Undergraduate student Anjelica Magee composed a complete journal of her experiences on the Road Scholars trip to London, England during spring break in early-March. Below are her reflections, written each night, on the cultural and professional outings the group undertook.
Saturday, March 5
To kick-off our Road Scholars London trip we gathered for our first group photo outside Kogod, before heading off to Washington Dulles International Airport. While waiting at the British Air gate, the 22 group members evolved from just names and faces to friends. We got to know each other; learning what activities and organizations people are involved in on-campus, exchanging stories we had heard about London, and sharing our list to-dos while on the trip.
At 8:45 p.m. it was time to board our seven hour flight to from Dulles to Heathrow Airport. On the flight we were able to take advantage of British Airway's in-flight entertainment such as Eat, Pray, Love, The King's Speech, and The Black Swan, while the cabin crew served what seemed like a constant flow of food a food and beverages including dinner, English tea, snacks, and a light breakfast. Some of us even managed to get a few hours of sleep.
Sunday, March 6
With the time difference (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC), we arrived in London the following day at 8:45 a.m. Our tour guide for the week was a native of London named Jo, short for Joanna, who donned a bright red coat we could always spot in a crowd. She picked us up from the airport and promptly directed our first tour of London from our coach (British for private bus).
The first stop off the coach was a breathtaking view from the London Eye, a Ferris wheel on the bank of the Thames River. From above the Thames, we got a bird's eye view of the city we would be exploring for the next week. We then boarded the bus and drove by several more tourist destinations - Parliament, the House of Commons, the Catholic Church of England, Westminster Cathedral, St. Paul's Cathedral, the London Bridge, and various shopping districts that we would come to know all too well.
The next stop on the tour was Buckingham Palace, home to the Royal Family, and another top tourist destination. After being in London for just a few hours, we had seen much of the city and had worked up quite the appetite.
Our first authentic British meal was at a pub in central London named The Duke of York. Here we enjoyed a generously portioned meal of chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, carrots, peas, and puff pastry. Our first cultural difference was revealed when we were served Sprite with a lime after ordering lemonade.
By the time the meal was over, it was time for check-in at our hotel, the Park Plaza County Hall. This meant that after being reunited with a bed, it was also time for a nap. After a refreshing nap, my roommate, Ashley, and I ventured off into the city for late dinner. Following the concierge's recommendation we took the tube (metro) into Piccadilly Circus, a popular part of town for tourists and natives alike. While meandering through the streets of London we passed through Chinatown, Leicester Square, and Covent Garden, ending up at a small Italian restaurant. After dinner, we strolled through the city some more before retiring to the hotel.
If day one taught us anything, it was that our week in London was going to be filled with adventure and new experiences!
Monday, March 7
Day one of the business meetings and we were up bright and early!
Our first meeting was with the U.S. Commercial Service in London at the U.S. Embassy. There we learned about U.S. foreign relations, the economy at a micro and macro level, and how the U.S. Commercial Service assists American businesses with trade abroad.
We then got our first of many looks of London fashion on Oxford Street, what is thought to be the busiest shopping street in Europe. This mile and a half long street, as well as several of the adjacent streets, were full of retail stores such as Marks and Spencer, Selfridges, and Primark.
For lunch we headed over to Frankie's Sports Bar and Grille in Chelsea. After lunch, we had the opportunity to get some tea and check out Chelsea Football Club gift shop before our tour of the Stamford Bridge Stadium. On our tour, we visited the pressroom, home and away changing rooms, soccer pitch, and the Chelsea Football Club Museum. In the museum, we were able to see Chelsea's history over the years through the various uniform designs, banners, medals, and footage of the most memorable moments. In the back of the museum was their impressive trophy case with the prized Premier League Cup.
With the remainder of the evening free, we all had the opportunity to experience more of London. Some of us went to a local pub to watch the Chelsea football game against Blackpool while others returned, once again, to Oxford Street.
Tuesday, March 8
We started our morning with Jo's guided tour of the historic Westminster Abbey. Nearly a thousand years old, Westminster Abbey is the final resting place for countless distinguished British figures, in addition to being the coronation church. Still in use today, with prayers every hour on the hour, this church is also the place where Price William and Kate Middleton will get married on April 29, 2011.
Our company visit for the day was at Lloyd's of London, the world's leading insurance market. Lloyd's was gracious enough to host the Road Scholars, as well as a graduate group from Appalachian State, for lunch and an afternoon of presentations about the company and insurance industry.
As a welcome to London, we all enjoyed a dinner cruise on the Thames River. From the boat we passed under the London Bridge and pasted various London sites such as the London Eye, House of Parliament, and London Sea Life Aquarium, all beautifully lit with tree and colored lights.
Wednesday, March 9
Day three of our trip started at The Marketing Arm, a promotional agency. Our speaker, the Account Executive for the company, explained what the company does and why they are so successful. The Marketing Arm has been involved in promotions such as the NFL Fanemonium campaign, the Alicia Keys partnership with monster.com, and many other well known campaigns. This visit was a highlight for a number of my fellow students, who hope to pursue a career in this field.
Having a few hours free, some of us enjoyed Jo's highlight tour of the British Museum and lunch at a pizzeria, while others went souvenir shopping and out for an Italian lunch.
A tube ride and short walk later landed us at the doorsteps of Financial Times. There we learned the importance of providing quality information to customers and the value of credible resources. Following the FT presentation we were fortunate enough to test and offer opinions on a new online feature to their website that is still in the research stage.
Our Road Scholars and AU alumni dinner was hosted at the famous Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. This pub which was rebuilt after the Great Fire in 1667, is known for its rich literary history as it used to host regular diners such as Mark Twain and Charles Dickens. Not only was dinner a blast from British past, but also as blast from AU's past, as alums shared stories and experiences from their college years.
Thursday, March 10
The coach left bright and early Thursday morning for Oxford. Evotec, a leader in the pharmaceutical world for drug discovery and development, was our first meeting of the day before we headed off to Beefeater for a steak and potatoes lunch.
We then drove the Mini Cooper plant. We toured the factory, witnessing the assembly of a MINI from a skeletal structure to the finishing touches. The MINI showroom was a showroom like no other, displaying vintage models, models covered in fur, as well as a few MINIs that have been featured in motion pictures.
Friday, March 11
Our final visit to Harrods department store was perhaps the most anticipated visit! We got an inside look at the luxury department store that specializes on providing BLISS to its 15 million annual customers: British, Luxury, Innovation, Sensation, and Service. We were able to put what we learned in our meeting about Harrods to good use when we ventured off into the 5-acre store to go shopping, eat lunch, and explore the shopper's paradise.
Too hungry to shop, I postponed my shopping plans to eat lunch at one of Harrods thirty-two restaurants, Ishbilia. Following my delicious Lebanese feast of grape leaves, hummus, tabouleh, falafel, spanakoptia, and assorted vegetables, I travel to my favorite Parisian tearoom, Laudrée, for macaroons. I had not had Laudrée macaroons in five years, and they were just as incredible as I remembered, two meringue-like cookies sandwiching the perfect amount of a light but flavorful cream filling.
Trying to navigate to the Harrods exit I passed perhaps the most impressive department, the Pet Kingdom, which demonstrated Harrods' commitment to BLISS for not only man, but man's best friend as well. This kingdom was equipped with any pet item imaginable from spa services to a couture wedding dress, jeweled collars, and gourmet foods.
Continuing the shopping momentum, some of us went shopping after Harrods, before meeting up with as a significantly smaller group at the Tower of London for a tour of the historical royal palace.
Wanting to make the most of our final night in London, several of us went to a sushi dinner close to the hotel before going out and meeting up with other AU students who were visiting London.
Saturday, March 12
The final day in London began with an early morning tour of Parliament including Westminster Hall, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons. Parliament was the perfect way to end an exciting and educational trip to London.
In one week we were able to explore London and learn about various industries in the business world; ones that could be one of our future professions. Road Scholars was a great way to spend spring break and a perfect opportunity to make new friends from AU!