other, more modern attractions. I definitely recommend anyone coming to Europe to visit a bunch of cathedrals, all over England or the Continent or otherwise.

It was surprising how much returning to London felt like coming home. Generally, London feels a little less ideal than a place like Barcelona, which has a beach and is known for good weather, but after living here for even 2 months, I've definitely developed an attachment.

Traveling also gave me (and I think most people in the program) much-needed time to decompress. Being totally immersed in one subject (for me, the politics of class) for a semester is an amazing, unique way to learn, and I love it. I have gotten to know my classmates really well, talk about academics both inside and outside of class and go to pubs and art openings with my professor. It's intimate and eye-opening. But talking about social class 24 hours a day for two months (both inside and outside of class) can also get difficult. I think everyone felt like we needed a week to take a deep breath before re-submerging ourselves in academics.

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